Nuclear weapons > trivia

NUCLEAR WEAPONS > TRIVIA…. The NYT‘s Peter Baker reported this morning, “War and peace, nuclear weapons, democracy, an ailing world economy — President Obama’s agenda on his first visit to Russia in office has no shortage of weighty issues. So when he granted separate interviews in Moscow to each of the five major American television networks on Tuesday morning, what was the one thing all five made sure to ask about? The death of the pop star Michael Jackson.”

Indeed, the president joked to ABC’s Jake Tapper that he’d have to discuss the deceased pop star in order to get the media to pay attention to the U.S.-Russian summit. “Michael Jackson, like Elvis, like Sinatra, when somebody who’s captivated the imagination of the country for that long passes away, people pay attention,” Obama said. “And I assume at some point, people will start focusing again on things like nuclear weapons.”

That’s a good idea. Yesterday’s talks between President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev were a fairly big deal.

President Obama signed an agreement on Monday to cut American and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by at least one-quarter, a first step in a broader effort intended to reduce the threat of such weapons drastically and to prevent their further spread to unstable regions.

Mr. Obama, on his first visit to Russia since taking office, and President Dmitri A. Medvedev agreed on the basic terms of a treaty to reduce the number of warheads and missiles to the lowest levels since the early years of the cold war.

Indeed, it’s also worth noting that the Obama-Medvedev talks covered quite a bit of ground. With START expiring at the end of the year, the nuclear arms talks were the biggest story, but the two also “sealed a deal allowing the United States to send thousands of flights of troops and weapons to Afghanistan through Russian airspace each year”; “agreed to conduct a joint assessment of any Iranian threat”; and “presented a united front against the spread of nuclear weapons,” including in North Korea.

As for the nuclear deal, how big a deal is it? These details, via Matt Yglesias, appear encouraging.

Arms-control analysts who support Obama’s determination to conclude a new START agreement say that the stated reductions are significant because they are realistic enough to receive the legislative-branch ratification required in both countries, yet ambitious enough to act as a first step toward Obama’s vision of a world eventually free of nuclear arsenals.

“They’ve hit the sweet spot in finding numbers that will be a significant reduction and likely to get the necessary support in their respective parliaments,” says Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a Washington foundation focused on nuclear-weapons reduction and nonproliferation.

The numbers announced Monday, Mr. Cirincione notes, amount to a 30 percent reduction in the nuclear arsenals of the two countries that possess 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.”

Something to consider during the media’s coverage of an entertainer’s memorial service.