The Senate’s Next Task: Ratifying the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

By Mikhail Gorbachev

JUST a few weeks ago, the fate of the New Start nuclear arms treaty seemed to hang by a thread. But since last week, when the United States Senate ratified the treaty, which reduces the size of the American and Russian nuclear stockpiles, we can speak of a serious step forward for both countries. I hope this will energize efforts to take the next step to a world free of nuclear weapons: a ban on all nuclear testing.

In the final stretch, President Obama put his credibility and political capital on the line to achieve ratification. That a sufficient number of Republican senators put the interests of their nation’s security, and the world’s, above party politics is encouraging.

The success was not without cost. In return for the treaty’s ratification, Mr. Obama promised to allocate tens of billions of dollars in the next few years for modernizing the American nuclear weapons arsenal, which is hardly compatible with a nuclear-free world.

Missile defense remains contentious. During the ratification debate, many senators objected to the treaty’s language about the relationship between offensive and defensive arms, which the new agreement takes from the first Start treaty, signed in 1991. Others tried to scuttle ratification by complaining that New Start did not limit tactical nuclear weapons.

These attacks were fended off. Nevertheless, these problems clearly need to be discussed. There must be an agreement on missile defense. Tough negotiations are ahead on tactical nuclear weapons, and a realistic agreement is needed on the deployment of conventional forces in Europe. We shall see very soon whether all these issues were raised just for the sake of rhetoric, as a demagogical screen to maintain military superiority, or whether there is a real readiness to conclude agreements easing the military burden. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on December 28, 2010


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