Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Globe Editorial: How to Beat Back the “Deadly Current” of Nuclear Proliferation

Posted by K.E. White on March 17, 2010

James Carroll offers a skillfully concise piece reviewing the opportunities and pit-falls facing the Obama administration’s goals on nuclear non-proliferation.   Carroll argues that certain critical events in the coming months may set-off a new nuclear arms race.

While perhaps employing too dire a tone, Carroll’s editorial does make clear that the months may make or break Obama’s ambitious nonproliferation and counter-proliferation goals.

From Carroll’s editorial (with slight formatting changes and editing) in Monday’s Boston Globe:

  • The US-Russia Treaty

Negotiators in Geneva are late in reaching agreement on a nuclear arms treaty to replace START, which expired last December. Obama is threading a needle, having to meet Russian requirements (for example, on missile defense) while anticipating Republican objections in the US Senate (for example, on missile defense). Warning: Bill Clinton was humiliated when the Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999. Republicans’ recalcitrance on health care is peanuts compared to the damage their rejection of a new START treaty would do.

  • The Nuclear Posture Review

…the Congress-mandated report on how the administration defines nuclear needs today. This, too, is overdue, probably because the White House has been pushing back against the Pentagon on numerous issues. Are nukes for deterrence only? Will the United States renounce first use? Having stopped the Bush-era program to build a new nuclear weapon, will Obama allow further research and development? What nations will be named as potential nuclear threats? Warning: The 1994 Nuclear Posture Review was Clinton’s Pentagon Waterloo. It affirmed the Cold War status quo, killing serious arms reduction until now.

Although usually considered apart, the broader US defense posture has turned into a key motivator for other nations to go nuclear. The current Pentagon budget ($5 trillion for 2010-2017) is so far beyond any other country, and the conventional military capacity it buys is so dominant, as to reinforce the nuclear option abroad as the sole protection against potential US attack. This is new.

  • April’s Nuclear Summit in Washington DC

… but both nuclear haves and have-nots will be taking positions based on the US-Russia Treaty (and its prospects for ratification) and the Nuclear Posture Review. Warning: if China sees US missile defense as potentially aimed its way, a new nuclear arms race is on.

  • Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference

In May, the signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty will hold their eighth regular review session in New York. Since the nations that agreed to forego nuclear weapons did so on the condition that the nuclear nations work steadily toward abolition, the key question will be whether Obama has in fact begun to deliver on his declared intention. If not, get ready for the cascade.

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