Guest Post by Monica Baer: Baby Steps Towards a Nuclear-Free World


barack-obama-harvard.jpgMonica Baer is a research intern with the New America Foundation’s American Strategy Program.
President Obama is one small step closer to his vision of a nuclear-free world. On July 6, he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the Joint Understanding for the START Follow-on Treaty in Moscow. The agreement is the first move towards creating a new treaty that will replace the 1991 START I treaty when it expires in December.
President Obama has long expressed his hopes for arms control and nonproliferation, promising a new direction in nuclear policy and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. President Obama’s remarks this April during his speech in Prague were a further indication of his wish to make the U.S. a leader in the movement towards disarmament. At one point, in an effort to enthuse the gathered crowd, he uttered the slogan that became legendary during his presidential campaign, “Yes, we can.”
William Broad and David Sanger’s important piece on July 4, 2009 illustrate just how far back President Obama’s passion for disarmament goes. And on Monday, twenty-six years after he first spoke of a “nuclear free world,” President Obama signed an agreement that may pave the way for global nuclear disarmament.
Although the White House has yet to release the complete text of the Joint Understanding, the Kremlin has the Russian text of the agreement online. Jeffrey Lewis, the publisher of the blog ArmsControlWonk, has posted his views on the START Follow-on as well as an English translation of the accord.
The Joint Understanding commits the United States and Russia to reducing their strategic warheads to 1,500-1,675 and their delivery systems to 500-1,100. Lewis notes that a reduction to 1,500-1,675 warheads, a range not much lower than that of George Bush’s 2002 Moscow Treaty, is a sign that the Obama Administration is waiting for the release of the Nuclear Posture Review before making any deep cuts in its nuclear arsenal.
The large range between 500-1,100 delivery systems is another sign of incomplete negotiations. Yet, as Lewis sensibly argues, the Joint Understanding is not meant to be a deep cuts treaty, but a means of creating a legal framework that will effectively place verifiable measures on U.S. and Russian stockpiles.
The world is still many hurdles away from ridding itself of its nuclear arsenal, but this week’s events show we are finally headed in the right direction.
— Monica Baer


10 comments on “Guest Post by Monica Baer: Baby Steps Towards a Nuclear-Free World

  1. David says:

    The most dangerous weapon of all, it seems to me, is the neutron bomb, which in theory is banned from production. If there really are no stockpiles, even though we know how to make them, I do not see why other nukes cannot be reduced, systematically, toward zero. I can see the management argument, especially given current realities. And perhaps, given all the other ways human beings continue to debase global ecosystems, pump ever more CO2 into the air, cut down remaining rainforests, all the while increasing the globe’s population burden, perhaps nukes will become a moot point.
    Individually, humans are brilliant creatures capable of great moral stature. Collectively, we are dumber than that oft-cited bag of hammers.
    Eliot got it way too right.


  2. mrm says:

    “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”


  3. FaceOnMars says:

    I’m afraid the notion of a “nuclear free world” is a dangerous idea. I know it sounds something akin to “peace through war”, but the genie IS out of the bottle. How does the collective population “unlearn” something something so powerful?
    I’d be curious to know once that last nuke is disarmed, how will the ban on future nukes be enforced? (by conventional armies?)


  4. John Crandell says:

    There is a stark contradiction between Obama’s feelings regards disarmament and the policies which he now pursues in Afghanistan. It becomes ever more apparent that he bases his decisions on the latter part solely due to domestic political necessity, despite the stark realities within Afghanistan. He is outright afraid of the right wing scream machine and because of that, innocent blood is shed.
    McChrystal will become this era’s Westmoreland.
    Obama will become this era’s LBJ.


  5. Tosk59 says:

    “but it is a waste of time to imagine we, or any nation will simply eliminate these weapons. It’s never going to happen.”
    Of the existing nuclear-haves there is no reason (other than perceived lost prestige) that the U.K. and France could not immediately get rid of their nukes.
    The British are upgrading their systems and essentially are buying US systems, is there any one on the face of the planet that *really* thinks they are truly “independent” and would or could ever be used without a US OK first?
    The French “force de frappe” is their own and independent. But both these nations could eliminate their nukes with zero added risk… They would just fall under the US nuclear umbrella (along with many European countries, S. Korea, Japan, etc.)
    But they’d rather make pious declarations that they *want* to reduce their nukes, while making sure that the discussions are on US-Russian reductions (THEN, several year later, they will participate… Cough, cough)
    Beats me why the US admin doesn’t lean on them 9and hard). This would be the first time any country would elimianate their nukes and it would really electrify and jump start the process. The other non-nuclear NPT signatories would actually see some of the progress they were promised in an explicit trade for their renunciation of acquiring nukes…
    But no, this won’t happen – Gordon Brown “”Iran is attempting to develop a nuclear weapon, [North] Korea is attempting to develop a nuclear weapon. We’ve got to show we can deal with this by collective action, and I think unilateral action by the United Kingdom would not be seen as the best way forward” So, the U.K. hangs on to its nukes. Worse, he also says that “the onus will be on the countries that don’t have nuclear weapons to prove that they don’t have nuclear weapons”
    OK, rather than choose to help the process along, he comes up with a bogus reason AND sticks his finger in everyone’s eye! The rest of the world sees this and they draw the appropriate conclusions – a) we are complete hypocrites, and b) have/keep nukes because of the prestige they confer 9and no other reason)


  6. TonyForesta says:

    I’m a cynic. We all want to “get rid” of nuclear weapons, and most of us want peace on earth and good will towards men also, – but the sad fact and harsh reality is neither of these visionairy hopes are now, or ever will possible. What nation is willing to be the first to eliminates it’s nuke arsenals, and allow vulnerability to the kind of attacks that would push the nation and society to the point of non-recovery?
    Human beings are highly advanced and supremely evolved technological, scientific, and mechanical beast. But as spiritual beings, human being have not evolved one step beyond our Cro Magnon cousins. We still resolve all differences by beating each other over the head with sticks. Granted our sticks are highly advanced and technologically evolved, but human being remain essentially savage beasts. The strong dominate the week, and eat their young, (our perverse economic structures provide glaring proofs of this reality), our base tendencies our toward division and seperation, – and the entire history of all humanity is one of constant and repeated butchery, savagery, tyranny, and the spilling of oceans of innocent blood.
    Working towards managing warmaking technologies and especially WMD makes sense, – but it is a waste of time to imagine we, or any nation will simply eliminate these weapons. It’s never going to happen. We cannot uninvent nuclear weapons or any weapons. They exist, and alwasy will exist, so all we can truly do is deter and manage their use.


  7. David says:

    Actual, meaningful, universal control and progressive reduction until finally human kind says, “What the f… were we thinking?”
    The US and the Russian Federation are the logical co-drivers, and have it in their power to get other parties on board. This can be done.
    Tony, human beings can be exactly as you described them, but they can also be quite the opposite in the right set of circumstances. Mostly, I think we are still way too tribal and way too self-serving as subsets of humanity. Israel is a micrcosm of this, but by no means either the only or even the worst example. They have not as yet matched what we did to Native Americans, or what the Third Reich did, or what those conquerors lionized in my schoolbooks did.
    Obama is doing what he said he was going to try to do: redirect this behemoth called the United States of America, a slow process comparable to altering the direction of a supercarrier or a supertanker, which like giant sharks apparently cannot stop lest they die, but at least can change direction if the stimuli are there.
    Of course, while sharks are essential to ocean ecology, it would be fine with me if the supercarriers and supertankers did indeed die and were recycled as components of infrastructures that were actually good for the planet.


  8. ... says:

    the horse carriage was replaced with something better… there might be a few carriages still around, but not many folks are using them… with nuclear weapons the value is non existent to much worse… for the sake of humanity and the continuation of humanity we need to get rid of them.. i’m with those in favour of getting rid of them…


  9. TonyForesta says:

    “A nuclear free world”??? You’re joking right??? There is no way to uninvent nuclear weapons or any weapons for that matter. Our only hope is managing the existing and future nuclear weapons technologies, and preventing psychopathic massmurderers, or the malignant freaks in jihadist islam from aquiring those weapons and technologies which they would certainly use without restraint.
    Humans are savage, ruthless, heartless beasts. These weapons exist and they will be used (again!!!) eventually.
    These silly parable about hopeful futures of a nuclearfreeworld are a joke. The only nuclear free world we will ever known is the smouldering toxic wasteland that remains for any survivors after the armageddon.
    Until that day, – sane nations must work to contain and constrain the development of nuclear weapons and all WMD technologies, (bugs, chem, EMP, ELF, whoknowswhatelse) and seek to hunt, capture or kill every rogue element, group, klan gang, cartel, organization, or psychopathic massmuderer that would apply, or use these technologies and unholy weapons.
    They cannot, and will not be univented.
    This is a joke – right???


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