GOOD

Why Our New Nuclear Weapons Treaty with Russia Matters

Rachel Kleinfeld explains why the nuclear arms reduction treaty the Senate ratified today is "a masterful piece of diplomacy."


Today, the Senate ratified the new START treaty, an treaty between Russia and the United States to further scale back their nuclear arsenals. Because after all, who wants more nukes in the world (besides North Korea, Iran, and Al-Qaeda)? The New York Times is calling it "the most tangible foreign policy achievement of Mr. Obama's two years in office."

Back in April, when Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty, Rachel Kleinfeld, the CEO of the Truman National Security Project, wrote a column for GOOD explaining why the treaty was "a masterful piece of diplomacy." The bulk of her column is below, to help put today's news in perspective.


New START cuts the Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployable weapons each—that’s an overall cut of 30 percent. It also sets up rigorous verification measures so the American hand can see what the Russian hand is doing, and vice versa.

Reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals is no left-wing fantasy—it has been a Republican goal for decades. Ronald Reagan first pushed the idea in the 1980s, recognizing that the number of nuclear weapons both countries had was more than enough to protect ourselves, and that while we needed enough firepower to safeguard the house, having enough to burn it down did no one any good. George H. W. Bush finished what Reagan started by signing the first START treaty in 1991. The treaty was a major success, leading to an 80 percent reduction in American and Russian nuclear arsenals and easing Cold War tensions. When it expired last year, national security leaders across the political spectrum called for a new treaty.

Preeminent groups of statesmen from both sides of the aisle don’t come together much these days. But New START brought together everyone from Reagan’s Secretary of State to Clinton’s Secretary of Defense for a reason: They agree that we now face a new threat exacerbated by the mere existence of more nukes. Al-Qaeda is hell bent on getting a nuclear weapon, by hook or by crook. Sadly, that might be easier than we’d like to think. In January, a nuclear air base in Belgium—a major NATO partner—was breached by anti-nuclear activists. They spent over an hour in the base before they were detected. If they can do it, so can terrorists.

The threat of nuclear terrorism is real, and our country’s top officials are serious about locking down, reducing, and safeguarding nuclear stockpiles. Since 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons are owned by Russia and America, the New START treaty is where the effort begins. As we’ve known for years, Russia’s ability to keep its nuclear material under lock and key hardly inspires confidence. Personnel are untrustworthy, corruption is rife, and nuclear material is unaccounted for. That’s why reducing Russia’s nuclear arsenal is so critical: The less they have to guard, the less terrorists have to steal.

Yet New START is not only a major accomplishment in terms of what it delivers. It’s also a major triumph for American diplomacy. The Russians thought that President Obama would be so starry-eyed for a treaty before his Nobel Prize speech that they could force concessions from him. They were wrong. He held tough and refused to budge. The new treaty reduces the chances of nuclear conflict, but it also gives America a free hand to explore the possibilities of developing a new missile shield. Not a bad way to kill two birds with one stone.

Of course, the treaty is not without its critics. New START’s detractors—such as the Heritage Foundation’s Conn Carroll and Baker Spring—argue that it’s nothing more than words on paper. But the fact of the matter is that New START follows Reagan’s dictate to “trust, but verify.” Under the original START treaty, the United States conducted over 600 inspections in Russia and its satellite countries—Russia only conducted 400 on our soil. New START enshrines similar vigilance in a new century.

At the end of the day, the United States and Russia still possess more weapons than the rest of the world combined. The new treaty provides security for our allies, while assuring a credible deterrent against Russia’s weapons and Iran’s ambitions. As an added bonus, it reduces and secures the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world, so that it is more difficult for loose nukes to fall into terrorist hands. That’s a goal we can all agree on, from Alaska to Alabama.

\n

The final vote in the Senate was 71 to 26, with 13 Republicans and every Democrat voting to ratify the treaty.

Articles
via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
Business
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics