Vladimir Putin

The chill has gone

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 12:00am

Russia and the United States have finally recognised that the Cold War is over - more than a decade after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. By agreeing to cut their nuclear arsenals by two-thirds, they have taken an important step in making the world a safer place.

But although the US has made a momentous policy shift by brokering a pact that seemed unlikely when President George W. Bush took office, little has actually changed. Washington will only mothball and not scrap the 4,000 nuclear missiles over the next decade.

Russia is keener to follow the letter of the pact. Maintaining such a huge nuclear stockpile is expensive and it wants to slash its armoury to just 1,000 warheads.

As a concession, Russia is also in the final stages of negotiating to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as an observer. The security organisation's members want Moscow to one day take a full seat.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin is slowly reversing his nation's insular image of looking back to the days of communism rather than forward to the realities of the 21st century. His economic policies are starting to bear fruit and there has been a positive turnaround in the lives of many Russians.

Some sectors of society, such as the military, seem reluctant to change, but slowly the military excesses of the Cold War are being forced to face reality.

Mr Putin has made a bold step. Mr Bush, who signs the pact in Russia next week, would do well to follow his lead.

Now that Moscow and Washington recognise a change in their relationship, the US should also realise that its actions are hampering our safety. By retaining its nuclear weapons, the US is doing nothing to change the world's security.