Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 7, 2009

NUCLEAR WEAPONS > TRIVIA.... The NYT's Peter Baker reported this morning, "War and peace, nuclear weapons, democracy, an ailing world economy -- President Obama's agenda on his first visit to Russia in office has no shortage of weighty issues. So when he granted separate interviews in Moscow to each of the five major American television networks on Tuesday morning, what was the one thing all five made sure to ask about? The death of the pop star Michael Jackson."

Indeed, the president joked to ABC's Jake Tapper that he'd have to discuss the deceased pop star in order to get the media to pay attention to the U.S.-Russian summit. "Michael Jackson, like Elvis, like Sinatra, when somebody who's captivated the imagination of the country for that long passes away, people pay attention," Obama said. "And I assume at some point, people will start focusing again on things like nuclear weapons."

That's a good idea. Yesterday's talks between President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev were a fairly big deal.

President Obama signed an agreement on Monday to cut American and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by at least one-quarter, a first step in a broader effort intended to reduce the threat of such weapons drastically and to prevent their further spread to unstable regions.

Mr. Obama, on his first visit to Russia since taking office, and President Dmitri A. Medvedev agreed on the basic terms of a treaty to reduce the number of warheads and missiles to the lowest levels since the early years of the cold war.

Indeed, it's also worth noting that the Obama-Medvedev talks covered quite a bit of ground. With START expiring at the end of the year, the nuclear arms talks were the biggest story, but the two also "sealed a deal allowing the United States to send thousands of flights of troops and weapons to Afghanistan through Russian airspace each year"; "agreed to conduct a joint assessment of any Iranian threat"; and "presented a united front against the spread of nuclear weapons," including in North Korea.

As for the nuclear deal, how big a deal is it? These details, via Matt Yglesias, appear encouraging.

Arms-control analysts who support Obama's determination to conclude a new START agreement say that the stated reductions are significant because they are realistic enough to receive the legislative-branch ratification required in both countries, yet ambitious enough to act as a first step toward Obama's vision of a world eventually free of nuclear arsenals.

"They've hit the sweet spot in finding numbers that will be a significant reduction and likely to get the necessary support in their respective parliaments," says Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a Washington foundation focused on nuclear-weapons reduction and nonproliferation.

The numbers announced Monday, Mr. Cirincione notes, amount to a 30 percent reduction in the nuclear arsenals of the two countries that possess 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons."

Something to consider during the media's coverage of an entertainer's memorial service.

Steve Benen 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Comments

Our fickle infatuation with pop has rendered Michael Jackson a god-like status among the more maleable and weak-minded! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on July 7, 2009 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

yada yada yada whatever.
Did Obama get matching funding from Medvedev to build a $1.7b memorial to Jackson? It could create jobs dontchaknow.

Posted by: Chopin on July 7, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

The only way the 'news' would focus on a nuclear weapon right now is if Jackson was buried with one or one kidnaps a white girl.

Posted by: doubtful on July 7, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Some people are ragging on Obama for saying that Putin was a sort of cold-war throwback, one foot in that etc. - which miffed the latter. Well, how many conservatives will admit that's just the kind of talk they like to hear from their own? (As well as Biden's refusing to get in the way of Israel; WTH was he supposed to say? - No, they aren't a sovereign nation?)

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on July 7, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Arms-control analysts ...say that the stated reductions are significant because they are realistic enough to receive the legislative-branch ratification required in both countries

Assuming no filibuster? 'Cause you know the party of NO isn't going to go along to get along.

Posted by: Danp on July 7, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

On the other foot, it may not be a bad thing that the mindless masses are marking Micheal's mortality, given that I'd wager the majority of those people aren't terribly keen on reducing a nuclear arsenal when it's our nuclear arsenal.

What? We can only blow up the world ten times over? Well, that ain't enough! More asbestos, more asbestos!

Posted by: doubtful on July 7, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not kid ourselves. As long as one Nation State has nukes, everyone else will want to keep theirs. China has the most advanced weapons program going, and they certainly have no intention of giving up their weapons. North Korea? Too late. Iran? Let's face it, they could have low-yield nukes in 2-3 years. If Iran gets them, expect the Saudi's to want their own. Total disarmament is a pipe dream. Sorry to rain fallout on everyone's parade.

Posted by: beowulf888 on July 7, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

With due respect to Steve's snark about Michael Jackson, it is only appropriate that we memorialize the most famous pedophile in our nation's history.

While it is never a good practice to agree with Peter King, this time I do! Ouch, that hurts!

Posted by: AmusedOldVet on July 7, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

if you dont watch the teevee you dont hafta eat the shit.

Posted by: neill on July 7, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Look, cable news is a business that depends on great images. Which has better images? Obama's visit to Russia and the agreement of both countries to reduce their obscenely-large arsenals of nukes, or Jacko's memorial? And which topic requires more background for anchors, in order to make intelligent comments about those images? Nukes or Jacko's memorial?

It's easy to see why news directors make the decisions they do.

Posted by: njprogressive on July 7, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Remember folks, cable news is not there to inform, it is there to make money by selling advertising. The only way the rubes will watch is if we have 24/7 MJ coverage. What little teevee news I watched before has now dwindled to nothing.

Posted by: mogwai on July 7, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

but, what were malia and sasha wearing.... i must know!

Posted by: linda on July 7, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, a meaningless arms control agreement with the Soviets, oops, Russians. Obama really is turning into the second Carter Administration.

Since the threat of all out nuclear war between our countries disappeared when the Wall came down, who cares how many nuclear weapons the Russians have. As Krauthammer stated last night, this is an empty agreement meant to show off Obama's diplomatic "skills".


Posted by: Chicounsel on July 7, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

>"who cares how many nuclear weapons the Russians have."

Interesting attitude. Not concerned about reducing the risk of nuclear accident or theft?

Posted by: Buford on July 7, 2009 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure where Chicounsel is coming from, but an automatic reaction to anyone quoting Krauthammer is that they are full of shit.

If the only reason to rid the world of as large a percentage of nuclear weapons was fear of an all out nuke war, Chico would have another point beside the top of his head.

If a good reason for reducing nuke weapons on the Russian & American side was to reduce the number of accidents available to happen, Chico is full of shit!

If a good reason for reducing nuke weapons on the Russian & American side was to set a positive example for the rest of the world, Chico is full of shit!

Posted by: AmusedOldVet on July 7, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure where Chicounsel is coming from... -AmusedOldVet

I'll give you some hints:

He lives under it. It rhymes with 'ridge,' and he collects tolls for passage.

Posted by: doubtful on July 7, 2009 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Set a good example for the rest of the world.

Do you shoot that shit up, or just snort it?

Posted by: Matt on July 7, 2009 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Just another treaty for a future republican president to abrogate.

Posted by: stevenz on July 7, 2009 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK
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