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The Dream of No Nukes

Amitai Etzioni of George Washington University has a post on TPM criticizing President Barack Obama’s “zero” nuclear weapons ambitions, pointing out the false assumption that whatever arrangement the U.S. and Russia work out, that other nations would follow.

Moreover, in dealing with Russia, the greatest priority for the United States is to encourage Russia to further improve its controls over the fissile material from which nukes can be made and over the thousands of tactical nuclear arms it possesses. Reducing the Cold War instruments, the long-range missiles and strategic nuclear weapons–on which Henry A. Kissinger and his colleagues focus–are much less of an issue. They are already relatively well-controlled and, moreover, are not well-suited for terrorists equipped with speed boats, shipping containers, and trunks. It follows that dismantling these Cold War arms is much less urgent. Similarly, the United States is keen to gain Russia’s cooperation in stopping Iran’s nuclear militarization. Neither mission is affected by the number of nukes the two powers hold.

The fate of the curbs on the spread of nuclear arms in the near future is going to be decided in Iran. If it is allowed to gain a bomb, there will be no stopping Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations from going down the same road, and Japan and South Korea are likely soon to follow, to countervail North Korea. Nuclear terrorists are looking for bombs in Pakistan (and for fissile materials and small bombs in Russia). These burning matters are enough to occupy a president who has shown that he can work on half a dozen issues at the same time. Zero can wait.