Friday, March 26, 2010

Trust Without Verification? Obama Strikes Arms Control Deal with Russia

Today, President Obama announced the United States and Russia have reached a new arms control treaty. Obama will co-sign the treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague on April 8th:

Furthermore, since I took office, I’ve been committed to a “reset” of our relationship with Russia. When the United States and Russia can cooperate effectively, it advances the mutual interests of our two nations, and the security and prosperity of the wider world. We’ve so far already worked together on Afghanistan. We’ve coordinated our economic efforts through the G20. We are working together to pressure Iran to meet its international obligations. And today, we have reached agreement on one of my administration’s top national security priorities -- a pivotal new arms control agreement.

First, this treaty being signed on Czech soil must be a bitter pill for them to swallow. When the Czechs hear "reset" it means Obama giving up ballistic missile defense to appease Moscow.

Second, what a tepid statement about U.S.-Russian co-operation on Iran. President Obama doesn't say, "We are working together to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon." Instead, it's "we are working together to pressure Iran to meet its international obligations." In fact, the Russians and Chinese have pushed the Obama Administration into softening its positions on sanctions against Iran.

Sergei Rybakov, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister stated, "It is important for these sanctions to be well-focused and exact, if we make a decision on them, and they must not be a method of punishing the whole country or its people." Translation: Nothing must be imposed that would impede Iran from developing its nuclear program.

I mean it's not like the Iran is building apartments in East Jerusalem.

As for the merits of arms control treaties, Mitt Romney has an interesting take in his book No Apology (which I am currently in the midst of reading). I have put his most germane points in bold:

Ideally, we would rid the planet of nuclear weapons. But we are unlikely to be successful in doing so, at least within the coming decades. To begin with, Russia's conventional capabilities have badly deteriorated, it derives its power from its nuclear stockpile and strategic weaponry and it has no interest in losing its place in the world by eliminating its nuclear weapons. It does, however, have a great interest in paring down the U.S. arsenal. Iran is committed to becoming a nuclear nation because it believes that achievement will vault it to superpower status amongs Middle Eastern nations, perhaps securing its candidacy as the twenty-first-century caliphate. And with nuclear power in hand, Iran is virtually guaranteed that no foreign power will invade, as the United States did in Iraq. Iran learned its lesson from North Korea: No matter its size, a malevolent country can thumb its nose at the world with impunity - if it has the bomb.

Global nuclear disarmament also has the problem of verification. Deceptions are routine. Both India and Pakistan developed their programs in secret, and there are believed to be many other nations that could "go nuclear" in a relatively short period of time. Nuclear technology is so widespread that it could be harnessed by any number of foes. Could America, or even Russia for that matter, ever realistically rely on signed treaties and agreements to guarantee no group, no terrorist, and no nation would secretly develop nuclear weapons? It is inconceivable that jihadists would ever abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons, regardless of agreements. As long as even one country or group of fanatics pursues nuclear weapons, the United States must maintain robust nuclear capability.

We must not allow wishful thinking to obscure the truth. We are not on the verge of nuclear disarmament; we are on the cusp of greater and extraordinarily dangerous nuclear proliferation. North Korea and Iran's nuclear arms will compel others to follow suit. While America and the world still have a chance to stop Iran, neither the current administration nor the global powers have yet shown the stomach for deploying and enforcing the truly withering sanctions that goal would require. As a result, the American nuclear deterrent - updated, tested, and ample - and a highly effective missile defense system are essential not just to our security but to the security of the world.

It was President Reagan who said, "Trust, but verify." President Obama is content to trust.

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