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Global Viewpoint

Russia and the US: Has a season of nuclear disarmament finally arrived?

The US-Russia nuclear arms deal that Obama is slated to sign April 8 signals a modest, but significant, step forward.

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The NPT review conference will hardly enter into these questions but it will probably discuss how the concept of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction can be taken up for consideration. Such a zone could well be designed so as to facilitate ventures to use nuclear power for electricity generation or desalination of water, perhaps even on a regional basis.

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However, to reduce tensions in the region the concept needs to exclude from the whole zone not only nuclear weapons but also plants for the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of plutonium.

In the last few years the appeals have intensified for government policies aiming, as the NPT does, to free the world from nuclear weapons. In January 2007, former US Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn published an article in which they reminded the US and the world that the cold war was over. They argued that if the US, Russia, and others continued to see nuclear weapons as necessary for their security others would see the same thing and proliferation would result. They urged that the US and Russia should take the lead in a long process that would eventually result in a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Their plea has had a broad and strong response in the world. While focusing on many near-term measures, such as the current deal, Obama and Mr. Medvedev jointly espoused the long-term aim of full disarmament in a declaration in London in April 2009.

Is this long-term aim naive and utopian? Not necessarily. Between 1910 and 1945 the world experienced two World Wars and a collapsed League of Nations. Much could happen between 2010 and 2045. Interdependence is rapidly accelerating and forcing states to show regard for each other’s security interests. For the moment, however, there is only a hopeful start on a long journey.

IN PICTURES: Nuclear power around the world

Hans Blix headed the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981 to 1997 and was the chief UN arms inspector for Iraq from 2000 to 2003. Since 2003 Dr. Blix has headed the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission and heads the advisory board on the nuclear program of the United Arab Emirates.

©Global Viewpoint/ Tribune Media. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.