The Trump administration notified Russia, in a terse letter published on the White House website, of its intention to withdraw from the Reagan-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), Reuters is reporting.
The treaty eliminated all nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, with ranges of 310 to 620 miles (500 to 1,000 kilometers) for short-range missiles and 620 to 3,420 miles (1,000 to 5,500 km) for intermediate-range missiles. The treaty also sought to restrict both nations’ access to developing further such weapons. The treaty did not cover sea-launched missiles.
Though it’s been in place for 30 years, the Trump administration has, since October 2018, been saying that Russia is in violation of the treaty and that the U.S. should withdraw in kind, as the Guardian reported at the time. And on Friday, the Trump administration made it official, telling Russia that the withdrawal will be official effective Saturday, February 2.
Trump opened by stating that the United States has abided by the letter of the law within the treaty for 30 years while Russia has done the opposite. Trump stated that the U.S. has the support of its NATO allies and that the country will resume developing its own nuclear weapons if Russia does not completely scrap its own nuclear program, including destroying its own nuclear weapons and related devices.
“We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other. We will move forward with developing our own military response options and will work with NATO and our other allies and partners to deny Russia any military advantage from its unlawful conduct.”
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) January 31, 2019
A Chance For Russia To Make Things Right
Trump, in promising to completely remove the United States from the treaty within six months if Russia doesn’t comply, offers Putin the opportunity to come back into compliance.
“We stand ready to engage with Russia on arms control negotiations that meet these criteria, and, importantly, once that is done, develop, perhaps for the first time ever, an outstanding relationship on economic, trade, political, and military levels.”
What Does This Mean Going Forward?
Writing in Vox, Alex Ward suggests that the end of the INF treaty means that the U.S. and Russia could once again find themselves embroiled in a Cold War-era arms race. What’s more, another U.S.-Russia treaty, the New START Treaty of 2009, could be the next to fall. That treaty is scheduled to expire in 2021; the Trump administration, however, may accelerate the end of that treaty.
Meanwhile, National Security Advisor John Bolton is, at the moment, in Russia attempting to put the two nations on the same page.
As of this writing, Russia has not responded to Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the INF treaty.