Obama reiterates nonproliferation goals with Russia

Publish date: September 1, 2009

US President Barack Obama yesterday reaffirmed his interest in reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and strengthening the international nonproliferation regime.

“One of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally,” he said during his first White House press conference. “It’s important for the United States, in concert with Russia, to lead the way on this. And, you know, I’ve mentioned this in conversations with the Russian President, Mr. [Dmitry] Medvedev, to let him know that it is important for us to restart the conversations about how we can start reducing our nuclear arsenals in an effective way so that we then have the standing to go to other countries and start stitching back together the nonproliferation treaties that, frankly, have been weakened over the last several years,” he said in televised statements.

Obama’s comment sidestepped a question from longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who asked if he knew of any nuclear-armed countries in the Middle East.

“What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everybody will be in danger,” he replied.

Meanwhile, some analysts warned this week that improving U.S.-Russian ties would face many hurdles despite being the stated goal of both nations’ leaders. US Vice President Joseph Biden called Saturday for the two countries to “press the reset button” and seek a more positive relationship.

That could be tough, said James Goldgeier of the Council on Foreign Relations, Agence France-Press reported.

“There’s still, at the end of the day, some important key differences in the way the United States and Russia approach the world,” he said, particularly mentioning potential NATO expansion as a thorn in Moscow’s side.

That goal of past US presidents would probably be elusive, as would the Bush administration plan to deploy U.S. missile defenses in Europe, Anatol Lieven, an analyst at King’s College in London, told AFP

A new attitude toward foreign affairs in Washington, he said, could be hampered because “America is clearly a great deal less powerful than it used to be.”