Monday, July 6, 2009

Will Progress Be Made on Nuclear Reductions?

President Obama has arrived in Moscow for his long anticipated diplomatic visit to Russia. On the agenda are what one might expect: Afghanistan, Iran, trade and such. But one key item on the agenda is the possibility of both countries reducing their nuclear arsenals.

Russia and the United States both currently have about 6,000 nuclear warheads each. Either arsenal is far more than enough to obliterate the world many times over. Their very existence is an affront to the values of the Enlightenment, and they cost the taxpayers of the respective nations uncounted billions of dollars every year, while also robbing them of the talents of engineers and scientists whose knowledge might otherwise be put to much better use.

Commentators suggest that the new agreement between Russia and the United States could reduce the number of warheads to below 2,000 for each country. This blog has previously suggested that the United States follow the lead of its British and French allies by unilaterally reducing its nuclear arsenal to a few hundred weapons, while eliminating its land-based missiles and air-delivered bombs by relying exclusively on submarine-based weapons. We still feel that this would be the most appropriate policy. But any progress in the reduction of nuclear arsenals would be a good thing.

Carl Sagan once made an appropriate analogy about bloated nuclear arsenals. He said that it was like two enemies facing one another, one with five matches and the other with three, standing waste-deep in gasoline. What possible rationale can be given for assembling a nuclear arsenal in excess of that which is necessary to deter an attacker?

Let's hope President Obama, who has spoken about his vision of a nuclear-free world more than once, as some success in these negotiations.

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