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Nuke Treaty Doesn't Reduce Threat

Sat May 25,10:37 AM ET

By SALLY BUZBEE, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The nuclear arms-reduction treaty that President Bush (news - web sites) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) signed does almost nothing to lessen the major nuclear threats now facing the world.

It doesn't keep terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons. It doesn't stop Iran, Iraq and North Korea (news - web sites) from developing them. It doesn't end India and Pakistan's risky nuclear standoff.

The treaty, the biggest nuclear-arms cut in history, doesn't even significantly lower the chance that America or Russia could accidentally launch missiles, many experts say.

The treaty's only purpose is to reduce the chances that the United States or Russia will deliberately attack each other considered unlikely at this point anyway because the two countries are so close.

It might be "a step in the right direction," said John Pike, a defense analyst in Washington. But, "there are a lot of very important problems both between the United States and Russia and outside of that context that this treaty doesn't address."

Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, agreed. "This is not a comprehensive strategy" to reduce nuclear risks, he said. "It's a partial strategy," and issues like India-Pakistan require urgent attention.

No one disputes the treaty is important for what it does do cut nuclear stockpiles by two-thirds. It limits the United States and Russia within 10 years to between 1,700 and 2,200 deployed strategic nuclear warheads each, down from about 6,000 each now.

But the treaty allows the United States to store warheads rather than destroy them, and it leaves both nations with enough missiles to destroy each others' major cities many times over.

That contradicts Bush's claim after the signing Friday that the Cold War is now "in the rearview mirror of both countries," Pike said. "It does not move us beyond mutual assured destruction."

The agreement also has few additional safeguards to stop the perpetual chance of accidental or inadvertent launch, Kimball said.

Perhaps even more importantly, the treaty does little to address emerging threats such as Iran.

Even as they signed the treaty, Bush was pressing Putin over Russia's nuclear assistance to Iran a country the United States has branded part of an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and North Korea, of countries who sponsor terrorism and are trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

Putin gave no ground publicly, defending his country's assistance to Iran as largely energy-related, not weapons-related. But behind closed doors, Putin told Bush that Russia had no intention of doing anything to help Iran's nuclear weapons program, an administration official said.

The White House is willing to offer Russia economic and other incentives to cooperate on the Iran issue, said two senior officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Still, the debate over Iranian nuclear capabilities underscores how real remains the threat from nuclear-armed terrorists.

"It's far from clear that Bush is going to get satisfaction on Iran," Pike said.

Beyond help from Iran, Iraq or North Korea, terrorists also might be able to acquire nuclear material from the "still-enormous stockpile" that is vulnerable to theft, sale or diversion over the long term, Kimball said.

The United States and Europe should continue to provide aid to dismantle weapons and dispose of nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union so those materials do not get in the wrong hands, Kimball said.

Then there is India and Pakistan, and the nuclear weapons each of those countries hold.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday there's no question that India and Pakistan "have the capability for waging a nuclear war."

U.S. officials have worried in particular that the two nations, at a state of high tensions because of their dispute over Kashmir (news - web sites), have few protocols to prevent the inadvertent launch of missiles.

Asked how catastrophic such a war would be, Rumsfeld said millions of people could die.

"It would be bad," he said.

-- Dumbya (nice snow job though @ eh. suckers? (heh-heh!)), May 26, 2002


Go India! Nuke Pakistan.

-- (Gandhi@I call my sugar.Gandhi), May 26, 2002.

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