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Time for a New START

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One nuclear bomb will ruin your whole day! By the end of the Cold War, a single missile would be 10-50 times more powerful than the bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The world today is much less stable than during the Cold War era. Regions of the world are experiencing destabilizing levels of war, terrorism and crime, and the population of the planet is projected to be nine billion by 2050. Water scarcity, climate change and drought, poverty, disease, and loss of agricultural land and food supply could generate nuclear arms proliferation in those regions seeking to secure a better way of life. The process of arms control negotiations and the New START Treaty need to be reconstructed, widened and expanded to include all nuclear power states. This is the only meaningful way to assure an overall global reduction of nuclear weapons and a strategy and schedule to ultimately eliminate them entirely.

The primary legacy of the Cold War is the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Cold War military programs produced more than 60,000 nuclear weapons. Efforts since 1991 at serious disarmament and arms control have reduced the danger of total global destruction, but the planet is still at risk and the potential for a nuclear detonation or an accident still exists. Even as Russia and the U.S. have been decreasing their nuclear arsenals, there has been an increase in nuclear weapon states. Both India and Pakistan have developed nuclear weapons and Iran and North Korea have been using Cold War technology to develop their weapons programs. The potential for a tragic event which kills hundreds of thousands or millions of people becomes greater every day.

The United States and Russian Federation recently completed negotiations on a new START treaty and the Obama administration is pushing for the full Senate to ratify the agreement by November. Furthermore, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry is applying pressure to vote the treaty out of committee as soon as possible.

The new START treaty is a relic of the Cold War and there are significant reasons why the ratification process should be slowed down and re-evaluated in order to reflect the reality of today's new dangerous world. The new treaty must call for an equal reduction in the numbers of strategic warheads, including missiles with multiple warheads. It must take into account launches via land-based missiles, submarines, and nuclear-capable bombers. In addition, both countries' entire systems need to be modernized to assure continued safe command and control and there must be a clear mechanism for regular verification.

But also there is an evolving global perspective which needs to be included. The nuclear technology was generated by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War and they now have an historical and moral duty to fulfill their obligations. They must assume responsibility for geopolitical nuclear safety around the world and this accountability should be clearly spelled out in the new START treaty. Furthermore, the U.S. and Russia need to include the other nuclear states as participants and signatories in the treaty in order to establish a comprehensive global safeguard. Those countries should include China, India, Pakistan, Britain, France, and Israel.

The entire intense drama of the Cold War was played out inside the Kremlin and the White House and a miscalculation could have had a deadly outcome. The interplay between the Soviets and U.S. leaders proved to be a decisive factor in the Cold War. During the era, bi-polar brinksmanship and confrontation were eventually replaced by "détente," summit conferences, arms control negotiations and ultimately the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) and later in 1992 the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Arms control negotiations help to establish a continuous dialogue between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and the fact that a nuclear device has not been used in nearly seven decades was because of this continuous open discussion as well as the paradigm of mutually assured destruction, rational leaders and secure command and control.

In today's multi-polar nuclear world, the threat is as great as any time during the Cold War. Considering the addition of rogue states, terrorists, climate change and the humanitarian water crisis, it cannot be assumed that Cold War reasoning will prevail. Consequently, it will require a global effort to offset the threat, and this reality needs to be included in the new START treaty.

A primary example is the prevalent tension and conflict involved in the Cold War nuclear arms race occurring between India and Pakistan. The current size of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is a secret and India is building its arsenal without establishing any limits. In 2008, India was the 10th highest military spender and plans to spend $50-55 billion on its nuclear program through 2014. Transcending the ethnic and political tensions that have long existed between these nuclear power countries is water. Water disputes, instead of religious and border conflicts, could trigger a war between India and Pakistan.

Rivers flow between India and Pakistan and competitive upstream/downstream issues have evolved over water for irrigation, drinking and energy production, all of which has generated significant tensions. Furthermore, the tragic flood disaster in Pakistan which has shattered the lives of millions could be a prelude to future calamities. Intensive and extended monsoon seasons, melting Himalayan glaciers, droughts, water scarcity and food shortages, in conjunction with significant population growth and poverty, will exacerbate the drastic conditions and further threaten international security.

Another nuclear power is China, which should be included in the START treaty negotiations. China has important geopolitical and economic outreach, significant technological knowledge and an evolving nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, China has been assisting Pakistan in the development of nuclear weapons as a counter to India because of their serious competition for global markets and prestige. This has caused considerable concern in India regarding the potential for military conflict with neighboring China, which has stimulated India's military spending. This military build-up furthers hostilities between Pakistan and India.

The U.S. Senate should think twice before ratifying the treaty, and instead take steps to increase the depth and dimension of its global responsibilities and involvement. The world is clearly on the brink of disaster unless dramatic international solutions are implemented. Reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons is a necessary and critical step for the world to evolve into a safe and secure existence. But it will require political will, courage, vision, and true statesmanship to implement lasting bipartisan public policy and comprehensive, effective geopolitical strategies that elevate the human race and end the arms race.
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Jim Thebaut is an international affairs scholar whose think tank, the Chronicles Group, has produced acclaimed documentary films on global water policy, nuclear proliferation, and other major foreign and domestic policy issues.
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Time for a New START

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