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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Are we serious about a World without nuclear weapons?

Paul Wolfowitz argues that if President Obama is serious about a world without nuclear weapons, he needs to concentrate less on small nuclear weapons reductions with Russia and more on stopping Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.
What has changed fundamentally is the likelihood that nuclear weapons could end up in the hands of irresponsible rulers, or terrorists who can't be deterred at all. Unfortunately, President Obama's talk about a world free of nuclear weapons seems to have little connection to the passive U.S. responses to North Korea's and Iran's nuclear activities.

There is certainly room for additional reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, but it is unlikely to have any effect on those countries. Indeed, if the new treaty constrains U.S. missile defense efforts, it could be counterproductive. Although President Reagan wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons—believing it dangerous to rely indefinitely on a balance of nuclear terror— when Mikhail Gorbachev offered to eliminate ballistic missiles in exchange for eliminating missile defenses, Reagan refused the deal.

To be serious about a world without nuclear weapons, we must face some serious questions—questions that have nothing to do with U.S. or Russian numbers:

Is the U.S. doing enough to develop effective missile defenses? How can we prevent the language in the treaty's preamble—linking offensive and defensive weapons—from blocking more ambitious U.S. missile defense efforts in the future?

What will the administration do to counter Iran's nuclear program if sanctions prove no more effective than engagement? What about North Korea? Is there no way to peacefully promote more responsible leadership in either country?

What are we doing to preserve the safety and reliability of our diminishing number of nuclear weapons?

Since we are reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons, how can we strengthen our conventional deterrent in the face of determined efforts to deny us nearby basing options?
The threat derives not so much from nuclear weapons but from who holds them. Nuclear weapons in the hands of an accountable democracy are far less dangerous than nuclear weapons in the hands of an apocalyptic dictatorship. And that's not to suggest that Russia is necessarily an accountable democracy, but at least their leaders are not apocryphal. Among the world's nuclear powers, the real dangers lie in Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. Precisely the countries whose nuclear weapons Obama is ignoring.


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