Promise in a nuclear world

SUN JOURNAL

Treaty: Bush and Putin are to sign a pact today on slashing nations' arsenals.

May 24, 2002|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

Today, the presidents of Russia and the United States plan to sign a treaty designed to reduce nuclear arsenals in each country by two-thirds.

President Bush, in announcing the agreement last week, said the treaty "will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War" and "make the world more peaceful."

It might.

But in many ways, the treaty is the written equivalent of a handshake, a three-page gentlemen's agreement low on specifics and virtually void of new initiatives.

The treaty calls for each country to reduce its number of warheads to a maximum of 2,200 by the end of 2012. That is about the same as what presidents Boris N. Yeltsin and Bill Clinton agreed to in principle in 1997.

In fact, the treaty does not require the destruction of any warheads but instead allows for their storage.

And, not to be overlooked, each country would still have enough nuclear weapons to obliterate the other a few times over.

Still, the treaty is not without significance - at least politically.

By signing the treaty, Bush - who had stated publicly only weeks ago that he opposed any written document - has improved relations with Russia, which is not at all irrelevant considering pressing issues such as the war on terrorism and the fate of Iraq.

Putin, for his part, has signaled that he is more than willing to find agreement with the West on matters beyond the treaty. If he happens to be praised for agreeing to something he wanted anyway - as in the case of the treaty at hand - all the better for him.

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