The United States claims to have withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty under Paragraph 15 of the Treaty because Russia failed to return to full and verified compliance through the destruction of its noncompliant missile system, namely long-range ballistic cruise missiles and the land-based SSC-8 or 9M729 missiles.
With the collapse of the treaty, the world is again faced with a threat of the Cold War and nuclear war type threats. The treaty, which was signed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War on December 8, 1987, and entered into force on June 1, 1988, imposes restrictions and prohibitions on the land-based intermediate range (1000 to 5500 km) missiles and shorter-range missiles (500 to 1000 km).
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regretted that the United States and Russia have withdrawn from the treaty decreed that under the present conditions that international security is at risk disarmament agreements have become more exposed to threats.
Internal Positions in America
Within the US, politicians have taken different stances on the event. In a statement issued in response to the termination of the treaty, Ted Cruz, Republican Senator and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said: “This treaty has fallen far short and far outlived its intended purpose, The Trump administration made the right decision when they announced the United States was withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, and I applaud the administration for implementing that decision. The INF constrained our ability to build the weapons that we need for our national security, leaving us at a disadvantage to rivals such as Russia, which was in material breach of the treaty, and China, which was not constrained by the treaty at all.”
On the other end, opponents of the move denounced the action by the White House.
Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs while accusing Russia of violating the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty has also criticized the Trump administration for withdrawing from the treaty and trying to terminate the new START treaty with Moscow.
Engel said in a statement: “The INF Treaty has been a cornerstone of arms control for 30 years. Without a doubt, Russia’s violation of the treaty threatened transatlantic security and stability. But the Trump Administration has played into Putin’s hands in tearing down the treaty rather than pursuing serious diplomacy to save it. By pulling out of the agreement, the President is creating an opening for a dangerous arms race in which Russia can act with impunity.
“Even worse, this case is only the latest example of this Administration trying to terminate international arms control agreements. The Administration has already set its sights on the New START Treaty, which provides crucial limits on Russia’s nuclear forces and tough measures to make sure the Russians are not cheating—which is why we know that, right now, Russia is living up to its obligations. That’s why it’s so puzzling and dangerous that the Trump Administration has already said it is ‘unlikely’ they will extend the New START Treaty beyond its expiration in February 2021.
“The President should reconsider this foolhardy and dangerous path, listen to Congress, and extend the New START Treaty so long as the Russians remain in compliance.”
The US Announces Plans
A day after the US withdrawal from the landmark arms control treaty, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he was in favour of placing ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in Asia relatively soon. “Yeah, I would like to,” Esper said when asked whether he was considering placing such missiles in Asia. “I would prefer the months … but these things tend to take longer than you expect,” he told reporters when asked about a timeline for when the missiles could be deployed.
The US president has also claimed that he wants to create a new nuclear treaty that includes China, in addition to Russia.
International Community Outlook
As expected, US allies, especially in NATO, have backed Washington’s decision. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the risk of a new arms race between the two countries has emerged. However, he added, NATO will aim to avoid a new arms race with Russia, adding that the transatlantic alliance would “respond in a measured and responsible way to the significant risks posed by the Russian 9M729 missile to allied security”. He also confirmed there were no plans for the alliance to deploy land-based nuclear missiles of its own in Europe.
France, alongside its partners and allies, has concluded that Russia has developed a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Russia has not responded to requests for explanation or repeated calls over the past few months for compliance with the treaty.
France too regretted reaching a situation in which the United States has had to provide notice of its withdrawal from the INF Treaty.
France calls on Russia to use the six months triggered by the suspension of US obligations provided for under the INF Treaty to return to full compliance. During this period, France will continue to promote in-depth dialogue with Russia and to coordinate closely with its NATO allies.
France said it regretted the demise of the missile pact between the United States and Russia, warning it would increase the risk of instability in Europe.
“France regrets that no solution could be found to uphold the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty,” a spokesman for the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“The INF Treaty was a central element of the European security architecture and strategic stability in Europe. The end of this treaty increases the risk of instability in Europe and erodes the international arms control system,” the French ministry said.
Germany has warned that the end of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Force treaty could have major consequences for peace and security in Europe.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said expiry of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty meant that Europe was “losing part of its security.” In his statement, however, Maas appeared to blame the Kremlin for the accord’s collapse: “We regret that Russia failed to do what was necessary to save the INF treaty,” he said. “The end of the INF Treaty represents a threat to the security of Europe,” stressed the diplomat, calling for “a voluntary declaration from both sides on the non-deployment in Europe of medium-range land-based missiles.”
The Austrian Foreign Minister also called the conclusion of the treaty a threat to European security. “Europe should not become a new arena for the arms race,” said Alexander Shalen Berg. The first step in stopping the arms race is for the two countries to voluntarily declare that they do not intend to deploy short-range missiles in Europe.
Against these relatively coordinated positions of the Western sides, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chonging said at a news conference that the country opposed the US decision and believes Washington should comply with the treaty.
China deeply regrets and strongly opposes the United States’ withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Hua said.
The United States’ real purpose is to drop limits on itself and seek unilateral military and strategic advantages, she said.
If the U.S. resumes its research and deployment of the intermediate-range missiles after its withdrawal from the treaty, it will severely affect global strategic balance and stability, aggravate tensions and distrust, disrupt international nuclear disarmament and multilateral arms control processes and threaten peace and security in the region, she added.
“We urge the U.S. to show restraint and not to take actions undermining other countries’ security interests but to fulfil its responsibility as a major power and safeguard global and regional peace and security with the international community,” Hua said.
Concern about the new START
International concerns have now been exacerbated over the failure to extend the new START treaty. Since 2018, the treaty has imposed restrictions on the number of Russian and US long-range nuclear warheads and missiles.
If the US and Russia fail to extend the New START Treaty which expires in early 2021 or replace it with another treaty it would be the first time in nearly half a century that there would be no binding restrictions on the two nuclear power arsenals.
Trump has not yet spoken about extending the treaty or replacing it with a new one. The US president has called the New START treaty another bad deal signed during the Obama administration. Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, also said in June that the government might not agree to extend the treaty for another five years.
In this context, France reaffirms its commitment to arms control instruments which contribute to ensuring strategic stability. A statement issued by the spokesman of the French Foreign Ministry said: “In this respect, we call on Europeans and all parties to intensify efforts to preserve the existing conventional and nuclear arms control instruments. As such, France encourages Russia and the United States to extend the New START Treaty on their nuclear arsenals beyond 2021 and to negotiate a replacement treaty.”
“With the end of the INF treaty, a bit of security in Europe is being lost,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “Now we call all the more on Russia and the US to preserve the New START treaty as a cornerstone of worldwide arms control.
“Nuclear powers such as China must also face up to their responsibility on arms control – they have more weight in the world than at the time of the Cold War.”
According to Russia and the United States, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty eliminated over 2692 conventional and cruise and ballistic missiles in the two countries over time. The treaty banned all land-based missiles ranging from 500 to 5,500 kilometres before its demise.
David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists said: “Withdrawing from this landmark treaty is shortsighted and will ultimately undermine the security of the United States and its allies. The president’s decision will increase tensions between the United States and Russia and open the door to competition in conventionally armed missiles that will undermine stability.”
While the US president just hours after its withdrawal from the nuclear missile treaty, claimed that he will seek a new nuclear treaty that would include China, besides Russia, but in the back of his mind and his national security team is a return to the logic of terror.
This logic means returning to the problems of non-proliferation that the international community has been struggling with over the past seven decades, but its efforts have yet to yield results. Over the years, however, nuclear powers have not abandoned their weapons but have imposed discrimination against non-nuclear weapon states.
This risk-taking of the nuclear-weapon powers against international security occurs while under Article VI of the NPT “all Parties undertake to pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race, to nuclear disarmament, and general and complete disarmament.”
The current practice of nuclear powers, especially under the pretext of clear US violation of international law would pose a threat to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a regime that has already been exposed to greater risk than ever before through the US attack against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and other international agreements.