28 June 2007

"She made it clear that [Brown] is not our poodle"

Is there hope after all for nuclear responsibility in the West?

While Western nations, particularly the United States, express alarm over Iran possibly developing nuclear weapons and thereby violating the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, they continue to violate the treaty themselves. The treaty, after all, is a quid pro quo, the non-nuclear nations agreed not to develop weapons and the nuclear nations agreed to get rid of theirs. None of the latter are filling their part of the bargain.

But there is at least one indication that may change. Britain's foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, is calling for major reductions in the nuclear arsenal of the two major powers. Ms. Beckett pointedly said that the "stagnant" condition of nuclear disarmament is undermining efforts to rally international opinion against nations like Iran. She noted that of the world's 20,000 nuclear warheads, 96% are in the U.S and Russia.

Of course convincing either country to reduce its armaments at a time when both are in a belligerent mood is quite the challenge. And Ms. Beckett will probably be replaced by the new prime minister, Gordon Brown. Nonetheless, British officials made it clear she was speaking for Mr. Brown, and the fact her remarks were made in Washington, only a few hundred metres from the White House, indicated the new prime minister will not be catering to Bush intransigence on the issue. As one American official remarked, "She made it clear that [Brown] is not our poodle." A welcome change, indeed, and on a critical issue.

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