September 30, 2011

The Sept. 26 editorial “Corruptionism” stated that “Mr. Obama’s ‘reset’ in Russian relations achieved gains, notably in Russia’s allowing NATO to supply its forces in Afghanistan through Russian territory.”

In fact, permission to move cargo through Russia preceded the Obama administration. NATO and Russian authorities concluded a transit agreement in April 2008 following four years of often fruitless negotiations. I was on the NATO negotiating team during that time. Negotiations would make progress only when Russian President Vladi­mir Putin allowed it. Although there were fits and starts, meaningful progress became possible only in late 2007, after increasing alliance pressure on Russia in the NATO-Russia Council, coupled with pressure from the Bush administration during bilateral talks, changed the calculus for Mr. Putin.

Shipment of cargo to Afghanistan needs to cross not only Russian territory but also that of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Those nations waited until Russia agreed to allow shipments to move before they began serious negotiation with NATO. These last pieces of the puzzle were put in place in 2009, and the trains finally began rolling in earnest.

Alessandro Sacilotto, Oakton

●In his Sept. 27 op-ed, “The genius of Vladimir Putin,” Ralph Peters gave Russia’s once and future president credit for “steamroll[ing] a one-sided new START agreement over American negotiators who desperately wanted a deal.” This description does not fit the facts.

Indeed, President Obama demonstrated that he would not allow the Russians to use the approaching expiration of START I to steamroll the United States into accepting missile defense limits in a treaty on offensive forces. Moreover, the comprehensive review of the treaty by the U.S. Senate resulted in a large majority of members affirming that the treaty was in the national interest.

As with all good arms control agreements, New START was a win for both sides. It provided a mechanism for significantly reducing nuclear arms in a stabilizing manner. It created a verification regime essential for restoring U.S. confidence in its ability to monitor Russian strategic forces developments, but it was streamlined to lower the costs of implementation for the parties.

And the Russian signature on the treaty was that of President Dmitry Medvedev. Mr. Putin’s was on the sham 2002 Moscow Treaty it replaced.

Greg Thielmann, Washington

The writer is a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association, which promotes public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies.

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