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Breakthrough on Nuke Reduction?

The Obama administration is considering a major reduction in nuclear weapons to as little as 1,000 warheads each for Russia and the U.S., according to a recent article in The Times of London. Surprisingly, this story has received almost no attention in the U.S. media, although it may represent the most important progress in non-proliferation in many years.

The Obama team will reconsider the Bush administration's plan for a missile defense deployment in Eastern Europe -- a deployment the Russians have strongly opposed, according to the article. Obama pledged during his campaign to open talks with Moscow on the Start treaty, which expires at the end of the year. That agreement calls for both countries to reduce their stockpiles from about 10,000 to about 5,000.

But going to 1,000 would mark a major additional reduction. According to David Krieger, head of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, "This news is not just noteworthy, it could be a game-changer."

The Times quoted an unnamed administration official as saying: "Nobody would be surprised if the number reduced to the 1,000 mark for the post-Start treaty."


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"Imagine what a message these talks would send to other nuclear countries," Krieger said in an email to supporters. "Suddenly, U.S. leadership would be unequivocal, and there would be pressure on all nuclear nations to join in the process."

The world's nuclear stockpile stands at about 25,000 nuclear weapons, the vast majority of which are held by Russia and the United States.

This news falls in line with President Obama's promise during the campaign to seek a nuclear-free world:

"I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal, I will not develop new nuclear weapons; I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material; and I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert, and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals."

There's at least some support for a nuclear-free future from the other side of the aisle. George Shultz, secretary of state in the Reagan administration, told me in a YES! interview that he believes the world can be safe from the global hazard of nuclear warfare, terrorism, or accident only by eliminating nuclear weapons.

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Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder is founder and director of, co-founder of YES! Magazine, and author of The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000 Mile Journey Through a New America. Follow her blog and connect with Sarah on Twitter: @sarahvangelder

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