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Arms Control in the Future

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By Jason Sibert

The election of Joe Biden as president has dominated the news for a little under a week.

Media voices have been discussing possible cabinet appointments, the makeup of possible legislation, and what the new administration will try to do in the early days. However, the issue of our country's nuclear weapons policy has not been discussed as much. President Donald Trump spent four years destroying trust in the United States as a lawmaker by withdrawing from treaties made by previous administrations of both parties, although President George W. Bush also withdrew from treaties and negotiations on treaties. President elect Biden wrote in the March/April edition of "Foreign Affairs": "Diplomacy is not just a series of handshakes and photo ops. It is building and tending relationships and working to identify areas of common interests while managing points of conflict. It requires discipline, a coherent policymaking process, and a team of experienced and empowered professionals."

A Biden Administration should be able to partially repair the damage done by the Trump Administration. The new administration should restore old treaties and appoint many experienced professionals to diplomatic posts. Renewing the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia would be a start. The treaty is the last arms control treaty between the United States and Russia. When Trump left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action treaty with Iran, the country restarted its nuclear weapons program and engaged in destabilizing behavior. Reentering the deal might be tricky because Trump has stated he will increase sanctions on Iran. A diplomatic engagement with North Korea to draw down the country's nuclear arsenal would also be desirable. For such a deal to succeed, it would require the involvement of China. This would be a wonderful way for our country to engage with a geopolitical rival for the security of both countries and the world in general.

Some of the other issues that confront our country - Covid-19, climate change, and economic stagnation - will also require cooperation between our country and the international community. They also require little from an overblown arms sector. However, the issue of arms control is about more than who won the 2020 election. No one knows if Biden will be reelected in 2024, or if he will even try to run for president again. What if we get a president from the opposing party in 2024? What will happen to the diplomatic progress that might occur in a Biden Administration? No one can tell for sure.

However, our country's history is not written in one election. The fight between a view of America as a country that engages in nuclear arms control and a country that does not isn't likely to go away soon. If Biden makes progress and his successor goes back on that progress, the U.S. might acquire a reputation as a country that isn't a reliable partner and leaders won't want to cut deals with us again. We will find ourselves isolated in a world spinning out of control. Other nation-states will find they have little in common with us. Only time will tell what path we will take!

Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project in St Louis.

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Jason Sibert worked for the Suburban Journals in the St. Louis area as a staff writer for a decade. His work has been published in a variety of publications since then and he is currently the executive director of the Peace Economy Project.
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