Bill Hartung responds to Mello-Knight exchange

William D. Hartung is Director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation. He responded on 15 February 2010 to the Mello-Knight exchange of views on nuclear disarmament and the Obama administration.

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Hartung:

Obama’s aspirations go beyond just his statement at Prague. He is in the midst of negotiating a new nuclear arms
reduction treaty with Russia, with a possible follow-on seeking deeper cuts; he has committed himself publicly to pursuing ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a treaty banning the production of bomb-making materials
(the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty); he is hosting a nuclear security summit of scores of nations to work on plans to secure or destroy “loose nukes” and bomb-making materials; and he hosted a meeting of the UN Security Council (the first U.S. president to do so) to reinforce disarmament pledges of numerous key players.

Some of these changes can occur without major restructuring of U.S. conventional forces (new reductions with Russia and new nuclear security measures, for example).

Everything beyond that will require substantial changes first, as Charles suggests, not only in U.S conventional forces and posture but in regional politics in security dynamics in South Asia (India and Pakistan) and the Middle East (Israel, Iran, and host of related questions, including an Israeli-Palestinian setttlement). And current actions such as boosting spending on the nuclear weapons complex need to be reversed.

Many of these factors are rarely or not fully discussed by many — but not all — of the advocates of “getting to zero.”

So, I guess I agree with many of the points made by Charles and Greg, but I’m not ready to give up on the prospect of some significant changes in nuclear policies and postures. My sense is that we should applaud Obama’s commitments and then hold him to his word, not presume that progress is impossible.

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