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Georgia Conflict Obstructs Deproliferation

09.08.2008 06:05 | DISPATCHES

"START I expires December 2009," writes Alicia Goldberg at the FAS Strategic Securities Blog, "after which time there will be no nuclear arms control treaty that requires intrusive verification measures [or] the dismantlement of warheads. The Bush administration has not favored verification measures in nuclear arms control treaties with Russia [but] with a change in leadership coming to Washington, the importance of being able to build upon the START framework toward irreversible reductions in nuclear arms is again possible." [Emphasis added.]

Never mind that when it comes to subject-verb agreement, the last clause makes no sense –- "the importance. . . is" -- Ms. Goldberg's message comes through loud and clear. In order "to pressure Iran into forgoing its nuclear ambitions, to secure nuclear material in the former Soviet Republics, and to work toward reducing the dangers of intentional or accidental use of nuclear weapons. … we need Russia's commitment and cooperation [which] are now in jeopardy due to the war in the Caucuses." [Emphasis added.]

What's a poor incoming president to do?

For one thing, Ms. Goldberg writes, the United States "should shy away from talk of 'rewarding' or 'punishing' Russia for its behavior and focus on maintaining a stable cease fire and confronting humanitarian issues, such as caring for refugees."

Lending added urgency to the situation is Georgia's status as a hotbed of nuclear smuggling. Goldberg elaborates.

"Georgia. . . must be stabilized so that nuclear material does not get stolen by or sold to terrorists; diplomacy and discussion should therefore center on these dangers so we can work with Russia toward stability in the region. Similarly, the U.S. can use the contested missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic to work with Russia on. . . identifying and eliminating certain classes of missiles or jointly determining the range of any future Iranian missiles these systems are supposed to guard against.

"It will be up to the new leaders in Washington to. . . draw attention to the proliferation danger of unsecured nuclear material in the Caucuses and to impress upon the American people the need to continue to work with Russia to secure this material and [eventually eliminate] nuclear weapons."

Considering his history with the Lugar-Obama nonproliferation initiative, it might not be too much to expect Obama, should he win, to "draw attention to the proliferation danger." But to take the next step and "impress upon the American people the need to continue to work with Russia to secure this material and disarm"?

Seems much less likely since Bush & Co. and McCain have been poisoning our minds about Russia again. Also, this isn't the eighties -- the era of The Day After and the Nuclear Freeze.

Today, this author suspects that, to much of the public, talk of nonproliferation and, gasp, disarmament, strikes it as soft on defense. In other words, any initiatives that Obama pursues he might be loathe to trumpet.


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