Thursday, July 09, 2009

# Posted 8:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOW-HANGING FRUIT: Chris Brose responds to criticism of his question,
How good should we feel about a U.S.-Russia relationship where we can make progress on many issues of questionable importance while we disagree over most of the important stuff?
The "issues of questionable importance" to which Chris refers are the extension of the START regime for nuclear arms reduction and the opening of a Russian air corridor for supplies to Afghanistan.

In his criticism of Chris' initial post, Patrick Barry insisted that "START is the most significant arms-reduction agreement in the last 20 years." I pretty much agree -- but I'm still on Chris' side on this one. Why? Negotiating an extension to START is not a major accomplishment. It's low-hanging fruit. Since the end of the Cold War, US and Russian interests have coincided very closely when it comes to the reduction of our once massive nuclear arsenals.

The real shock would've been if Obama failed to negotiate an extension of START. There is a strong enough consensus on the fundamentals of the treaty that John McCain also expected to renew and strengthen the agreement. Last May he said,
We should be prepared to enter into a new arms control agreement with Russia reflecting the nuclear reductions I will seek. Further, we should be able to agree with Russia on binding verification measures based on those currently in effect under the START Agreement, to enhance confidence and transparency.
Now what about the tough issues we have to work on with Russia, such as Iran? As Chris says,
Color me skeptical that Russian interests will ever lead it to be an effective partner in pressuring Iran on its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Chris' co-blogger Will Inboden mines an even deeper strain of pessimism, asking whether George Kennan's memorable analysis of Russian impulses in 1947 remains just as relevant today. At minimum, Kennan's analysis may tell us a lot about Vladimir Putin.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

I was reading an analysis yesterday (sorry, I don't have a link, but it used only common knowledge facts so I think you can accept or reject this point without reading the essay) that argued START was a great acheivement for Obama because nukes are cheaper than armies.

Reducing nuclear forces puts heavier reliance on expensive ground forces and Russia doesn't have much money at the moment.As a result, extending START favors the U.S. more than the original START did.
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