Quitting the INF Treaty Is a Serious Mistake
The Trump administration is preparing to quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty thanks to the arms control-hating John Bolton:
The Trump administration has told U.S. allies that it wants to withdraw from the landmark Reagan-era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, and plans to inform Russian leaders of its position in the coming days, said foreign diplomats and other people familiar with the deliberations.
The planning is the brainchild of Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, who has told U.S. allies he believes the INF puts Washington in an “excessively weak position” against Russia “and more importantly China,” said a diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.
The president confirmed the intention to withdraw from the treaty this weekend:
President Donald Trump said Washington will exit the Cold-War era treaty that eliminated a class of nuclear weapons due to Russian violations, triggering a warning of retaliatory measures from Moscow.
The treaty has served U.S. and European security well for three decades. Casting aside a landmark arms control agreement risks starting a new destabilizing arms race with Russia at a time when relations with Moscow are already extremely poor. Withdrawing from the treaty amounts to letting Russia off the hook for its recent violations, and it gains the U.S. nothing except the ability to waste more resources on nuclear weapons that we don’t need. Killing the treaty isn’t going to remedy any of the things that critics complain about. China isn’t a party to the treaty and hasn’t been bound by its limitations, but it is difficult to see why the U.S. needs to be able to have land-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles in East Asia in any case. Giving up on an arms control treaty that has been largely successful for European security because it does not address new developments in another part of the world just creates a new problem without fixing any of the others.
Quitting the INF Treaty is just one example of Bolton’s reflexive hostility to any and all nonproliferation and arms control agreements. In addition to supporting withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Bolton is also resisting an extension of New START:
Former US officials say Bolton is blocking talks on extending the 2010 New Start treaty with Russia limiting deployed strategic nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. The treaty is due to expire in 2021 and Moscow has signaled its interest in an extension, but Bolton is opposing the resumption of a strategic stability dialogue to discuss the future of arms control between the two countries.
Extending New START should be an easy national security win for the Trump administration. There is no good reason to oppose the extension, just as there was no good reason to oppose its ratification. Bolton is ideologically opposed to the treaty, which he has previously declared to be “execrable,” and as long as he is National Security Advisor it seems very unlikely that the treaty will be extended. Quitting the INF Treaty and allowing New START to expire would represent the willful destruction of the most important arms control agreements that the U.S. has, and together they will have a very dangerous destabilizing effect on the security of Europe and the U.S.