Nuclear Weapons

New year to bring new treaty on nuclear weapons reductions

With a December 5th deadline come and gone, nuclear disarmament supporters hoping for a new treaty soon between the US and Russia on nuclear weapons reduction may have to wait a little longer. At Copenhagen for climate change talks, Presidents Obama and Medvedev squeezed in a meeting on the ongoing nuclear weapons negotiations. The Associated Press quotes a spokesman for negotiations saying that the New START agreement to reduce both countries’ nuclear arsenals may not be completed until January:

“It’s extremely complex putting together a treaty like this,” Parmly told The Associated Press.

“If you’re expecting a signing ceremony by the end of the year, that would be a tough calendar,” Parmly said. “In the mean time, though, they’re working.”

The New START agreement is an important, if modest, first step forward to improving global security. And it shouldn’t be the last step. The New York Times had an interesting story yesterday detailing next steps for nuclear weapons reductions:

After President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia sign the new pact, they plan to send negotiators back to the table next year to pursue a far more ambitious agreement tackling whole categories of nuclear weapons never before subject to international limits.

The talks envisioned for 2010 would continue to advance Mr. Obama’s disarmament agenda and attempt what no president has managed since the dark days of the cold war. In addition to further reducing deployed strategic warheads, the negotiations would try to empty at least some vaults now storing warheads in reserve. And the two sides would take aim at thousands of tactical nuclear bombs most vulnerable to theft or proliferation, some still located in Europe 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The effort is part of a broader initiative by Mr. Obama to start down the road toward eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons and to transform the American military for a new era.