A conversation I had yesterday with an esteemed arms control expert, as well as “this article by my colleague Wade Boese”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2005_01-02/NA_US_Russia.asp, reminded me to write about a subject I’ve been thinking about recently.
While it is good to continually point out that the Bush administration screwed the pooch on Iraq and neglected more serious threats from North Korea and Iran in the process, it is worthwhile to point out that there is precisely ONE entity that presents an existential threat to the United States: Russia.
The solution for dealing with this existential threat? The Bush administration’s circus act/foreign policy team decided to write some talking points, call them the “U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2002_06/factfilejune02.asp, and declare the problem solved.
Now, the problems with SORT have been obvious for a while (“no verification in the treaty, expires in 2012, is only in effect for one day, etc.”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/index.php?id=332). And Wade’s article points out that the negotiations for implementing the treaty aren’t going so well.
I know that few, if any, Russia experts think that the Russians will be able to deploy a bunch of nuclear weapons anytime soon. But I still don’t think that we ought to bank totally on these intelligence projections, especially since “the lack of verification measures”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/index.php?id=337 will leave the IC with considerably less capability to monitor WTF is gong on with the Russian strategic arsenal.
Now don’t misunderstand me – I don’t think Russia is going to up and attack us anytime soon. But the fact remains that these weapons *are* there and intentions change faster than capabilities. And then there’s always the risk of accidents, etc.
It is also worth noting that US/Russian/Soviet nuclear negotiations have never been easy. But if US/Russian relations are so damn good right now, it might have been a good time to try a little more arms control.
If you want some perspective on why we didn’t, check out “this interview with outgoing Undersecretary of State John Bolton”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2002_03/boltonmarch02.asp. In essence, he says treaties are useless.