What a Year It Might Be

By Council Chairman Sen. Gary Hart

Originally published by the The Huffington Post on December 31, 2008

Even as the new president and administration struggle to restructure and transform the American economy in 2009, consider this possibility: 2009 could be the year when the two former Cold warriors, America and Russia, decide to make dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons and convene an international conference of all nuclear nations to agree to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.

By December 2009, the START I treaty will terminate unless renewed.  The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty must be reviewed by 2010.  And a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been in abeyance for years.  These are all relics of the Cold War which, thank God, ended 18 years ago, but there are the framework for more dramatic action.

A year ago four prominent Americans proposed elimination of all nuclear weapons.  An international organization has been formed to support this ideal.  Both involve conservative figures who, during the Cold War, were not known as leading arms reduction advocates.  Clearly, a serious groundswell is forming to collectively embrace a goal few of us ever thought possible--elimination of the most dangerous instruments of war ever devised by man.

Improvement in the US-Russian relationship is imperative in our own interest.  We have many more areas of common interests than we have differences.  Climate change, energy security, combating terrorism, pandemic protections, and stopping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are among these common interests.  At the center, however, is the issue of reversing the Cold War competition in nuclear weapons and leading other nations to do likewise.

Some will say "it's the economy, stupid," and thus suggest that nothing else can be done until we recover.  But that suggests the United States and its new president can only do one thing at a time.  This is flawed thinking.  Even while building a new 21st century economy, the Obama administration must look for bold initiatives such as Nuclear Zero that demonstrate we live in a new world and new century featuring entirely new realities and the United States intends to play a new and creative leadership role in it.  

This would make 2009 one of the happiest new years of all time.

Gary Hart