Peace groups welcome US-Russian arms reduction treaty

Peace campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic have welcomed the news, announced on Friday,  that President Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, have agreed a treaty to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

Under the treaty, both Russia and the US will cut their strategic nuclear warheads by nearly a third. They will also reduce the number of missiles that carry the warheads.

Bruce Kent, former Chair  of CND and vice-president of Pax Christi told ICN: "The agreement replaces the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) of 1991, which expired in December. The new START Treaty is to be warmly welcomed - not for its detail but for what it indicates.

"It comes just before a major April meeting called by President Obama of all the major nuclear weapon states. He has already made the abolition of all nuclear weapons one of his aims.

"This April  meeting itself is in advance of the May review conference of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. That treaty calls, not just for non proliferation but the elimination of all nuclear weapons everywhere. So the new Start Treaty points in the right direction and sets the tone.  It is evidence that the two major nuclear weapon states are willing to make substantial reductions and this must affect the climate for discussions with other countries in May.

Bruce Kent said: "The pressure on Britain to make a major commitment like giving up Trident must now  increase. In detail the treaty is already out of date. The political climate between Russia and the USA is such that  war between them is an entirely unrealistic scenario.

"Further the commitment to come 'down' to 1,550 war heads and 800 launchers  is in reality  hardly impressive. For those who belive in nuclear deterrence 100 deliverable war heads are more than enough. Remember the war heads of today all have greater destructive power than the bomb which flattened Hiroshima  in 1945 and killed over 100,000 people.

"Nevertheless,  however  modest the treaty is that does not mean that it will get the approval of either the Russian Duma or the US Senate. Stone Age ideas about security depending on large numbers of warheads are still alive and well in both places. Obama needs positive signs of support from other nuclear weapon states.

Joseph Cirincione, president of the Washington-based  Ploughshares Fund said: “This vision of a world without the Damocles sword of nuclear weapons hanging over it, as John Kennedy said, is one whose time has come...It’s the fact that the idea of moving in this direction is one shared by conservatives and moderates as well as liberals that is giving it such strength.”

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