How should the Obama administration build support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? Head over to World Politics Review for my two cents. Here’s a quick teaser: 1. Highlight the growing bipartisan consensus in support of ratifying the t…
Last week the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation sent around a short primer on some of the problems that continue to divide the U.S. and Russia as they try to negotiate a “New START” agreement to replace START I, which expires on December 5.
The AP’s David Nowak cited our analysis in his report on U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones’ recent visit to Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other high-ranking Russian officials. Writes Nowak:
But the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation recently noted several sticking points that may take negotiations into the 11th hour.
The obstacles include a divergence on the number of so-called delivery vehicles – a reference to missiles and bombers. Washington has reportedly proposed a limit of 1,100 such weapons platforms, while Russia wants less than half, a discrepancy too great to forge an agreement, the center concluded.
To clarify, while we highlight several issues that could prevent an agreement from being reached on or before December 5, we do not suggest that these divisions are insoluble. For example, as we note, “The wide range for delivery vehicles reflects the opening positions of the two countries….Such a wide range will almost certainly not be in the Treaty, as the U.S. and Russia will either have to agree to a single number or a narrower range.”
As of today, the discrepancy in the U.S. and Russian positions on a number of key issues is still “too great to forge an agreement” (though if this report is accurate, perhaps the delivery vehicle divide is close to being bridged). But given the modest goals laid out by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in July, resolving these problems should be eminently doable. The question is whether it’s doable before December 5.
As an insightful NOH comment once put it, “Arms control ain’t exactly a happening field.” True, parsing delivery vehicle counting rules can be tiresome.
Yet there are those who put vim and verve into even the driest of subjects. These people deserve recognition because, in a town where a lot of people know a lot, sometimes it’s all about, well, the delivery.
My top three arms control quotes from the last month…
#3 Christopher Ford (Hudson Institute, October 21)
“I think the Russian and Chinese motivations are undoubtedly extremely complex and partake of lots of different factors but I do share your suspicion that there probably is at least something in their calculus that is not entirely unhappy with the kind of delicious monkey wrench that proliferation to some place like Iran would throw into our strategic policies in the Middle East.”
It takes a unique sort of rhetorical grace to get away with the incredible phrase “delicious monkey wrench.”
#2 Ambassador James Dobbins (Arms Control Association, October 22)
There’s nothing like a laundry list of super villains to put things into perspective:
“This experience, which involved a series of negotiations with senior Iranians, tends to be so unusual in the American experience that I’m often asked what negotiating with Iranians was like, as if this was a particularly exotic form of activity. In fact, I think it was remarkably banal and surprising only in how easy and how successful it was. Of course I’m comparing this to my prior experience in which I had the pleasure of negotiating with Soviet apparatchiks, Somali warlords, Caribbean dictators, Balkan war criminals, and Afghan mujahedeen.”
#1 Ambassador Linton Brooks (United States Institute of Peace, October 26)
The guy just knows how to quip. Examples:
“Arms control’s gotta be a little bit painful; otherwise, why do you do it?”
“In actual military capabilities there is no difference between 1,500 and 1,000 [nuclear weapons]; either level will ruin your day if used.”
And on the fuss over Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons: “I’ve never completely understood why something that only blows up in Russia is a threat to me unless I plan to invade.”
#1 (Emeritus) Joe Cirincione (added by Travis)
On the Syrian nuclear reactor: “This isn’t like a Road Runner cartoon where you call up Acme Reactors and they deliver a functioning reactor to your back yard. It takes years to build.”
Funny, pithy, and accurate. It’s important to be Very Serious about Very Serious Issues, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun in the process. Expertise and accessibility are a lethal combination in public policy.
A newly created elite group of British cross-party parliamentarians dedicated to multilateral nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation (aptly titled the Top Level Group of UK Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation) was officially launched today with a meeting in Westminster. Former Defence Secretary Des Browne is the group’s convener.
Drawing inspiration from America’s Four Horsemen, the British group seeks to secure the world from nuclear dangers. Their plans include reducing nations’ reliance on nuclear weapons and advocating for the CTBT. Yet perhaps their most valuable aspiration is the group’s hope to create a unified European voice.
In an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment last month, Des Browne introduced this mission as part of his goal for the group: “We hope to bring Europe together. As I say, every country in Europe has its Gang of Four, but they’re operating broadly separate from each other.” In the press release announcing their launch, the group stated that they hope to “provide an authoritative European voice to back up the position of U.S. President Barack Obama.”
Such an enterprise could provide U.S. politicians and lawmakers with a clear window into the European stance on key issues. As the press release explains: “The group has also tasked itself with ensuring that politicians in the U.S., of all political persuasions, are in no doubt of their allies’ positions on extended deterrence, tactical nuclear weapons, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.”
The issues of extended deterrence and tactical nuclear weapons have fueled an intense debate in Washington over the future of U.S. nuclear deployments in Europe. Withdrawal of U.S. tactical nukes from Europe would go a long way toward promoting global nuclear reductions, but this possibility has run into numerous obstacles.
Despite strong indications that the tactical deployments are unwanted and unnecessary, critics of withdrawal argue that our European allies want the nukes. They argue that withdrawal would lead to anxiety and even proliferation as the Europeans would begin to doubt the credibility of the U.S. nuclear umbrella. And the critics have plenty of anecdotes from their own meetings with Europeans to support this view.
On the other hand, Des Browne at Carnegie articulated his strong personal view that tactical nuclear weapons could be discarded without undercutting anyone’s strategic defense. He also expressed his confidence that the United States could withdraw its tactical nuclear deployment from Europe smoothly without prompting some sort of extended deterrence crisis, provided that the United States properly engaged diplomatically with Europe in the process.
The UK group’s pursuit of a unified European voice should help to clarify these types of conflicting messages The U.S. political process and future of nuclear reductions are in great need of a clear and coherent message from U.S. allies. The UK group has spotted this problem and seems poised to ameliorate it.
Well not really. But yours truly recently did an interview with Foreign Policy in Focus’ Gabriella Campos on the Obama administration’s new plan for missile defense in Europe. The full interview can be read here. A few additional poin…