Wow, so I met Howard Morland today. That was pretty awesome.

James Nagelberg wanted me to blog the panel on What the Future Holds for U.S. and Russian Nuclear Weapons. As I have no rational basis on which to make such decisions, I am pleased to do James’ bidding.

Sadly, no one mentioned extending START in any detail. However, I did learn a few interesting things, including:

  • One can call the Czech Republic “Czechia.”
  • The Polish national mission, according to Alexei Arbatov, is to annoy Russia.
  • The Cold War is over. Kinda.
  • Yeltsin, “in a rare moment of sobriety” according to Roald Sagdeev, wanted to re-target Russia’s ICBMs, perhaps “at Mars.”
  • Sagdeev, obviously, has a future in stand-up comedy if this whole disarmament thing doesn’t work out.
  • Linton Brooks, who anticipates that 80-90 percent of the people in the room will disagree with his talk, is an optimist.
  • Brooks, who believes the nonproliferation community “should be marching in the streets demanding” the RRW, should consider taking his act on the road with Sagdeev.
  • Rose Gottemoeller is extremely gracious but firm chair, giving Bob McNamara the first comment after he wasn’t able to ask a question during a previous panel and cutting people off when necessary.

Actually, Brooks’ talk was really interesting—he made a nonproliferation case for the RRW, arguing that it would be the “nail in the coffin” for nuclear testing and that the chance the next Administration would secure ratification of the CTBT is “relatively large.” He also argued, of course, that the RRW could enable further reductions and preserve extended deterrence.

Brooks—who made a similar argument at a private dinner the New America Foundation hosted at Nora—is very persuasive, but to take the deal he proposes would require a leap of faith that I find very difficult. One must believe that the Bush Administration, or an ideologically inclined successor, would not simply use the RRW program to resume something like the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator and/or testing.

That’s a hard sell, at least to me, at least right now.

Still, his talk is one of the most interesting I’ve heard today.