End of Arms Control Treaty Sows Nuclear Chaos

WASHINGTON – The U.S. withdrawal from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty takes effect August 2, leaving Russia and the United States free to build and deploy land-based missiles between 500 and 5500 kilometers. The agreement was signed by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev to reduce the risks of nuclear war and give leaders in Moscow, Europe and the United States more time in a crisis to avoid all out war. The termination of the agreement by the United States will only increase the risk of conflict and escalation. Despite these risks, President Trump and his administration made no concerted efforts to save the agreement or bring Russia back into full compliance, preferring instead to use Russia’s violation of the pact to terminate it outright.

In response to the withdrawal, Jon Wolfsthal, director of the Nuclear Crisis Group, an international task force of top former nuclear commanders, senior military officials and diplomats working to defuse nuclear flashpoints around the globe, shared the following:

“The risk of nuclear weapons use is already unacceptably and unnecessarily high. The death of the INF Treaty, without any plan in evidence to compensate for the deterioration of arms control, will only accelerate our downward spiral into nuclear chaos and potential catastrophe.

“America and Russia built up a set of rules and agreements at the end of the Cold War to help both countries avoid conflicts, and to prevent conflicts from getting out of control quickly, if and when they might take place. These agreements – including the INF Treaty – made America and its allies safer and the US-Russia nuclear relationship more predictable. Aided by his arms control averse National Security Advisor John Bolton, President Trump has killed an important tool for preserving stability and safeguarding global security, all but excused Russia’s violation of the agreement, and has yet to put forward any serious plan for how to compensate for either Russia’s INF violating missile or the end of the INF agreement.

“Worse, it is increasingly clear that, under President Trump, the US has no intention of extending the last remaining nuclear control agreement with Russia – namely, New START. That deal, which limits the US and Russia to 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons each, expires on February 5, 2021 unless it is extended by Trump and Putin. Russia remains in full compliance, and the US military and intelligence communities fully support extending the agreement. Regardless, it now looks like Trump and Bolton are prepared to either let the deal expire, or to move to terminate it before the end of Trump’s first term. Congress must make sure this does not happen, and the international community, especially US  allies who understand New START is essential to their own security, must also start to make their voices more clearly heard.”