Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Nuclear Chess Matches to Come

Below the radar of saving the global economy, President Obama was working in London this week to keep the world from blowing itself up with nuclear weapons.

A meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev produced a joint statement that the two countries will begin negotiations to reduce arsenals in anticipation of an Obama visit to Moscow this summer.

Unlike George W. Bush's 2001 first encounter with Vladimir Putin, Obama did not look into Medvedev's eyes to get "a sense of his soul" but held a businesslike meeting to lay the groundwork to extend and strengthen the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires in December.

Nuclear arms control has changed since the Cold War days and, like the economy, is complicated by players beyond the two former superpowers who now have to deal with other nations who have them (China, India, Pakistan et al) as well as non-proliferation to those who want them, such as Iran and North Korea.

The complexity can be seen in the mixed feelings of Japan, the only nation in history to suffer nuclear attack, which nonetheless now wants the US to maintain an effective deterrent against the weapons of its Asian neighbors.

Similarly, India is expressing doubts about a new test-ban treaty "not explicitly linked to the goal of nuclear disarmament" that might create "a permanent division between nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states," which translates into fears of Pakistan and China.

What used to be a WMD checkers game between the US and the Soviet Union is now a simultaneous series of chess matches around the world, and it's encouraging to see that Obama is getting ready to play them in Russia, China and wherever else necessary.

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