Ambassador Richard Burt discusses nuclear disarmanent on The Daily Show

Ambassador Richard Burt made a very impressive appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Ambassador Burt was a chief negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in the President George H.W. Bush administration. (It seems strange to me now that the Reagan-Bush administrations were creators of major arms control treaties, with Reagan’s saber rattling, nationalism, and Cold War rhetoric, and Bush’s Gulf War—that being something that got us to the state we’re in today.)

We’ve known for quite a while that President Obama has made reference to President Reagan. According to Ambassador Burt, Reagan sought nuclear reduction and elimination, finally being able to achieve it with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. Bush followed up with the first START treaty, and President Obama has signed the second one. Ambassador Burt points out that it’s a good starting place for further arms reductions. While this treaty alone will not eliminate Russian or American nuclear weapons, nor even a whole class of those weapons, it has restarted a process that was sidelined during the misguided George W. Bush years.

The group Global Zero is working to further the aim of eliminating nuclear weapons from the world. That’s a goal worth pursuing.


Ukraine agrees to rid itself of weapons-grade nuclear material

Mark another point on President Obama’s scorecard. In the past month, he has gotten health insurance reform passed after 70 years of failure by anyone to do so; signed a new nuclear weapons treaty with Russia; and laid out a new policy for the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S.

The latest achievement came today shortly after the start of President Obama’s nuclear summit. The White House announced this morning that Ukraine “would by 2012 get rid of enough highly enriched uranium to build ‘several weapons’.” [BBC]

President Obama has long made it clear that nuclear disarmament and containment of nuclear materials is a centerpiece of his American defense policy. This would serve several important goals, one of which is working to ensure that fissile materials don’t fall into the hands of terrorists. Ukraine’s action will remove “enough [uranium] to build several nuclear weapons” from the world stage.

According to the disarmament group NTI, Ukraine currently possesses no nuclear weapons, having transferred those back to Russia in 1996. But during the Cold War, the Soviet state had “176 Soviet SS-19 and SS-24 ICBMS with a total of 1,240 warheads (!!!) and 44 strategic bombers, as well as an unspecified number of tactical nuclear warheads placed on its territory.” After the Cold War, the bombers were converted to other uses or disassembled, and the nukes returned to Russia, and the missile silos that once could have rained fire upon us were destroyed.

Even with the reduction in deployed nukes, there was still a large amount of highly enriched uranium in different facilities about Ukraine. This morning’s announcement directly addresses that problem. It’s great news, and another achievement by our president. After a year of seeming inaction, Barack Obama has proven himself to be a leader who can positively change both our country and our world.