Obama acting like a Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Many of us, even Obama himself, thought the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded him the price prematurely. But by signing a landmark strategic nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia he is actually beginning to live up to the committees expectations.

Obama and Medvedev seek even deeper cuts in nuclear weapons than what they signed last week, but such an agreement will be much harder to reach.

Start II, signed by Obama and Medvedev, a few days ago is a step in the right direction. The arms treaty, if ratified, will cut strategic nuclear arsenals deployed by the former Cold War enemies by 30 percent within seven years, but still leave each with enough power to destroy the other. It also re-establishes an inspection regime that lapsed in December and could serve as a foundation for deeper reductions later.

Obama has spoken vividly about his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. It is a laudable goal that will unfortunately not be achieved during his presidency. Probably not for a long time after that either. But Obama is taking important steps to make the world a safer place and increase US credibility as it tries to constrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and others.

Signing the treaty confirms that Russia and the US, with 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, are taking their disarmament obligations seriously. It will also put the two presidents in a better position to put pressure on Iran, North Korea and other countries attempting to build up nuclear arsenals not complying with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Or as Obama himself put it “We are working together at the United Nations Security Council to pass strong sanctions on Iran and we will not tolerate actions that flout the NPT,”.

The treaty is the first major step of a “reset” announced by the administration a year ago and welcomed by Moscow after nearly a decade of deteriorating ties. The Kremlin’s top foreign policy adviser called it “a huge event that will have an extremely profound and positive effect on the way our countries deal with many other issues.”

The signing is a diplomatic achievement for Obama and a chance to portray the United States as a constructive global leader after years of dismay at U.S. foreign policy. It puts some substance behind Obama’s pledge to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”.

Obama and Medvedev seek even deeper cuts in nuclear weapons than what they signed last week, but such an agreement will be much harder to reach. Unfortunately we can not un-do the invention of nuclear arms and in the world as it is it will be difficult to make further reductions, let alone abolish, nuclear arms.

Already JFK and Chrustjov were sleepless during the Cuba crisis 50 years ago worrying about the prospect of a nuclear war wiping out hundreds of thousands of people, or more. Today the world has even more nuclear weapons and the prospect of an armageddon is much higher. Consequently Mr. Obama has wisely made the prevention of nuclear terrorism and proliferation a central strategic priority. And the administration decision to lead by example by even stating that the US “will not develop new nuclear warheads” is commendable.

Mr. Medvedev called the treaty “a truly historic event” that would “open a new page” in Russian-American relations. “What matters most is that this is a win-win situation,” he said. “No one stands to lose from this agreement. I believe that this is a typical feature of our cooperation. Both parties have won.”

President Obama’s far-sighted initiative in trying to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons by reducing their number and proliferation and by stating that the United States will not retaliate with nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries should go a long way toward preventing a nuclear armageddon. Combined with vigilance, the policies are worthy actions of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. One New York Times reader got it right when he wrote “Hail to Presidents Obama and Medvedev for inking an agreement to end the production of nuclear weapons and eventually abolish them”. Most of us would like that to happen, and the new treaty is a step in the right direction.

Photo: Flickr – Mika V. Stetsovsky

6 thoughts on “Obama acting like a Nobel Peace Prize laureate

  1. Catarina,

    That's a great post, and it follows my feelings about the recent events. Irrespective of how this moment will be looked at in the future – whether as a significant milestone or a small step – it definitely is an important point in history. While Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his discourse, he has now made a further step towards deserving it for his actions. But a huge amount of the credit for this step also belongs to Medvedev. Often, the course of history is changed because the right people are at the right place at the right time – I believe and hope that this is one of these moments.

    I like the connection you make to the Cuban Missile Crisis, since this also became to be an important point in time regarding the Cold War and the U.S.-Soviet relations. Actually, I published a post along these lines myself a few day ago (although not as extensive as yours). Have a look at my blog if you're interested…

    Best regards,
    Roberto

  2. A good initiative by Presidnts Obama and Medvedev as you say, Catarina – albeit the continuation of a process started as long ago as 1982 by Ronald Reagan, with START I finally being signed just before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. START II was then signed by George H W Bush in 1993, so this is, in effect, START III.

    I'm hoping we'll see it extended to chemical and other WMD as well….

    1. Good points that I agree with and am aware of Guy.

      The reason I wrote this article is because I wrote an article about Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize too early published here on my blog on October 11th last year. "Obama shot in the foot by the Norwegians?

      Maybe the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee had a point when they presumed Obama would live up to the award by giving it to him prematurely? Time will tell.

      1. That's right…time will tell…and there is a sage saying that goes, "Do as I do, not as I say"; our President continues to depict his underlying "agenda" by nominating Kagan, a former Harvard professor, someone with NO judicial experience, NO legal policy experience, but, like Larry Sommers, is from Harvard; it's too bad she has not had practical experience required for the job. Hmmm… I wonder how far many of us would get in our careers, our professions if our Resumes did not match the criteria required of the position. Come to think of it, that fits our President's Resume. As you said, time will tell.

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