Op-Ed: Medvedev and Obama in Prague, sign new treaty on nuclear weapons

Posted Apr 8, 2010 by R. C. Camphausen
Presidents Medvedev and Obama met in Prague today and signed the so-called New Start treaty which will see both countries reduce their stockpile of nuclear weapons by almost one third. But not everyone is impressed. Are you?
President Obama  President Medvedev and President Klaus at Prague Castle
President Obama, President Medvedev and President Klaus at Prague Castle
White House photo by Chuck Kennedy
Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov of the Russian Federation believes that the signing of this new Russian-American arms reduction treaty at the summit today will usher in a new era of mutual confidence between his country and the US., as reported by The Voice of Russia The very same article also says that it is symbolism that has made the two Presidents pick this time of the year, because the new treaty will have been signed before the upcoming Washington summit on nuclear security, as well as before the New York conference of the signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Even more impressed seems The Independent, where the following quote can be found:
President Barack Obama is taking the first major step in his push toward a nuclear-free world, returning to Prague to sign the kind of arms-reduction treaty with Russia unseen for nearly two decades.
Of course, a 30 percent reduction of nuclear arms in the two heavily armed countries can be regarded as positive, but it is difficult to see that it should be leading the a nuclear-free world. First of all, other countries still have nukes, others are seen as developing them, and then there is Israel - a country which simultaneously has them and doesn't have them.
Another reason not to be overly impressed is the fact that there's a clause allowing partners to opt out of the treaty, and the fact that after signature the contract will have to pass the United States senate with a two-third majority (see the White House Blog)
Another item on Voice of Russia spells out, in easy words and numbers, what exactly has been signed today: The treaty stipulates reciprocal cuts to 700 for ballistic missiles, to 1,550 for nuclear warheads and to 800 for missile launchers within seven years after it comes into force.
What this makes absolutely clear is that the remaining stockpiles are large enough for global annihilation several times over - unless, of course, some of the deadly stuff is being used way before 2017 ...
After having signed the deal, here's part of what the two presidents had to say: Mr. Obama called the Russian a “friend and partner” and said “without his personal efforts and strong leadership, we would not be here today.” For his part, Mr. Medvedev said the two had developed a “very good personal relationship and a very good personal chemistry as they say.”