Here’s yet another possible explanation for why Putin was shushing Obama at the G8 summit earlier this week: President Obama mentioned that he’d like to talk about reducing their countries’ nuclear stockpiles. Senior administration officials tell the Wall Street Journal that the president will announce his renewed focus on ridding the world of nuclear weapons in a major foreign-policy speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Wednesday. The U.S. and Russia already agreed to cut their number of strategic warheads to 1,550 as part of the 2010 New START Treaty, but Obama wants to reduce that number by a third.
Officials say Obama is determined to push for the cuts, though the U.S. and Russia are currently at odds over Syria’s civil war and U.S. missile-defense deployments in Europe. Aside from our old Cold War nemesis, the administration could also face opposition from Senate Republicans, who battled with the president over ratifying the New Start treaty. Though this time, Obama has a potential strategy for dealing with the GOP.
While an administration official said the White House would pursue a new treaty with Russia “as a general proposition,” it might also seek reciprocal reductions through a non-binding agreement, which wouldn’t necessitate a showdown in the Senate. “Our intent is to seek negotiated cuts with Russia so we can continue to move beyond the Cold War nuclear posture,” the official said. “But it’s too early to tell since we haven’t even started discussions with the Russians on what it will look like.”
Reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal to just over 1,000 warheads would save an estimated $58 billion over the next decade, and according to one official, “If you still have 1,100 weapons that is pretty good deterrence.” So rest assured that we’ll still be able to keep other countries in line with our ability to destroy the entire planet.