JOE CIRINCIONE – 3rd DEGREE INTERVIEW
You just returned from the U.S. – Russia Transition Working Group, sponsored by the Carnegie Moscow Center, discussing the future of the U.S. Russian security relationship. Where are we do we stand with the Russians regarding our nuclear weapons relationship?
The Russians are willing to work with us to cut the number of nuclear weapons drastically. The experts and the government would support cutting down to about 1000 weapon total—from the 10,000 we have and the estimated 15,000 they have. But, these cuts have to be worked out in conjunction with agreements on anti-missile systems—they don’t want us to build military bases on their borders, as we are planning to build in Poland and the Czech Republic—and they don’t want us deploying new weapons in outer space, as the administration would like. This is a deal we should take. What we need is political leadership smart enough to know a bargain when it sees one.
What is the aftermath of the so-called Bush Doctrine and where do we go from here?
The Bush Doctrine is dead. The idea that we could stop the spread of nuclear weapons by overthrowing certain regimes that tried getting them has proven a disaster. Iraq did not have nuclear weapons (or chemical or biological weapons), but the war convinced Iran and North Korea to accelerate their programs. We are much worse off today than we were in 2000. We have to change course. Fortunately, we see a consensus developing for new policies that will unleash American power across the entire spectrum—diplomatic, economic, even cultural, as well as military means—to better protect our security and that of our allies, like Israel.
In a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, you lauded McCain for speaking to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on March 26, saying that “the United States should lead a global effort at nuclear disarmament.” The op-ed seemed to embrace both McCain and Obama as equally adept at tackling the nuclear arms issue. Which candidate, in your opinion, is more likely to make real progress on this issue?
Senator McCain has broken with some of the worst parts of the Bush Doctrine, such as the refusal to negotiate nuclear reductions with the Russians—but he still embraces both the Iraq War and the idea that we can overthrow adversary regimes. Senator Obama has introduced legislation with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel that details the most comprehensive set of solutions to our nuclear threats. Very importantly, for me, he has pledged that as president he would secure and eliminate the global stocks of nuclear bomb materials, thus effectively preventing nuclear terrorism. He has married the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons with pragmatic steps to reach that goal and make the country safer in the process.
Finally, in March you became president of the Ploughshares Fund which funds groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles which advocate nuclear arms elimination as you do. What is the importance and role of PSR-LA, and groups like it, as we approach a “new moment” for nuclear disarmament?
We know that 70 percent of the American public supports the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. But how do we translate that into policy? We need organizations like PSR-LA to give voice to the popular will. The political leaders we elect must be kept to their promises and must know that ending these nuclear dangers is not just the right thing to do, but the popular thing to do. In the end, the citizens of this country determine the policies our leaders implement.