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The US Just Withdrew From an Important Nuclear Arms Treaty With Russia. Don't Panic - Yet.
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=47231"><span class="small">Alex Ward, Vox</span></a>   
Saturday, 03 August 2019 08:38

Ward writes: "The US has officially withdrawn from a Cold War-era missile treaty with Russia that could kick-start an arms race between the world's top two nuclear powers."

Demonstrators with a Putin and Trump mask face each other with rocket models in Berlin on February 1, 2019. They are protesting with their action against the imminent end of the INF disarmament agreement between Russia and the United States. (photo: Paul Zinken/Getty Images)
Demonstrators with a Putin and Trump mask face each other with rocket models in Berlin on February 1, 2019. They are protesting with their action against the imminent end of the INF disarmament agreement between Russia and the United States. (photo: Paul Zinken/Getty Images)


The US Just Withdrew From an Important Nuclear Arms Treaty With Russia. Don't Panic - Yet.

By Alex Ward, Vox

03 August 19


Are we INF’d? We’ll see.

he US has officially withdrawn from a Cold War-era missile treaty with Russia that could kick-start an arms race between the world’s top two nuclear powers.

For many, the death of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, means the swift demise of arms control efforts that took decades to realize. For the Trump administration, though, it’s a requisite move to punish Moscow for its misbehavior — and to prepare for a possible future war with China.

The accord was signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987. The agreement prohibited Washington and Moscow from fielding ground-launched cruise missiles that could fly between 310 and 3,400 miles.

Both countries signed the deal as a way to improve relations toward the end of the Cold War. However, the two nations still could — and since have — built up cruise missiles that can be fired from the air or sea.

The problem is that Russia has clearly violated that agreement in recent years. In 2014, the Obama administration blamed the Kremlin for testing a cruise missile in direct violation of the accord. (Russia says the US has violated the agreement too, a charge the US denies.)

So last October, President Donald Trump proclaimed the United States would withdraw from the treaty, adding that he would give Russia 60 days — until February 2 — to come back into compliance.

That led to months of hurried negotiations between Washington and Moscow to compel Russia into compliance again, but neither side caved. NATO, the US-led military alliance formed to thwart the Soviet threat, tried to increase pressure by proclaiming in December that Russia violated the treaty’s terms.

But the Kremlin didn’t budge, leading Trump to put one of the last nails in the INF Treaty’s coffin during his February State of the Union address.

“Decades ago, the United States entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capabilities,” he said. “While we followed the agreement to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms. That is why I announced that the United States is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty.”

That started a six-month clock for when the US would officially leave the deal, giving Russia a short amount of time to adhere to the agreement once more and change America’s mind. That didn’t happen — and no one expected it to — ending with the agreement’s demise on Friday.

“The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Friday morning statement. “Russia’s noncompliance under the treaty jeopardizes US supreme interests as Russia’s development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the United States and our allies and partners.”

The question now is what to make of the result. Is it a good thing, since it made little sense for America to abide by an agreement Russia didn’t comply with? Or is it ultimately foolish, cursing Washington and Moscow to a hellish fight down the line?

It depends whom you ask.

The good and bad of leaving the INF treaty

Those long steeped in arms-control issues — meaning they work on ensuring the reduction of nuclear risk and war in general — are very concerned about the agreement’s end.

The INF treaty “has been extremely successful in the destruction of a total of 2,692 missiles” within the specified range, says Bonnie Jenkins, formerly the coordinator for threat reduction programs at the State Department. “Instead of highlighting this accomplishment, we are opening up the possibility of a new arms race by destroying limitations set forth in the treaty. This is another step backwards in our arms-control relations with Russia.”

Jenkins’s comments underscore the arms control community’s main concern: that fewer limitations on Russia and the US building more missiles could escalate to the point that tensions spike along with the chances of nuclear bombs going off.

“When something like the INF goes down the drain almost like nothing, it shows you the degree to which people have forgotten the power of these weapons,” George Shultz, who served as Reagan’s secretary of state, told Voice of America on Thursday. ”One day it’ll be too late.”

But some experts are supportive of the Trump administration’s move.

For one, they say America shouldn’t constrain itself when Moscow brashly violates the treaty. It doesn’t help that Russian President Vladimir Putin last year proudly announced the construction of hypersonic cruise missiles, which he claims can hit any point on Earth and would render American missile defense “useless.”

But Moscow isn’t the only concern. A 2018 Pentagon report showed that Beijing has vastly improved its cruise-missile arsenal, which would likely make it harder for US warships to approach the country’s coast during a fight. Experts say that puts the US at a massive disadvantage in the event of an all-out fight with China and that it should be promptly reversed.

“There’s a reason China and others have them, and there’s a reason Russia is developing them,” Rebeccah Heinrichs, a nuclear expert at the Hudson Institute, told me last October.

In sum, experts argue that Trump has either pulled off a geopolitical masterstroke or has doomed humanity. Either, no doubt, would be quite the consequence.

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-1 # revhen 2019-08-03 11:04
So, rather than trying to fix the agreement T. killed it. Just what Putin wanted. Now he can build and place as much as he wishes. The puppet president does it again.
 
 
+1 # tedrey 2019-08-03 13:10
There are many sources (not Russian,) claiming previous violations of the treaty by Americans, or more balanced presentations of the Russian positions. This does not mean that any of these sources are completely accurate, but it does suggest that this present article, by completely ignoring all these, and including only six American sources, is at least suspect.

At least check out neutral and UN sources, which advance and often accept data that never appear in our media. (RSN strives to be an exception, though I fear not often enough.)