Insecure Nuclear Arms Control
By Manuel E. Yepe
Exclusive for the daily POR ESTO! of Merida, Mexico.
A CubaNews translation edited by Walter Lippmann.
Last month marked a decade since President Barack Obama declared, standing before a crowd in Prague, the United States’ commitment to seek peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons. However, today we are on the top of that world, but with more weapons, not less.
The future of the United States-Russia Arms Control agreement to reduce the threat of both superpowers instigating a nuclear war –a bilateral tradition that goes back to the governments of Nixon and Brezhnev– looks bleak.
Once that both countries officially abandon the treaty on Non-Proliferation of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) next August, only the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will remain in force as a formal agreement limiting the size and range of the nuclear arsenals between the two major nuclear-weapon states. And as if that weren’t enough, the New START expires in February 2021.
The Trump administration says it is considering extending the new START, but there are reasons for skepticism about this affirmation.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has set standards in the United States by abandoning the Iran’s Nuclear Treaty and the INF Treaty, is a very likely advocate of dismantling the New START as well.
In fact, Bolton has already loudly referred to the participation of the United States in that treaty by calling it “unilateral disarmament”. According to what has been published, Trump himself rejected Putin’s offer to extend the New START during the first official telephone conversation that they held.
Russia is still supposed to be interested in extending the treaty beyond 2021, and President Vladimir Putin has already extended an open invitation for talks with a view to an extension.
The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, expressed a similar interest at this year’s Munich security conference.
Putin manifests his disinterest in bilateral agreements and prefers a multilateral framework based, as he explained in 2012, on the fact that the US and Russia could end up “disarming endlessly while other nuclear powers accumulate weapons.”
But without these agreements, Moscow and Washington could be heading towards a new arms race: a possibility that the Russians and Americans seem to have grasped. (According to a recent survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Levada Analytical Center, seven out of ten Russians (72%%) and 70% of Americans fear that their countries will move toward a new arms race.
But there is still room for hope. Most Russians (87%) and Americans (74%) are in favor of reaching an agreement to limit nuclear weapons.
In 1982, three-quarters of Americans favored freezing nuclear weapons production (75%), according to a joint survey by NBC News and Associated Press. Most of the U.S. public also disagreed with Reagan’s assertion that the freeze movement was being manipulated by foreign interests to weaken the country (48%). Reagan soon changed course.
The Nuclear Freeze campaign –which included a million-person US protest calling for an end to the arms race– is considered to have forced Reagan’s hand to begin negotiations with Gorbachev in 1985.
By 1982, three-quarters of Americans were in favor of freezing the production of nuclear weapons, according to a joint survey by NBC News and Associated Press.
Most Americans also disagreed with Reagan’s assertion that the freezing movement was being manipulated by foreign interests to weaken the country (48 %). Reagan soon changed course.
By 1982, the United States had lived 35 years of Cold War. Americans had practiced protection exercises since primary school and most remembered the missile crisis in Cuba and the constant threat of nuclear war.
This partly explains why, despite the support we see among the American people to a new arms control agreement and the sensation that a new arms race looms above our heads, only 54% of Americans opposed the U.S. decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty.
Today, the INF’s decision has been turned into a partisan issue, with 73% of the Republicans supporting Trump’s decision to withdraw and 74% of Democrats who oppose him. The challenge for defenders of arms control today is to break with the partisanship that surrounds the decisions on arms control.
According to Lily Wojtowicz, associate researcher at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs which studies Russian and American public opinion: although 78% of Americans describe Russia as a rival and not as a partner, they all support the search for new restrictions on the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia (90 % of Republicans, 89% of Democrats, and 84% of Independents).
May 20, 2019.
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