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McCain Outlines His Vision for Nuclear Security

ROBERT SMITH, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is on assignment. I'm Robert Smith.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Mike Schuster has the story.

MIKE SCHUSTER: On nuclear issues, John McCain, speaking at the University of Denver, appeared to be searching for the center between on the one hand his oft-repeated criticism of Barack Obama...

JOHN MCCAIN, Host:

Many believe all we need to do to end the nuclear programs of hostile governments is to have our president sit down with leaders in Pyongyang and Tehran, as if we haven't tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the past two decades.

SCHUSTER: And on the other, the more hawkish approach of some in the Bush administration.

MCCAIN: Others think military action alone can achieve our goals, as if military actions were not fraught with their own terrible risks. While the use of force may be necessary, it can only be as a last resort, not a first step.

SCHUSTER: The rhetoric sounded good, says John Wolfsthal, a specialist on nuclear issues with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But Wolfsthal says the vision lacks specifics.

JOHN WOLFSTHAL: When you look at the details, it doesn't give me much hope that we're going to see major reductions in nuclear weapons, that we're going to see major breakthroughs on non-proliferation, or see a major improvement in nuclear security.

SCHUSTER: Yesterday McCain said the world's two largest nuclear powers could go lower.

MCCAIN: I believe we should reduce our nuclear forces to the lowest level we judge necessary and we should be prepared to enter into a new arms control agreement with Russia reflecting the nuclear reductions that I'll seek.

SCHUSTER: McCain did not suggest any specific goals for reducing nuclear weapons. John Wolfsthal is doubtful McCain could convince the Russians he's serious.

WOLFSTHAL: Most people would call that low-hanging fruit. The Russians have been pushing for the U.S. to negotiate lower numbers and put them in a binding, verified arms control agreement. The problem is, John McCain has done other things that is going to make it very unlikely that the Russians will play ball. He's called for expelling them from the G8 group of industrialized nations. And it's not clear how you can sort of kick the Russians in the teeth one day and then hope that they'll be accommodating and constructive on the next.

SCHUSTER: Unidentified Man: Endless war, endless war, endless war.

MCCAIN: This may turn into a longer speech than you had anticipated.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: And by the way, I will never surrender in Iraq, my friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I will never surrender in Iraq.

SCHUSTER: Mike Schuster, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mike Shuster is an award-winning diplomatic correspondent and roving foreign correspondent for NPR News. He is based at NPR West, in Culver City, CA. When not traveling outside the U.S., Shuster covers issues of nuclear non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the Pacific Rim.
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