about that Nobel…

The weekly meeting of war protesters, every Friday, went on without a hitch.  There were eight people.  The man with the bullhorn shouted, “US Out of Afghanistan.  Can we do it?”  The seven peoples behind him responded in unison, “Yes We Can”.  Message made clear, I gather.

I thought about the matter of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize yesterday.  I guess the key line in the presentation speech and award citations came to the forefront yesterday.

The vision of a world free from nuclear weapons has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Under Obama’s leadership, the U.N. Security Council gave its unanimous support to the vision of a world without nuclear weapons. The new administration in Washington has reconsidered the deployment in Eastern Europe of the planned anti-missile defences and is instead looking at other multilateral options to secure the region. This has contributed to an improved atmosphere in the negotiations on strategic nuclear weapons between the U.S.A. and the Russian Federation. A new agreement between them will, we hope, soon be on the table.

We can see how the vision of a world without nuclear weapons is encouraging even the smaller nuclear powers to make cuts. And we can certainly not prevent the spread of nuclear arms to new countries unless the established nuclear powers meet their obligations. That was the clear premise underlying the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and it still applies today. The important Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference is being held next year. Either the nuclear powers will clearly signal their willingness to disarm, or the conference may prove a fiasco, with the danger of a new arms race. President Obama has sent his signal.

So we get this.

On a Friday that began in Washington with a triumphant presidential news conference about the conclusion of arms talks with Russia, Moscow seemed to have its mind on other things.

President Dmitri A. Medvedev was in Sochi, scolding Olympic trainers over their athletes’ dismal showing in Vancouver. Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin gave a speech on the dangers posed by spring flooding. The highest-ranking Russian official to address reporters about the treaty was Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, who hastily gathered the press at dinnertime in a tiny ministry conference room.

Mr. Lavrov called the agreement “real progress” in the relationship between Russia and the United States, but added that Russia could pull out if it concluded that the American missile defense plans had compromised its nuclear deterrent. Indeed, unease over missile defense was seeping into commentary even as officials hailed a mutual success.

Mikhail V. Margelov, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russia’s Parliament, said the document was “neither a Russian gift to America nor an American gift to Russia.” He acknowledged that the reception had been quiet, saying that was because negotiators were focused on finishing the job.

Well, it’s more than had been done when he was awarded the Nobel, I suppose.

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