Death of a Treaty: US suspends INF with Russia
The Trump White House has suspended one of the last major nuclear arms control treaties with Russia, following heated conversations over accusations by Washington that Moscow is violating the Reagan-era agreement. Fars news agency has pinned down a feature on this topic in an article titled “Death of a Treaty: US suspends INF with Russia.”
Even members of the US Congress say the decision has the potential to incite a new arms race - not only with Russia, but also with China, which was never a signatory to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, widely known as the INF. And it comes as the US has begun building its first long-range nuclear weapons since 1991, a move that other nuclear-armed nations are citing to justify their own nuclear modernization efforts.
To one degree or another, the two moves appear to signal the end of more than a half-century of traditional nuclear arms control, in which the key agreements were negotiated in Washington and Moscow. US President Donald Trump claims he wants to replace the INF or to renew another major treaty, called New Start, which drove American and Russian nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in nearly 60 years. That accord expires in 2021, just weeks after the next presidential inauguration.
The move to suspend and likely end the INF treaty, once considered the gold standard of arms control agreements, was telegraphed months ago. The US began accusing Russia of violating the treaty in 2014, when it alleged that Moscow was developing a new missile that would violate the range limits. The Russian government maintains that missile battalions it has deployed near European borders would not fly far enough to violate the treaty’s terms.
John Bolton, the US national security adviser, has made no secret of his desire to leave arms control agreements that limit American action. During the administration of President George W. Bush, Bolton was a major force behind the withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. Last year, he and the Saudi-Israeli lobby backed Trump to end the 2015 Iran nuclear accord with world powers. In the INF treaty, Bolton had an easy target: Even President Barack Obama had considered exiting it.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision to suspend the accord, declaring that “countries must be held accountable when they break the rules”. That would be an enormously ambitious task. The Trump administration has already voided several other international treaties, including the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal known as JCPOA. For that reason and no other, the US government “must be held accountable” as it broke the rules.
The US, which still possesses, by far, the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, cannot impose sanctions on other nations to force them to be restricted by international treaties when Washington itself is no longer restricted by the same treaties, including the INF.
Pompeo says the US will terminate the INF accord in six months unless Russia destroys its growing arsenal of intermediate-range missiles and launchers. For any new or “better” treaty to happen, and to end the Cold-War-era outlook, the US needs to curb and eliminate its arsenal of intermediate-range missiles and launchers as well. On balance, the current agreement applies to both Russia and the US.
It is hard to believe that after six months the Trump administration will negotiate in good faith. That will never happen. Any doubters should ask the Chinese government and the ongoing US trade war with China. The Trumpsters are reluctant to listen to reason, much less hold any kind of substantive talks with the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, or the Venezuelans, or the international civil society. Their unilateral foreign policy, public and private comments, and self-imposed laws won’t let that to happen.
One thing is clear: If a new arms race begins, it will be the US to blame. While the makeover of America’s aging nuclear arsenal and laboratories began during the Obama administration, the ambitions to remake the United States’ nuclear capabilities have accelerated under Trump.
In the prevailing environment, don’t be taken by surprise if you hear the US has also begun deploying new weapons to counter China’s alleged efforts to cement a dominant position in the Western Pacific and keep American aircraft carriers at bay. President Trump and his war cabinet, the Military-Industrial Complex, and a host of forever war lobby, regime change addicts, resource-war planners and leaders, civilian and military, pose a growingly serious threat and make the world less safe.
Meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin has suspended a Cold War-era agreement after the US abandoned it, authorizing his military forces to push ahead with development of new missiles.
Putin announced in a televised meeting with his foreign and defense ministers, "Our American partners have announced they are suspending their participation in the deal, and we are also suspending our participation.” He added, "We will wait until our partners have matured enough to conduct an equal, meaningful dialogue with us on this important topic."
Putin said Russia would work on its advanced intermediate-range missiles, including supersonic ones. However, the Russian president added, Moscow won’t deploy any new missiles unless Washington does so, because Russia does not want to enter a new arms race with the US.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington would suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) for 180 days and fully withdraw from it later if Moscow did not stop what he called “violations”.
Reacting to the US announcement, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Moscow was still ready to maintain dialogue on the INF but reserved the right to respond to the US withdrawal from the pact. However, Putin told his ministers not to initiate disarmament talks with the White House.
US President Donald Trump announced last year that Washington would withdraw from the treaty, which was signed toward the end of the Cold War in 1987 by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Under the treaty, both sides were banned from creating ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers and led to the elimination of nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles. Washington insists that Russia's new 9M729 missile is in violation of the treaty and should be dismantled immediately.
Russia rebutted the claim last month by unveiling the missile and its key specifications. Russian chief of missile and artillery troops Major General Mikhail Matveevsky said then the missile's maximum range is around 480 kilometers, well within what is allowed under the INF.
Shortly after Pompeo's announcement, Trump said in a statement that he would work with the NATO and draw up its own set of plans, including military ones, to counter Russia's gains from what it called its "unlawful conduct."
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, said Washington “has taken another step toward [the whole world’s] destruction today.”
Russian Senator Igor Morozov said that Washington’s move “carries a threat to the entire system of international security, but first of all for Russia, because after leaving the INF the Americans will deploy these missiles in European countries.” Director of a Russian think tank Ivan Konovalov said Washington “uses Russia as a pretext to withdraw from the agreement and keep its face.” He also warned that if the US were to deploy nuclear-capable missiles to Europe after scrapping the treaty, it would literally put the host nations at a gunpoint.