Editor’s note: Steven Pifer talks about his new book The Opportunity, coauthored with Michael O’Hanlon, on the challenges of nuclear arms control for the next U.S. president during an interview with Al Jazeera English. Read an excerpt below and
watch the full interview on aljazeera.com
Al Jazeera: Steven, tell us a little more about the Opportunity: what it is, how we seize it.
Steven Pifer: Well, right now between the United States and Russia, they’ve each agreed in the NEW START treaty that was signed in 2010 to reduce their deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 by 2018. But that still leaves a lot of other weapons out of the count: tactical nuclear weapons don’t count, reserve weapons don’t count. So NEW START affects maybe only about 30% of the American nuclear stockpile. And what we argue is that there is now an opportunity in 2013 for the United States and Russia to take the next step. And that would be to negotiate a new agreement that would bring in all of the nuclear weapons and then perhaps limit both sides to say 2,000—2,500.
Al Jazeera: How do you actually control or put limits on these weapons?
Pifer: Part of the problem is, what can you actually verify? And the sides are pretty good, if you’re talking about a deployed warhead on a missile they’ve developed techniques that would now allow you go and verify it so we can say we have confidence we can monitor that limit. But when you’re talking about warheads that are seen off in a storage area, so far that’s been a little bit difficult. And what we’re arguing it’s now time to begin to tackle that problem and to develop verification techniques that would allow you to bring those weapons into the mix.
[Trump's U.N. General Assembly speech] will reinforce the [North Korean] leadership’s position that the United States is hostile to North Korea. This is exactly what North Korea is talking about, and [Trump] said it right there on TV in front of the whole world.
[President Trump's] trashing of the Iran nuclear deal will raise warning signs for North Korea. This is not going to get them to talk if the U.S. is just going to tear it up...North Korea would likely just wait out Trump since they think in terms of dynasties, and they know that we think in terms of electoral cycles.