ISSUE 61 AUTUMN 2010

Peace Matters Index

a sunny day in prague

ONLINE contents


- conscripting conscience
- to vote or not to vote
- climate science: a peace-studies lesson
- climate change and conflict
- unarmed resistance
- acts of conscience
- a sunny day in prague
- human abuse map





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complete issue pdf


After missing many deadlines and achieving several so-called significant breakthroughs, the United States and Russia finally have reached an agreement on a new arms control treaty.

So, was the treaty worth the wait?
As a disarmament measure, it is a very modest step. The treaty will set a ceiling of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads - technically a reduction of more than 30 percent from the current levels - but almost all of the reductions will be accomplished by changing the way the warheads are counted. That means most of the warheads will still be in the U.S. and Russian active arsenals.

Numbers alone, however, don't tell the whole story. In fact, they aren't all that important. Whether it is 1,550 warheads or 500 warheads, it's far too many. What is important is that the treaty provides the public with a way to hold the U.S. and Russian governments accountable for the nuclear weapons they possess.

A strong mechanism of transparency and verification is much more important than any specific number of warheads that the treaty eventually will mandate. Only the future will tell if the new treaty is able to deliver on this count, but there is some reason to hope.

A bigger criticism of the new agreement is that it reduced the entire U.S.-Russian relationship to Cold-War-style arms control and little else. In fact, at various points over the last year, it looked as though the idea of ‘resetting’ the U.S.-Russian relationship had given way to the minutiae of mundane topics such as the exchange of telemetry information.

But the reality is that these disagreements are real, and it would have been wrong to expect that without the arms control process, Russia would have stopped worrying about, say, U.S. missile defence interceptors in Europe. Quite the opposite: As we saw during the George W. Bush years, in the absence of a dialogue, even small misunderstandings and unjustified fears can grow to grotesque proportions and poison the U.S.-Russian relationship for years to come.

If anything, the new treaty has offered both Washington and Moscow an opportunity to discuss their disagreements. The solutions might not be perfect, but the very fact that they were originated from a dialogue is a major step forward.

Meanwhile Britain continues to cling to its American nuclear weapons at taxpayers expense deterring who know what and none of the three main political parties pleasing for our support dare to utter the simple truth: Trident is useless, costly and not even under British control.



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