IN HIS State of the Union speech President Obama proposed new cuts in the US nuclear arsenal. The administration plans to do away with more than one third of the nuclear warheads currently deployed in the United States (bringing their overall number down from about 1,700 to a little over 1,000). Obama’s bold initiative enhances US security and makes economic sense. It would save billions of dollars over decades. The current nuclear stockpile grossly exceeds what is required to reliably deter countries from going to war with the United States. Cutting back on the nuclear arsenal helps the United States to advance the goal of global nuclear disarmament, thereby decreasing the danger that nuclear devices fall into the hands of terrorists.
The president will reportedly try to achieve mutual cuts with Russia within the framework of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. But the president’s plans might face skepticism from Russia, where the atmosphere for arms control is poor. Even if Obama plans to negotiate an informal agreement rather than a full-fledged treaty, the tensions between the two states may affect the chances of a nuclear accord. Russia has announced plans not to renew cooperation with the United States, at least on the same terms as in the past, on a range of nuclear security measures, seriously questioning whether the United States can still make sure that nuclear devices are dismantled appropriately and that the nuclear material is safeguarded in a satisfactory manner.