START Talks and BMD, Redux

Sam Roggeveen at the Interpreter responded to my post yesterday on the third round of START talks, arguing that the primary motivation for the talks is to reduce the cost of maintaining the two countries’ nuclear arsenals.

Although I don’t discount the financial incentive, I think — and hope — that the primary goal of both the U.S. and Russia is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world, by leading the effort themselves.

I agree with Roggeveen that the Kremlin’s recent statement linking any agreement to the U.S. backing off of European-based missile defense probably doesn’t represent an insurmountable obstacle toward a successor treaty. More likely, it’s an attempt to shake up the talks a bit and gain concessions on any eventual deal.

If nothing else, the Russians might just get a concrete statement from the Obama administration regarding its intentions on BMD in Eastern Europe. By tying its demands to a time-sensitive issue, Russia puts more pressure on President Obama to clarify his policy, something he’s avoided doing so far.

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