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Boston Globe Editorial - Moscow Treaty is Full of Holes

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March 5 - Kerry: Moscow Treaty is full of holes
Wednesday, March 5, 2003 By: John Kerry
Boston Globe Op-Ed

PRESIDENT BUSH claims that his Moscow Treaty ''will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War'' by eliminating thousands of nuclear arms left over from a bygone era when the United States and Russia faced each other across the nuclear divide. In reality, it does no such thing. The treaty does not reduce the actual number of nuclear forces -- it leaves these weapons and their lethal materials stockpiled across Russia in constant danger of falling to terrorists or rogue nations intent on doing great harm to the United States. Bush is correct that our relationship with Russia should not be driven by Cold War anxieties. But this hollow treaty misses an opportunity to address proliferation and lost or loose nuclear weapons.

Despite its stated goal of reducing the number of US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads, the Moscow Treaty is missing the essential components of a strong, enforceable, and meaningful agreement. It does not require the destruction of missile launchers or the dismantlement of nuclear warheads. It does not address the tactical nuclear weapons so sought after by terrorists. It does not contain verification provisions.

The treaty's most dangerous weakness is the rejection of Ronald Reagan's doctrine of ''trust but verify.'' The administration contends that verifying compliance with the treaty is unnecessary given the new strategic relationship with Russia. That view is shortsighted. Verification is a requirement to ensure American security, even in nonadversarial relationships.

The central problem with the treaty is that it could increase the opportunities for nuclear theft and terrorism by expanding Russian stockpiles of nuclear materials.

It is no secret that there are those who are eager to capitalize on a deadly market for nuclear materials held in unsecured facilities around the world. The General Accounting Office has documented numerous failed attempts to smuggle nuclear materials out of Russia. Out of 20 of these incidents over the last decade, the materials involved in 13, and possibly 15, were traced back to Russian sources. The potential consequences are undeniable. In October 2001, we picked up warnings that terrorists had acquired a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb. If detonated in New York City, hundreds of thousands of Americans would have died, and most of Manhattan would have been destroyed.

If the war on terrorism is to be fought on all fronts, we should seek verifiable reductions in Russia's nuclear arsenal and ensure the dismantlement and destruction of its nuclear weapons and the secure storage of nuclear materials.

It is troubling that this administration's approach to the menace of loose nuclear materials is long on rhetoric but short on execution. It relies unwisely on the threat of military preemption against terrorist organizations, which can be defeated if they are found but will not be deterred by our military might.

We can make our world more secure. We must create mechanisms to help those who would be responsible stewards but lack the financial and technical means to succeed. We must establish worldwide standards for the security and safekeeping of nuclear material and define a new standard of international legitimacy, linking the stewardship of nuclear materials under universally accepted protocols to acceptance in the community of nations. We must revitalize the Cooperative Threat Reduction program by giving it the sustained leadership, attention, and funding it deserves. Over the last decade, the United States has spent about $7.5 billion to deactivate 6,000 warheads and destroy thousands of delivery vehicles. We must make good on our pledge of $10 billion over 10 years to the Group of Eight threat reduction partnership and encourage the good faith participation of our allies.

But we can't stop there. A new diplomatic effort should be undertaken to fill the holes in the Moscow Treaty. The United States and Russia should agree upon transparency measures, data exchanges, on-site inspections, and eventually eliminating excess strategic nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. We must also work with Moscow on new arms control measures designed to eliminate each nation's smaller, more portable, tactical nuclear weapons, thousands of which remain in Russia.

The legacy of the Cold War is nuclear weapons. Today's danger is that these weapons will wind up in the hands of terrorists or rogue nations. To ''liquidate'' this Cold War legacy in actions, not just words, will take more than cosmetic treaties that leave Russia's nuclear arsenal in place.

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