James ActonObama-Medvedev Statement

The text of the Obama-Medvedev statement is now available. Actually, there are two of them: a long statement on life, the universe and everything and a short statement on strategic arms control.

The arms control statement is pretty vague; presumably it is intended to give the negotiators maximum flexibility (and fair enough). More interesting is the language on this point from the long statement:

As leaders of the two largest nuclear weapons states, we agreed to work together to fulfill our obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and demonstrate leadership in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. We committed our two countries to achieving a nuclear free world, while recognizing that this long-term goal will require a new emphasis on arms control and conflict resolution measures, and their full implementation by all concerned nations.

Russians I had spoken to a couple of months ago thought that Medvedev would not be willing to mention a nuclear-weapon-free world (or even the ubiquitous but odd “nuclear free world”) and would instead insist on talking solely and more vaguely about fulfilling article VI. So, the wording used in the statement is perhaps noteworthy. A product maybe of the geronto-diplomacy we have seen recently?

Of course, the START follow-on treaty is most probably only going to contain modest cuts. Nonetheless, look at it this way: If, say, three years ago, you had been told that a young, liberal, black US President and his Russian counterpart had publicly committed their nations to the abolition of nuclear weapons on 1 April, what would you have concluded?


  1. Cara (History)

    You mentioned that you think we’ll see only moderate stockpile reductions under the START replacment. What do you think was meant by this comment during a press briefing by an administration official on START “So it’s going to take a lot to do, and if we get it done, it creates the framework for doing even bolder things later.” Deeper reductions or other steps?


  2. Maggie Leber (History)

    That he’ll be a one-term president?

  3. Daryl Kimball (History)

    Maggie appears to the in the “no se puede” camp, but I’m not. I think we can expect reductions in this round to 1,500 deployed strategic warheads (or fewer) on each side with commensurately lower ceilings of strategic delivery systems on each side. Cuts below 1,500 are more difficult because of the uncertainty about the future of U.S. strategic missile interceptors (Russia won’t likely go lower without some limits) and the force structure adjustments and retirements such cuts would necessitate for the U.S. “Bolder” things later means another round of negotiations and deeper cuts after this START-follow-on is completed later this year. See Alexi Arbatov and Rose Gottemoeller’s article in the July/Aug. 2008 Arms Control Today for more discussion.

  4. Sekant

    It would seem to me that you forgot to stress that the statement also endorses a verifiable FMCT (i.e. a now official reversal of the Bush admninistration position on verifiability).

  5. Maggie Leber (History)

    Hay differencia entre “puede” y “debe”. 🙂

  6. bobbymike (History)

    I think we can agree to lower limits IF the entire nuclear enterprise is modernized including delivery systems. My fear is that having a goal – dream? – of a nuclear free world will create a policy of “neglect” of the entire “new” triad.

    If we are faced with a strategic breakout by a future near peer we have to have the ability to build a stronger deterrent force to dissuade potential enemies.

    There is no real reason to go below 2500 deployed warheads in my opinion.

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