After a year-long review, the Bush administration has announced plans to continue U.S. efforts to deal with the nonproliferation risks posed by the state of the Russian weapons complex. It remains to be seen how all threat reduction programs will fare in the next budget, but it appears that the administration has overcome its initial skepticism regarding these programs and their benefits for U.S. security.
UN Under-Secretary General Jayantah Dhanapala said January 22, "The terrorist acts of 11 September have shaken the world out of a dangerous complacency. The public, concerned groups, and legislators are now starting to take much more seriously not only the threat of terrorism but also the danger that WMD may actually be used against military or civilian targets." Read excerpts from his speech to the Arms Control Association.
The United States will soon become the first nation since World War II to withdraw from a major international security agreement. President Bush's abrogation of the ABM treaty will undermine President Putin in Russia, alienate U.S. allies, antagonize China, polarize domestic debate and weaken national security. Ironically, it will also expose the fragility of missile defense plans. It has been technology, not treaties, limiting effective defenses.
The United States and Russian Federation reached an important arms control milestone on December 5 when both sides completed reductions in the strategic nuclear arsenals to 6,000 accountable weapons each, as required under the START I Treaty. These reductions are a massive reduction from the size of the nuclear arsenals both countries deployed when the agreement was signed in 1991, and demonstrate the value of negotiated, verified arms reduction agreements in U.S. security policy.
Bad weather twice postponed the intercept test scheduled for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, previously known as National Missile Defense. Weather plays a much greater role than most realize in the success of these demonstrations. The official reason for cancellation is that the poor weather at Vandenburg Air Force Base "did not meet range safety requirements." High winds at the test site may have been enough to force a postponement, but less than ideal weather could mean that the interceptors cannot intercept at all.
President Bush said in May that he wanted to build a new "strategic framework" for nuclear relations between the United States and Russia. Six months later, he has taken a significant step in that direction with the announcement Tuesday of intentions to reduce U.S. nuclear forces and of a hoped-for compromise on missile defense to be worked out at Crawford, Texas, in days to come.
Homeowners all across America are renegotiating their mortgages to lock in historically low interest rates. President Bush should do the same this week with nuclear weapons. He and President Vladimir Putin should take advantage of historically good relations to lock in deep reductions to both nations’ nuclear arsenals.