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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 11:51 | SYDNEY
Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 11:51 | SYDNEY

Replacing START for money, not love

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25 June 2009 10:54

AFP reports that US and Russian negotiators have ended their final round of talks for an agreement to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, due to expire in December. Judging by the tone of American quotes in that AFP article, there's a quiet confidence that the two sides can come to a deal, despite President Medvedev's earlier statement suggesting a fairly hard-line Russian position on US ballistic missile defence (BMD).

Jennifer Wright at World Politics Review argues that the Obama Administration faces a stark choice between nuclear arms reductions and missile defence. But the tone of the AFP piece belies that fear, so perhaps the scale of American strategic missile defences is still modest enough that Russia calculates BMD does not yet represent a serious threat to its strategic forces.

As Russia's arsenal shrinks, the problem will become more acute, however, and as Theodor Postol argues in this highly technical study, Russia does have a legitimate basis for concerns that the proposed US missile defence base in eastern Europe, advertised as a defence against Iranian missiles, could be used against Russia.

All that said, the strategic considerations may actually be secondary — we shouldn't underestimate how much of this momentum toward nuclear arms cuts is being driven by money. There's a lot of spare capacity in Russian and American nuclear arsenals, it is expensive to maintain, and both could use the spare cash.

Photo by Flickr user Downing Street, used under a Creative Commons license.

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