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Stalled START: A New Arms Race? Or Not.

In this week's episode of Global Pulse, host Erin Coker asks if the U.S. and Russia could be entering a new arms race. Watch the episode and share your thoughts below!


As a young child in the mid-1980s, thoughts of total nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Russians would occasionally prevent me from sleeping. On one family holiday to Maine, I actually wondered if we were far enough away from major cities to be safe from an atomic blast.


Looking back on the decade it is easy to see why a little kid would be so uneasy. The threat of nuclear war was ingrained in popular culture, lurking in everything from movies to songs. In 1982, Time Magazine devoted nearly 3,500 words to an article entitled, "thinking the unthinkable."


Today such fears seem nearly as dated as the all-out nuclear panic that resulted in this 1950s public service announcement that acknowledged the imminent threat of the bomb, while advocating questionable albeit, hilarious, blast survival techniques. Picnic blankets and newspapers, anyone?


However, with negotiations on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) stalling in recent months, the global media have taken notice. As Ariel Cohen points out in a New York Times editorial, the failure to agree on a new treaty by the December 5 deadline, has left the two countries in "uncharted waters."


Or has it?


Calling Cohen's argument "alarmist and misleading," William D. Hartung argues that despite the delay in sorting out the new START agreement, Russia and the U.S. are still “abiding by the basic principles of the agreement”  as they craft a new one. 


The director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, Hartung notes that even if both sides chose to ignore START's provisions, "it is absurd to suggest that either side could gain a strategic advantage in the few weeks (or in the absolute worst case, months) it will take to hammer out a new treaty."


Hartung is also quick to dismiss what he terms the "unsupportable notion that there is a resurgent Russian bear out there, and that it cannot be trusted and should not be cooperated with in any substantial way." Such thinking, according to Cohen, is obsolete—the detritus of the Cold War—and is no longer relative today.


So are the media overreacting, then? Is it only a matter of time before the U.S. and Russia iron out the details of the new START, or is Hartung being cavalier about the whole thing? In today's world, how crucial is U.S.-Russia arms control to global security?




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Stalled START: A New Arms Race? Or Not.