Bloomberg: President Barack Obama signs a nuclear-arms treaty with Russia today that he will try to use to build international support for increasing pressure on Iran and preventing terrorists from getting atomic material. By Julianna Goldman
April 8 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama signs a nuclear-arms treaty with Russia today that he will try to use to build international support for increasing pressure on Iran and preventing terrorists from getting atomic material.
Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will gather at noon for a ceremony in Prague to cap the deal. U.S. officials have said the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which trims the U.S. and Russian arsenals by about 30 percent, bolsters the American commitment to Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations and will encourage other countries to demand compliance.
The accord “shows the world, particularly states like Iran and North Korea, that one of our top priorities is to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime and keep nuclear materials out of the wrong hands,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said March 26, when the deal was announced.
Iran has rebuffed calls to stop what the U.S. and its allies say is the Islamic republic’s pursuit of a nuclear- weapons capability and to engage in negotiations. Obama, who said March 30 he would push for tougher United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran “within weeks,” needs broad international enforcement of potential new measures such as authority to seize Iranian cargoes and cut off credit.
“If the U.S. and Russia did not get moving together on reducing nuclear weapons, nobody else in the world is going to,” former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said in an interview. “The whole issue of trying to contain nuclear proliferation and trying to deal with rogue states would have a huge setback.”
It was in Prague a year ago where Obama articulated a vision of a nuclear-free world that won him a Nobel Peace Prize.
The message will carry over to Obama’s April 12-13 summit in Washington, where he will host representatives from 46 nations, including Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao, to seek consensus on steps to halt the spread of nuclear material.
The White House expects the treaty to be ratified this year with broad bipartisan support, as has been the case with arms treaties historically, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters today.
The administration is “hopeful that reducing the threat of nuclear weapons remains a priority for both parties,” Gibbs said.
Obama’s strategy to build on START may have limits, said Sam Greene, deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a public-policy institution.
“While the U.S. may try to make the most of the momentum it has gained with Russia, Moscow will want to maximize its room for maneuver in each specific case, whether on Iran, Afghanistan or any other major issue of concern to the U.S.,” Greene said in an e-mail. “Moscow will not want to feel tied down.”
Obama made the prevention of nuclear terrorism a top goal of U.S. atomic policy this week as he revamped Cold War-era guidelines in the Nuclear Posture Review that defined limits on the role of nuclear weapons in defense.
“This signing of the treaty and this Nuclear Posture Review are two very tangible steps that, in effect, are making good on the promise of the vision” Obama described last year, Perry, who served in former President Bill Clinton’s administration, said.
The U.S. will set an example through START, said one advocate for eliminating nuclear weapons, Joseph Cirincione, who heads the San Francisco-based Ploughshares Fund, a nuclear policy group.
“In order to get the cooperation you need to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, you’ve got to restore the credibility of the U.S. by reducing its own stockpile of weapons,” Cirincione said.
The arm-reduction treaty also helps to lay the groundwork for next month’s non-proliferation treaty review talks in New York, analysts said.
“It’s the light tower that tells the rest of the world what is the role of nuclear weapons,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The U.S. and Russia are not particularly safer because of this agreement, but because of the other sort of cooperation that it leads to, we are safer.”
Some critics contend Obama should be focused less on incremental cuts in nuclear stockpiles and more on efforts to prevent countries, such as Iran, from gaining a weapon.
The new START agreement doesn’t take into account “that we’re adding another country to the list of those who have nuclear weapons,” said Lawrence Eagleburger, who was secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush.
‘Off to the Races’
“Once Iran is a nuclear weapon state, there are bound to be other countries who look at this and say, ‘They are, we should be too,’” Eagleburger said in an interview. “Then it’s off to the races.”
Administration officials counter that START is the latest effort to reset relations with Russia and say they hope it opens the way to greater cooperation to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The U.S. says the treaty doesn’t restrict missile defenses to thwart an attack by states such as Iran and North Korea. That issue remains a sticking point with Russia, which has said it reserves the right to pull out of the accord if a U.S. system posed a threat to its nuclear arsenal.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said April 6 Russia could exit the treaty if “the U.S.’s build-up of its missile defense strategic potential in numbers and quality begins to considerably affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces.”