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A New START 2010-Sep-09 at 03:09 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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President Obama and President Medvedev signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague, on April 8, 2010.  The treaty remains stuck, waiting for the U.S. Senate’s "advice and consent" to ratify it.  In the meantime, the previous START expired in 2009, and so, for the last nine months, we’ve had no visibility into Russia’s nuclear forces.

This remains important because, even though the U.S. and Russia are now allies, we’re still, by far, the two nations with the largest nuclear force, and keeping up an inspection regime between us remains the best way for both nations to stay up-to-date and accurate about our nuclear weapons.

From New START: Security Through 21st Century Verification, by Rose Gottemoeller:

In the 22 years since these first inspections occurred under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, on-site inspections have been a vital means of verifying compliance with arms control treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union, the post-Soviet successor states, and now the Russian Federation.

With the December 2009 expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the United States is unable, for the first time in more than 20 years, to conduct nuclear arms inspections inside Russia.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which was signed April 8 and is before the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification, provides for a resumption of vital on-site inspections of Russian strategic nuclear facilities. There is no substitute for on-site inspections. They provide not only the “boots on the ground” presence to confirm Russian data declarations, thus helping to verify compliance with treaty obligations, but also insights into Russian strategic forces located at those facilities. Simply put, the United States is more secure and safer when our country is able to gain a better understanding of the Russian strategic arsenal.

Interestingly, what started as a contentious relationship warmed over the years into a healthy professional respect.

These baseline inspections began at the close of a very cold winter in Russia. U.S. inspectors often stood knee deep in snow while conducting three- to four-hour-long discussions with their Russian escorts on the nuances of inspection procedures. For many Russian and U.S. personnel, this was their first encounter with their counterparts from the other country, so initially the relationship was impersonal, formal, and sometimes adversarial. During the succeeding years of conducting START inspections, the demeanor on both sides developed into one of mutual respect as each side recognized that the other’s inspection team members or in-country escorts were doing their jobs with competence, professionalism, and fairness while ensuring the exercise of their full and reciprocal rights under the treaty.

Over the life of START, the atmosphere during inspections continued to improve. “It’s not personal, it’s about the treaty” became the mantra of the inspectors on both sides. Each side learned a great deal about the other’s strategic forces during those on-site inspections. Thus, both sides gained a strong body of knowledge and experience about conducting on-site inspections efficiently and effectively under START and the INF Treaty; they also learned how to improve on them.

We’re not nearly done with the threat of nuclear attack, particularly in terms of nuclear non-proliferation.  Keeping our two nations aligned in this regard remains a crucial piece of United States foreign policy, and a wonderful demonstration of the kind of International cooperation that eventually gets people to trust that it’s OK to give up a little bit of national sovereignty for a larger peace.


News flash: Russia is still corrupt 2010-Jul-05 at 09:33 PDT

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From Russian Mayor Irks Security Agency, and Suffers, by Clifford J. Levy, 3-July-2010

Ms. Kazakova was not a typical bureaucrat. She was one of the most successful businesswomen in this vast region, a real-estate magnate with a blond ponytail who represented a new breed of Russian entrepreneur.

She filed a lawsuit against the resort, and asked the regional prosecutor to open a criminal inquiry.

A criminal inquiry was indeed opened — against Ms. Kazakova.

The resort belongs to the F.S.B., the main successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B., and the F.S.B. arrested her and had her prosecuted.

She is now on trial in a case that has already become a disquieting example of the power of the security agency in today’s Russia.

After her arrest in March 2008, she was held in a cell at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1, a jail in the Siberian regional capital of Irkutsk that was once used by Stalin’s secret police. For nearly two and a half years, she was denied all contact with her fiancé, mother and three children, including a 15-year-old daughter who has a neurological disease.

Late on Wednesday night, after The New York Times made repeated inquiries to the F.S.B. about the charges against Ms. Kazakova, the judge in the case reversed previous decisions and agreed to release Ms. Kazakova on bail. The next day, Ms. Kazakova embraced her family for the first time since 2008.

So, in case you had forgotten… Russia is still really, really corrupt.  I know.

But it’s getting better.  Medvedev wants it to go that way.  And if you take the long-term view, you’ll notice that every time there’s been a rising middle-class in a country, at some point they’ve demanded political, economic, and civil rights, and at some point, they’ve gotten those things.  Even in post-WWII history, this rising middle class also moved their nation from a “one-party democracy” to a true multi-party democracy.  Mexico went through this, so did Japan.

So will Russia.  So will China (and we’re seeing the start of it there with these strikes at Honda plants).  Keep hope alive.  It’s coming, and both of these nations will be powerful partners with the United States in safely and confidently dealing with the challenges of the 21st Century.

So… eyes on the prize.  There will be bumps in the road, there will be difficulties, there will be the hangover of old structures of power in transition.  But the long-term trajectory is good… very good.

Russians! Chess! Kremlin in control! 2010-May-27 at 18:04 PDT

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Russian Knights Joust to Control Chess World, by Michael Schwirtz and Dylan Loeb McClain, 26-May-2010

The conflict has pitted an alliance of two former world champions and onetime enemies, the anti-Kremlin activist Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov, against high-ranking Russian officials. Mr. Karpov shocked Russia’s demure chess world this year when he declared his intention to seek Russia’s nomination for president of the World Chess Federation against the officials’ handpicked candidate.

The players have accused the officials of corruption, incompetence and, in the case of Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov, a Russian provincial leader and the current president of the federation, mental instability. Mr. Ilyumzhinov, who has also been linked to the murder of at least one journalist, is supported in his bid to continue in the job by several top government officials, including the head of Russia’s Olympic Committee and a senior Kremlin adviser, Arkady V. Dvorkovich.

It’s true… the FIDE has screwed up royally in the last couple of decades.  The behavior by the Kremlin in this spot, though, is beneath it, really.

Letting chess be run by professionals can only look good for Russia… for some reason they don’t see it that way.  Too bad, and a sad commentary on the level of control being exercised there right now.

As they say about China:  Russia… three steps forward, two steps back.  They’ll get there eventually, and sooner if Medvedev lasts at all.