START II Treaty Begins New Arms Control Era

Article excerpt

WITH the new strategic weapons pact signed yesterday, the United States and Russia have completed an historic cycle in arms control history. In essence, they have agreed that fear of each other will no longer be the driving force behind the buildup of their nuclear arsenals.

When the national security team for President-elect Clinton takes office, its main nuclear concern will not be the threat from Moscow, but the problem of atomic proliferation in smaller states. That means the fundamental goals of arms control must change in the post-cold-war world.

"While traditional arms control sought to preserve a stable balance, the new agenda must seek to create a new stability," concludes a recent study on the future of arms control issued by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.

Instead of a game in which both sides are jockeying for any relative advantage they can secure, arms control should become the joint management of shared problems, according to the report. START III, if there is such a treaty, might well focus on more than simply pushing warhead limits lower than the 3,000-3,500 allowed under START II.

The study points out that certain kinds of limits the US and Russia could agree on between themselves might help contain the spread of nuclear materials or smuggled weapons. For instance, the nuclear superpowers could propose that the warheads of weapons to be eliminated, and their dangerous nuclear fuel, be put under joint or international supervision.

Or the US and Russia could sign a binding agreement to stop new production of the fissile material that powers nuclear weapons.

President Bush has already announced the US will temporarily stop making the material, and with thousands of warheads to be scrapped under the START I and II pacts in coming years, the biggest problem will be what to do with the removed fissile matter.

Other possible arms control agenda items listed by the report include:

* More vigorous efforts to deal with the security and dismantlement of nuclear weapons still scattered across the former Soviet Union.

For instance, Ukraine's evident reluctance to give up its small atomic arsenal, as called for by START I-related agreements, is holding up the arms control implementation process. …