[A-List] Jonathan Schell U.S.-Russia "Nuclear Standoff" irrational
toddfboyle at gmail.com
Tue Dec 21 15:36:21 MST 2010
As Dems Work to Ratify New START Treaty, Jonathan Schell Says
U.S.-Russia "Nuclear Standoff" Defies "Rational Explanation"
AMY GOODMAN: The White House is predicting
victory in its long-running standoff with
Republicans on a nuclear arms reduction treaty
with Russia. The New Strategic Arms Reduction
Treaty, or New START, calls for the United States
and Russia to cut their deployed arsenals to
1,550 nuclear warheads and 700 missile silos and
bombers each. Republicans have stalled the
proposal since it was reached earlier this year,
in a bid to seek more nuclear funding and
maintain support for the so-called "missile
defense" program. But with Congress preparing to
adjourn for the year, Democrats say theyve
earned enough Republican support to ensure Senate passage.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert
Gibbs said a vote is long overdue.
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS: START is going
to be voted on before Congress leaves town. And
this is a treaty that hasthat was negotiated
over the course of many months, signed in April
in Prague by the two presidents, and up for
review and inspection since thennot to mention
the debate that has been had on the floor exceeds
the time of debate for many treaties in the past.
AMY GOODMAN: Seven Republican senators have said
theyll back the measure, leaving Democrats two
votes shy of an assured victory. On Monday,
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he
would continue to oppose the treaty.
SEN. MITCH McCONNELL: A decision of this
magnitude should not be decided under the
pressure of a deadline. The American people dont
want us to squeeze our most important work into
the final days of a session; they want us to take
the time we need to make informed and responsible decisions.
AMY GOODMAN: McConnell has led calls to delay the
vote until Republicans boost their standing in
the Senate next month. In a response on the
Senate floor, Democratic Senator John Kerry blasted Republican opposition.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: The American people voted
for us to stop the politics. They voted for us to
act like adults and do the business of this
country. And I believe voting on this treaty in
these next hours and days is our opportunity to
live up to the hopes of the American people.
AMY GOODMAN: A Senate vote could come as early as today.
For more, were joined by the veteran journalist
Jonathan Schell, leading advocate for nuclear
disarmament, Doris Shaffer Fellow at the Nation
Institute, author of several bookshis most
recent, The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jonathan Schell.
Explain what this New START treaty is.
JONATHAN SCHELL: Well, its sort of
garden-variety, moderate, sensible, minimal arms
control. I think of it as arms control
maintenance. It does basically two things that
have been going on for the last 30 years or 40
years, really since Richard Nixon inaugurated
arms control in 1972. And that is, it shaves the
arsenals a little bit, a couple of hundred
warheads, also reduces the number of delivery
vehicles that are allowed. And maybe more
important than that, it reintroduces inspections,
which have lapsed with the lapse of the START
treaty, the old START treaty. So this is whats
been going on for 40 years in arms control, and
it pushes it along in a kind of minimal way. Its
a little bit like paying the mortgage on your
house. You know, if you pay your mortgage, its
not a big deal. But if you dont, the
consequences could be pretty dire. And thats
pretty much the way I look at this.
AMY GOODMAN: What are those consequences?
JONATHAN SCHELL: Well, the consequences of not
passing the treaty really would reverberate
throughout the entire nuclear regime. And by
"nuclear regime," I mean the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, I mean various
disarmament efforts around the world, because
those things are really intimately linked. Its
like one net. Its like one web. And you pull one
strand, and it has an effect over on the other
side. And in this case, it would really pull the
linchpin out of that system, because if the U.S.
and Russia renege on their obligations under the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to proceed with
disarmament, it sends a signal out to the rest of
the world that were going to be living in a
nuclear-armed world, and proliferation begins to
step up. It really undercuts nonproliferation efforts across the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain why the Republicans are opposed to this.
JONATHAN SCHELL: You know, one reason obviously
is politics. Weve heard from Mitch McConnell
that the most important thing for him is
defeating Obama in the next presidential
election. So thats from his own mouth. But I
think that theytraditionally, theyre sort
ofstock and trade, has been accusing Democrats
of weakness on this or that. And I think that
they hope to make political hay in that way. And
also, very simply and tactically, they will have
more Republican senators when the new Senate
convenes next year. And I think they might hope
to actually stop thehave a better chance of
stopping the treaty altogether for those reasons,
or else to demand a higher price for passing it.
Already, the price for passing that theyve exacted has been very high.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you step back and explain why we
have the same relationship with Russia that weve
had for decades? Explain what it is and what youd like to see.
JONATHAN SCHELL: Well, this is really the deeper
question, because here we areyou know, its
1989, 1991, the Cold War ends. Lets remember why
these arsenals were built. They were built for
Cold War purposes. And when the Cold War ended,
their raison dêtre, their political raison
dêtre, really disappeared. And so, in a certain
sense, its really fantastical that the United
States and Russia are still aiming 1,550 or 2,000
strategic warheads at one another. What is that
all about politically? It really defies rational
explanation. And so, what you really have to ask
yourself is why is it, so long after the end of
the Cold War, that the momentum or inertia, or
whatever you want to call it, of this nuclear
standoff, this mutual assured destruction
relationship, persists and we cant really unravel it in a more radical way?
AMY GOODMAN: What do weapons manufacturers have to do with this?
JONATHAN SCHELL: Well, obviously, their interests
are very, very great. And when youwhen their
money is threatened, they push back. And so, its
an important factor. But I think it maybe not be
the most important factor here.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you this. One of the
releases in WikiLeaks, a senior government
official in Yemen warned U.S. diplomats that poor
security at the countrys main store of
radioactive products could allow dangerous
material to fall into the hands of terrorists,
according to a leaked U.S. embassy cable. The
official told the Americans that the lone guard
standing watch at Yemens National Atomic Energy
Commission facility has been removed from his
post and that its only closed-circuit TV security
camera, thats broken down six months previously and was never fixed.
JONATHAN SCHELL: Well, what this shows you is
that were approaching really a new point in the
whole evolution of the nuclear age, and that is
the point at which nuclear weapon materials
escape from the control merely of states and get
down to sub-state groups, including, of course,
conceivably terrorist groups. Its impossible to
know when that line will be crossed, because
almost by definition, thats going to happen in
secrecy somewhere. Some deal is going to go down
in Azerbaijan or somewhere else, and that line
will be crossed. Weve been approaching it really
for 60 years, because its just in the very
nature of this technology that it spreads.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, the best way to deal with that?
JONATHAN SCHELL: The best way to deal with that
is to roll back the technology as a whole. And
thats really where Obamas commitment to move to
a world free of nuclear weapons comes in, because
the very same steps that you would take to
actually eliminate nuclear weapons are the very
ones that you would take to keep that technology
from spreading into other hands. In other words,
youd get it under control, you would actually
liquidate it so it didnt exist. That would be an
important step. And then youso youd solve
really the two problems with one stroke.
AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Schell, I want to thank you
very much for being with us, leading advocate for
nuclear disarmament. His most recent book is
called The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger.
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Size: 9082 bytes
Desc: not available
More information about the A-List