While the nuclear arms control treaty signed this past week by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev may not have gone a long way in reducing the number of nuclear warheads in the world, it was a landmark step in the right direction in the message that it sent - if the leading powers want to keep smaller, potentially “rogue” states from building up arms, then they have to lead by example.
American conservatives like Sarah Palin (seriously, are the Republicans allowing her to be their voice now?) have jumped all over this development, accusing Obama of reducing his ability to keep Americans safe.
Issues like nuclear disarmament should escape the gutters of partisan politics. Even former president Ronald Reagan, who many Republicans regard as their saviour for standing strong on national defense, had identified disarmament as a strong priority and this attitude helped bring the Cold War to an end.
Palin has even called Obama’s treaty as a “slap in the face” to their men and women in uniform, a soundbite that Canadian conservatives like to pull out whenever anyone questions their policies on the war in Afghanistan or anything else defense-related. Striving for peace is not something that takes away from supporting the troops. Using them as political pawns does.
What the hawks fail to accept is that a world without nuclear weapons is a safer world for all. The new treaty does not prevent anyone from pursuing efforts to disarm rogues like Iran and North Korea. In fact, it gives them less reason to build arms against what they perceive to be Western threats.
Russia and, particularly, the United States have a duty to serve as leaders for the rest of the world, and Obama and Medvedev have done just that.