Save the INF Treaty
Jon Wolfsthal calls on the Trump administration not to kill the INF Treaty:
Losing patience with Russia’s refusal to address legitimate concerns over its violation of the treaty is understandable, but the way Pompeo framed the problem says a great deal about how poorly the Trump administration is managing this sensitive issue. Pompeo told NATO, “the burden falls on Russia to make the necessary changes. Only they can save this treaty.” Having built a rare instance of NATO unity, which for the first time has unanimously stated that it believes Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty, U.S. President Donald Trump’s team seems more intent on using it as an opportunity to berate Russia than to save a valuable treaty that benefits European and global security. While Russia is to blame for its own violations, the United States will suffer just as much as Russia does if the treaty fails, and even more so if the collapse produces more discord than unity within the NATO alliance. By going the extra mile to save the treaty, instead of issuing ultimatums, the Trump administration might even pull out a win for once. Excuse me if I don’t hold my breath.
The INF Treaty is very much worth saving, and quitting it over a Russian violation is as short-sighted and self-defeating as can be. If the U.S. withdraws, there will be no chance of negotiating a replacement. Not only will the U.S. be held as the one most responsible for killing the treaty, but by ending it the Trump administration will be opening the door to an arms race that no one should want. The treaty is one of the most advantageous agreements to the U.S. that our government has ever negotiated, so it is extremely difficult to see how leaving the treaty benefits the U.S. Quitting the INF Treaty unfortunately fits the administration’s pattern of reneging on and abandoning agreements without giving any thought to the consequences of withdrawal. It makes no sense to give up on a treaty that has proven its worth to the U.S. and our European allies for more than thirty years.
The Trump administration has made the absolute minimum effort to resolve the dispute with Russia before quitting the treaty, and that makes it clear that they are just looking for an excuse to abandon it. If the U.S. gave up so easily on every agreement whenever there was a violation, it would not keep any of its agreements for very long. The bigger problem is that the administration’s determination to leave the treaty is driven more by Bolton’s ideological hostility to all arms control agreements than it is by any concern about any violations. The administration is seizing on Russian violations to withdraw from this treaty, but it also has no desire to keep New START alive, either. Letting New START die would be even more dangerous, but the administration isn’t interested in extending a treaty that Russia has complied with for almost eight years.