Jan. 26, 2011
The New START treaty which was ratified this week is a major victory for both Russia and the United States. Two world powers, two of the largest countries in the world, care about their security. These two national securities are so interdependent that one cannot benefit while the other is defeated, or infringed upon. We either win together, or we lose together. This is primarily because we face the same threats.
The recent tragic events in Moscow have demonstrated that terrorism indeed is the gravest and most serious threat in the world today. A large number of nuclear warheads, submarines and planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons does not make people’s daily lives any safer. Nuclear weapons cannot be used in the war on terror. On the contrary, there is the danger of nuclear weapons, or fissile materials, falling into the hands of terrorists or irresponsible politicians. That is why Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama not only signed the Prague treaty last April and not only have worked hard to get it ratified in the US Senate and the Russian parliament; they also promote the Global Zero idea. Last year, when a Global Zero summit took place in Paris, both President Medvedev and President Obama sent their greetings to the forum. It is also important that, by ratifying New START, the two leaders and their countries are sending a clear message to all the other members of the nuclear club, those countries that possess, officially or otherwise, nuclear weapons or nuclear materials: "Read our lips. The next step will have to be made by all of our countries together. The big guys have taken the first step. From now on, we all move together. We all live in one world, and we have common security.”
Of course, there is the issue of Iran here. Unfortunately, Iran has failed to demonstrate that its leadership does not want a military nuclear program. It is totally obvious to me that Iran is entitled to nuclear energy, to the peaceful use of nuclear fuel. But any nuclear projects should be implemented under the strict control of the IAEA. You have to play by the rules. The most important thing Iran might do is actively participate in the talks with the six nations. Unfortunately, the recent meeting in Istanbul failed to achieve any visible results. But if some in Tehran naively believe that they can divide the six nations by emphasizing fine distinctions between their positions, I think they are mistaken. On the whole, the six nations share the same position – none of us wants to see another nuclear power emerge in the Middle East.
Even though the situation with Iran or North Korea may appear troublesome, the general trend is positive. The number of nuclear powers is reducing. Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Also, South Africa, Libya, Syria and a number of other countries have at some point terminated their nuclear programs.
Our objective at this point is to make abandoning nuclear research for military purposes an attractive option for other countries. After all, non-proliferation implies a carrot-and-stick approach. Unfortunately, what we have been seeing lately is mostly sticks. Say, when we discuss Iran’s nuclear program, the first thing some people suggest is sanctions, or even the hypothetical possibility of a military operation. But we should not forget about the carrots. We should make abandoning a nuclear program an attractive option, both politically and economically. Of course, it is possible that the Iranian political leadership simply does not believe that if they officially renounce their military nuclear program, this would give Iran any significant economic benefits. In fact, that is why we need to continue the talks. You cannot play political football in the Greater Middle East; you can only play political chess.
As for potential problems with the New START Treaty and additional documents adopted by the parliaments of both countries, these are political declarations. Politicians sitting in the parliaments of both countries are fully entitled to that. Nobody can deprive us of this right. Politicians always make political statements. At the same time, those statements are not laws. They are not an integral part of the text the two presidents signed in Prague. They are merely a signal for the governments and administrations of the two countries. Their message is, "You need to consider the concerns presented in those declarations. You need to continue the talks, continue your co-operation, continue looking for common ground.”
The principal danger for the two countries today is to repeat the same mistake they made in the Bush-Putin period, when the mutual understanding that existed between the two leaders did not expand to include the two bureaucracies. They failed to institutionalize the Russo-American partnership. That is why today we need to intensify the work of our joint workgroups and commissions, to expand co-operation between the two parliaments, and, finally, to step up the dialogue between the two countries’ civil societies. Apart from that, there can be no real reset in our relations.