Bush to Ditch START Framework


Steve hosted a really interesting reception last night on the USS Sequoia for people interested in U.S.-Cuba policy.
I managed to get past my characteristic awkwardness in DC-style networking situations and it paid off, as I met some very smart and passionate individuals. There was a palpable sense of optimism at the event: many believe that the current U.S. policy toward Cuba, a cold war relic whose life has been extended by small-minded politics, is on its last legs.
The stories about the history of the Sequoia, the former Presidential yacht, probably would have made the night worthwhile on their own.
No time to dwell on sentiment, though. It appears the Bush Administration is getting ready to scrap an extremely effective arms control regime and replace it with something much skinnier. The rationale? From Reuters:

In the post-Cold war era, many provisions of the 1991 START accord, which mandated deep nuclear weapons cuts, “are no longer necessary. We don’t believe we’re in a place where we need have to have the detailed lists (of weapons) and verification measures,” added [Asst. Secretary of State Paula] DeSutter, who handles arms control and verification issues.

Russia wants something binding, like the current START agreement. That seems like the right way to go.
Even if all were well in the U.S.-Russia relationship, going ahead without a binding arms control regime of this kind would still be an ill-advised move. The START agreement has greatly enhanced U.S., Russian, and international security during its lifespan.
Besides, all is not well in the U.S.-Russia relationship. A few years ago, the U.S. had an opportunity to stop the anti-democratic regression in Russia as a powerful friend and respected example. Now, its image tarnished and its influence damaged, the Bush Administration seems content to trade barbs with Russia from afar. The result of this gross negligence? Russia is growing less democratic and more hostile to the U.S. by the day.
It doesn’t help that the U.S. is pushing missile defense systems in Europe. Russia withdrew from a key arms control treaty last month for precisely this reason.
Obviously, President Bush is no fan of multilateral treaties (the Law of the Sea is a notable and worthy exception). That’s the big problem.
But there are “local considerations,” too. The direction of the U.S.-Russia relationship is largely in American hands, and agreeing to a new arms control regime to replace START would be a step in the right direction.
— Scott Paul


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