US President Donald Trump has announced to terminate the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, a decision that may lead to an arms race across Europe similar to that of the 1980s when the agreement was initially signed. “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years,” Trump told CNN.
What was the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty?
The treaty, signed on December 8, 1987, by former US President Ronald Reagan and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, required both countries to eliminate ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between approximately 300 and 3,400 miles. It did not cover sea-launched missiles. Offering protection to the United States’ European allies, the treaty was a watershed agreement between two nations at the centre of an arms race during the Cold War.
Trump also wondered why his predecessor Barack Obama did not negotiate or pull out of the treaty earlier. “And I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to, we’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honoured the agreement. But Russia has not, unfortunately, honoured the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement. We’re gonna pull out,” he said.
In 2014, the US had accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty, citing cruise missile tests that dated to 2008 and the US allies informed its NATO partners of Russia’s suspected breach. However, it wasn’t until recently that NATO officially confirmed Russia of being indulged in the agreement’s violation.
Former State Department spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, explained that the treaty was “designed to provide a measure of some strategic stability on the continent of Europe” and not to solve all of their problems with the Soviet Union.
“This treaty abolishes a whole category of weapons and is a crucial element of our security. Now, this treaty is in danger because of Russia’s actions. After years of denials, Russia recently acknowledged the existence of a new missile system, called 9M729. Russia has not provided any credible answers on this new missile. All allies agree that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the treaty. It is therefore urgent that Russia addresses these concerns in a substantial and transparent manner,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN at a defence ministers’ meeting.
In its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the US Defence Department said, “In a broader context, Russia is either rejecting or avoiding its obligations and commitments under numerous agreements and has rebuffed U.S. efforts to follow the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with another round of negotiated reductions and to pursue reductions in non-strategic nuclear forces.”