With campaign rhetoric calling Russia America’s greatest geopolitical foe, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s saber-rattling, and disagreements on tough issues such as Syria, it’s easy to forget how much common ground the United States and Russia share.
The news media focused on signs of tension between Obama and Putin at a meeting during the June 20 G-20 summit, but the two leaders also released a joint statement that included many points of agreement, especially on nuclear arms control and non-proliferation.
The two leaders said that they:
- Support the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- Agree on the importance of nuclear security: they highlighted the achievements of the Nuclear Security Summit and pointed out that there is continuing work to accomplish together “to improve nuclear security, counter nuclear smuggling, and combat nuclear terrorism.”
- Plan to facilitate negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament on a fissile material cutoff treaty.
- Hope for the “early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.”
- Want to successfully implement the New START treaty and continue talks on strategic stability.
- Recognize the importance of finding common ground on the tricky issue of missile defense: “Despite differences in assessments, we have agreed to continue a joint search for solutions to challenges in the field of missile defense.”Clearly there are disagreements between the United States and Russia on a number of key national security issues, including strategic forces issues. But the two countries share many mutual interests. Their cooperation on nuclear security has yielded many tangible security benefits and there are more opportunities ahead. Let’s hope our leaders don’t let politics get in the way of progress.