Editorial: Arms treaty stopped short of real impact

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 15, 2002

President Bush can be commended for reaching a nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Russia, helping take thousands of nuclear weapons off line both here and in the former Soviet Union. But the treaty unfortunately stops short of actually destroying any of the missiles, leaving them intact to be activated again someday, or, worse, be stolen or detonated by terrorist groups here or in the less stable Russia.

The aim of an arms treaty like this one should be to make the world safer while still leaving our country capable of defending itself. With around 2000 nuclear warheads left after the agreement is executed, there’s little question the United States will still have enough nuclear capability to serve as a deterrent to any sane nation.

But as recent events have shown, the most deadly threat to our nation’s safety, and that of the world, is not China or North Korea, but rogue terrorist groups who would love to get their hands on just one of the warheads the U.S. and Russia are talking about shelving. Why not destroy them before somebody finds a way to get one? Terrorist groups have apparently not been able to build their own effective nuclear devices yet, but there’s no doubt they are interested in possessing these weapons of mass destruction.

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Without measures to ensure that the nuclear weapons will never be used to harm anyone &045; to ensure they are destroyed &045; the agreement Bush and Russian president Vladimir Putin reached doesn’t have teeth. It’s really little more than a symbolic gesture.