If, after the end of World War II, American presidents believed that the creation and formation of international institutions, as well as international normalization and formulation would be in the interest and safeguarding of American leadership, Donald Trump unlike his predecessors argues that many international organizations and regimes, as well as many bilateral and multilateral treaties and accords in various economic, commercial, political, security, and military fields are to the detriment of the United States, and thus endanger Washington’s superior position in the international system.
Based on the same logic, the Trump administration has withdrawn from many international treaties and regimes. What is important in this respect is that the American withdrawal from the treaties and accords is mainly related to disarmament and nuclear weapons. Given the importance of these treaties to international peace and security, the American withdrawal from these agreements and nuclear treaties is much more sensitive.
On February 2, 2019, the United States provided its six-month notice of withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty due to the “Russian Federation’s continuing violation of the treaty.”
The treaty was signed in December 1987 between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. The US formally withdrew from the treaty in August 1998. Now there are talks about US withdrawal from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was approved by the UN General Assembly on September 10, 1996. The Treaty prohibits states from carrying out any nuclear explosions. The key question is whether the United States can get out of the “Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.” In response, there are strong indications that the US may withdraw from the treaty:
First, although the treaty was signed by the US administration two weeks after its adoption by the UN General Assembly (September 24, 1996), the US Congress has so far refused to ratify it. The main reason the Congress which has been largely dominated by the Republicans, is that adoption of such accords will limit the development of American power. Therefore, Trump is not only barred by domestic law, but even encouraged by the Congress to withdraw from the CTBT.
Second, the US president is fully committed to developing and updating US nuclear capabilities and has emphasized this in his 2016 election campaign. He believes in a powerful America with objective characteristics including superior military capability and a dynamic and strong economy. In Trump’s assessment, other states are becoming stronger by violating the nuclear accords, and the US should not allow this to happen.
Third, the United States needs to conduct atomic tests to assess its capabilities and weaknesses to develop its nuclear capabilities. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) makes the job difficult.
Fourth, John Bolton, the US national security adviser, has no faith in international organizations on the one hand, and on disarmament and arms control regimes, and considers them cumbersome obstacles that must be eliminated. He has been instrumental in shaping Trump’s mindset, or at least in boosting his outlook and vision of nuclear weapons regimes.
Fifth, the United States claims that Russia does not adhere to the CTBT. The accusation that Russia is violating the CTBT is important because leveling of similar charges against Russia by Washington paved the way for the US pullout from INF.
Sixth, with the news of a nuclear explosion in Russia recently (August 2019), US officials will increasingly emphasize that Russia is in breach of the CTBT.
What worries Russia is that the US withdrawal from the nuclear pacts will not only provoke resumption of nuclear rivalry and impose costs on the Russian economy, but will also destroy the principle of “nuclear balance” between the US and Russia. Moscow views this principle as a guarantee of international peace and stability, but the United States has been adhering to the principle of “nuclear imbalance” since Reagan and considers this principle a guarantee of its security.