Trump Administration Wants to Withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
“For Man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we can be certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off…and we will all be blown away.”
Tom Lehrer – They’re Rioting in Africa
On October 20, 2018, President Donald Trump announced that his administration planned on withdrawing from the INF Treaty, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (USSR) on December 8, 1987. The Senate ratified it a year later.
The Trump Administration, as did the Obama Administration, has accused Russia of violating the Treaty. According to experts, Russia has tested and deployed a ground-launched cruise missile of intermediate range, although Russian officials repeatedly deny that; instead they assert the US has violated the treaty.
When speaking with reporters, Trump said, “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years. I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out.”
Some experts support Trump’s move, stating that when the INF Treaty was signed, the supply of intermediate-range missile was limited to the U.S., Soviet Union, and European NATO members. However, since that time, new powers, for example China, which didn’t sign the Treaty, have developed and tested intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles.
Others have criticized the way Trump has handled the INF withdrawal. It sends a signal of “unilateralism to the rest of the world and that undermines trust in the U.S. commitment to treaties.” Jim Miller, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy during the Obama Administration, said that “the rollout of this decision put the U.S. in the position of being the one that will have killed the treaty, and that will be detrimental to our ability to work not just with Russia or China, but our allies as well, and it will be detrimental to our ability to sustain the New START Treaty, which is even more in the U.S. interest than the INF treaty.”
Some pundits think Trump’s threat may be a negotiating tool to get the Russians to comply with the INF Treaty. And NATO seems to support a tougher stance against Russia on INF compliance.
Yet, a US withdrawal from the INF would constitute another retreat from international institutions, which might undermine other longstanding international arms control regimes, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and encourage other countries to pull out and take care of themselves.
The end of the INF Treaty will make the world less safe, which is why the US should work with its allies to save it.
–Alyn Hadar, Chair, Task Force on Foreign Policy