Reality of Nuke-Free World?

US President Barack Obama continues to win hearts and minds on his first foreign tour after his election. Addressing a huge crowd in Prague, Czechoslovakia, that mobbed him like a rock star, the US president carried forward the crucial diplomatic offensive that he started with his talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier in the week in London.

While the US and Russian leaders have routinely waxed eloquence on the clear and present danger the nuclear arsenals of the two sides pose to our planet, this is the first time a US president has been so courageous as to offer to lead the nuclear disarmament initiative by example.

Within hours of North Korea defiantly and successfully launching a nuclear-capable rocket, Obama called for steps by nuclear states to cut their deadly arsenal. The US president committed himself to “concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.” Vowing to put an end to Cold War thinking, Obama emphasised the US would be “reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy” and urged others to do the same.

This is perhaps the first time the US has committed itself to shedding its nuclear weapons in most unambiguous terms at the highest level. Clearly, this president indeed wants to walk the talk -- at least on the disarmament front. He has already established a rapport with Medvedev and seems to have persuaded him that Russia should join and reciprocate his initiative. The Obama-Medvedev meeting in London also helped clear the bitterness that had crept into the US-Russia relations after Medvedev took over and Prime Minister Putin sent the Russian forces into Georgia. The new warmth and easy camaraderie between Obama and Medvedev, both considerably younger than their predecessors, should help the cause of peace.

For as Obama pointed out in Prague, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those deadly weapons, a legacy of that era, have not. Both Washington and Moscow have been sitting on huge piles of nukes and other weapons of mass destruction that are enough to destroy our planet many times over. This is why Obama’s initiative for a world free of nukes deserves to be welcomed. Obama has also proposed a global summit on nuclear security and forging of new partnership to check the nuclear proliferation. Let’s hope this leads to serious and effective efforts by the US, Russia and others to rid our world of all weapons of mass destruction.

Ironically though, while slamming North Korea for threatening international peace and stability with its dangerous shenanigans, Obama has justified the US missile defence shield in Europe on the grounds of a nuclear Iran. That’s a little difficult to swallow. We have no sympathy for Iran’s nuclear ambitions, of course. Tehran’s nuclear programme is a source of genuine concern to its neighbours. But suggesting that the Islamic republic is a threat to the US and Europe is more than a stretch. More importantly, while discussing Iran’s yet-to-be-born nukes, why are we silent on the bigger threat Israel’s nukes pose to its Arab and Muslim neighbours?

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