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Bush, Putin agree on missile talks
July 22, 2001 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Bush, Putin agree on missile talks "GENOA, Italy -- U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to tie U.S. plans for building a missile defence shield to talks on reducing nuclear stockpiles. " Arms race averted?
posted by nicolotesla (14 comments total)

 
I think President Bush is looking for a way out. If he can trade his missile defense away for some purported concessions from the Russians, he'll be able to face the supporters of the missile defense without being accused of being a wuss.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:39 AM on July 22, 2001


As I understand the current trade offs: we build missle defense with Russian ok and they see to it that we r3educe our stock pile of nuclear weapons...and the world now becomes a much better and safer place for all of us.
posted by Postroad at 9:56 AM on July 22, 2001


Alternatively:

Putin said the linkage was "unexpected," and cautioned that neither country was ready to discuss details.

The linkage is the thing, and I can't help thinking that Bush has introduced it as a way of easing out of the ABM treaty to implement NMD. (I really don't think that any abandonment of missile defence, even as a bargaining chip, is politically viable so early in his term; I could very easily be mistaken, but to do so would expose the whole "rogue state" argument as a fraud.) Putin gets to see a reduction in weapons that are already working, and Rumsfeld gets a fillip for his general military review.

Condi Rice in Moscow for talks: now that's going to be interesting.
posted by holgate at 10:05 AM on July 22, 2001


I'm rather impressed with the Shrub, to be honest...the speed and unexpected nature of this happy dance with Russia lets me know that Shrub isn't so stupid and arrogant to create new friction for something as silly as the missle defense.

Although on second thought:

1. Are we reducing our arms stockpile as much as we would have under previous agreements and treaties? "In 1997, President Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin agreed in principle that a follow-on treaty should reduce the numbers to 2,000 to 2,500. Putin has suggested 1,500 warheads each would be adequate. "

2. Does Putin really have any choice?

The moral of the story? If you have to have a wingnut running the U.S., might as well have a wingnut running Russia two, as long as the wingnuts are on the same wavelength.
posted by thebigpoop at 10:12 AM on July 22, 2001


Sorry. Better?
posted by thebigpoop at 10:13 AM on July 22, 2001



posted by holgate at 10:15 AM on July 22, 2001


One more.
posted by thebigpoop at 10:16 AM on July 22, 2001


I'm not even sure that the reduction numbers are nearly as important as keeping agreements and developing long-term security arrangements.

I was very worried that Rumsfeld et al. had persuaded the Shrub that he could just do whatever and the Russians would cry and go home. Powell and Rice seem to have had a victory here, though, and W has realized there are benefits, after all, to playing the internationalist card. (See what a little foreign travel does to a man?)

This doesn't win us anything so much as it keeps us from losing, by starting a new arms race and having no security arrangement in place with an unstable minor power. The real challenges will come in building similar arrangements with China. If we'd thumbed our noses at Russia, the Chinese leadership would be significantly more alarmed and thus aggressive, making any future deal difficult. Now we can use the example of Russia to bring them to the table.
posted by dhartung at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2001


I think President Bush is looking for a way out. If he can trade his missile defense away for some purported concessions from the Russians, he'll be able to face the supporters of the missile defense without being accused of being a wuss.

Actually, Mr. Bush has been pushing a reduction in nuclear arms since he introduced the missile defense plan. I don't have the first articles, but in this one from Feb. 10 (less than a month into his term), he has "ordered a review of the U.S. military including how to reduce its nuclear arsenal."

This doesn't win us anything so much as it keeps us from losing, by starting a new arms race and having no security arrangement in place with an unstable minor power.

Actually, we've won quite a lot. Mr. Bush is the first US President (ever, IMHO) to take active steps to replace our offensive nuclear capability with a defensive regime. Mr. Clinton, like Mr. Carter and so many others, simply took measures to make the system "less offensive." The point of missile defense is exactly that: to defend. You can't shoot someone with it, unless they were already shooting at you.

And have we won something? Who knows if missile defense will ever actually be built. In the meantime, Mr. Bush just used the strategic crowbar of missile defense to start what might turn out to be the largest reduction in nuclear arms in the history of the human race. Isn't that a good thing?
posted by nicolotesla at 10:39 AM on July 22, 2001


Even if this missile defense could be made to work, it's solving the wrong problem. It won't be large enough to stop a full-scale attack by one of the other major nuclear powers, both because it won't stop cruise missiles and because it would be overwhelmed by a major strike. And anyone smaller (the so-called "rogue" states) who had one or two nuclear warheads wouldn't use a missile to deliver them, given that smuggling works so much better.

Thus it's not clear exactly what it really defends against, except perhaps the fears of unsophisticated American voters and the poverty of American defense companies. Its greatest value is as a negotiating chip, something to threaten to do and then promise not to do.

Against nuclear weapons there is no defense. It has to be understood that the proposed system is a defense against a delivery system, not against the weapon it carries. That weapon can be delivered by any number of means, so stopping one of them only shifts the attack to another, if the attacker is determined to make one. The only possible defense is to prevent the attack in the first place. Once the attack is launched, you're screwed.

That's why the principle of massive retaliation was originally developed by Von Neumann; it's the only defense which is possible.

Which is why I'm willing to give up everything except the Trident submarines. We have to have at least some of those, because those are our credible deterrent. They are the only thing which can prevent a US city from being bombed.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2001


they're taking a clue from the italians and they're gonna try less missiles and more running people over with jeeps.
posted by jcterminal at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2001


It would negate an accidental launch or "rogue officer" launch (Strangelove), not that either of those are all that likely.

I'm not sure that, in a sufficiently mature state, it couldn't take care of a massive launch. That question in the right minds may be enough to deter further.

I personally think that the NMD should cover the entire world and controlled in parallel by all/any of the countries. Anyone who launches nukes would have them shot down, including the U.S.. Then we can all get rid of the stockpiles of ballistic nuclear missles.

After that, all we have to worry about is the short-range missles and the briefcase bombs...
posted by fooljay at 3:50 PM on July 22, 2001


After that, all we have to worry about is the short-range missiles and the briefcase bombs...

And who will protect us against the "rogue NMD commander" who starts launching these things at major cities? Or accidental NMD lauches at "threats" later to be found out to be 747's. If anything this increases the chances of accidental loss of life. They may not be nukes but you are suggesting that more weapons makes the world a safer place.

The accidental and rogue commander scenarios sound a little too much like FUD. Nukes have self-destructs on them for a reason. I don't see anything wrong with continuing disarmament and dropping the shield concept in its entirety.
posted by skallas at 4:33 PM on July 22, 2001


And who will protect us against the "rogue NMD commander" who starts launching these things at major cities? Or accidental NMD lauches at "threats" later to be found out to be 747's. If anything this increases the chances of accidental loss of life.

Simple answer to that one, make it such that it takes some number of "NMD commanders" to launch the NMD strikes. Safeguards can be put in effectively. But say, what do you think about the actual point of my post: NMD covering everyone, controlled by everyone?

They may not be nukes but you are suggesting that more weapons makes the world a safer place.

I'm farily certain there are less home invasions in Texas. :-)

The accidental and rogue commander scenarios sound a little too much like FUD.

Which is exactly why I said it was probably too far-fetched to really think about.

Nukes have self-destructs on them for a reason. I don't see anything wrong with continuing disarmament and dropping the shield concept in its entirety.

I agree wholeheartedly on #1. I'm ambivalent to #2.
posted by fooljay at 4:56 PM on July 22, 2001


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