Home/Daniel Larison/Survey: Two-Thirds of Americans Want to Keep the INF Treaty

Survey: Two-Thirds of Americans Want to Keep the INF Treaty

National Security Advisor John Bolton attends meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Oct. 23, 2018. (Office of the Russian President/public domain)

A new survey finds broad public support for staying in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that Trump is killing:

Two-thirds of survey respondents oppose abandoning the treaty, and instead favor pursuing diplomacy to resolve the dispute over compliance by the Russians, according to the survey, conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland in conjunction with the University’s Center for International and Security Studies. The Center for Public Integrity provided consulting for the survey.

Even the majority of Trump’s fellow Republicans who were surveyed – 55 percent – said they oppose withdrawal from INF, including more than half (51 percent) of self-described Trump voters polled. Among Democrats, 77 percent of respondents said they favor sticking with the treaty.

The survey’s findings make clear that Trump’s decision to exit the treaty doesn’t have popular support, and it shows once again that there is broad public support for arms control agreements. Even among Republicans and Trump voters, more respondents favored sticking with the treaty despite Russian violations. This is one area where there is overall agreement between the public and most foreign policy professionals. The vast majority of arms control experts don’t support withdrawing from the treaty and argue there is nothing to be gained by doing so.

The INF Treaty is one of the most successful arms control treaties ever negotiated, and scrapping it does nothing to make the U.S. and our allies more secure. Giving up on the treaty is a dangerous and destabilizing move that undermines the foundation of all U.S.-Russian arms control, and it paves the way for allowing New START to expire without any attempt to keep it alive.

Abandoning the INF Treaty has been a long-held ambition of Republican hard-liners that have never seen an arms control agreement they didn’t want to oppose or destroy. National Security Advisor John Bolton is the worst of them. Dan Spinelli notes this in his recent article on the treaty:

It’s Bolton who many observers single out as the brains behind this move, given his historic opposition to arms control treaties of any kind. “John Bolton is a serial arms-control treaty killer,” Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation that advocates against nuclear proliferation, told Mother Jones. “He believes in the brute-force approach to strategic relations.”

Once the INF Treaty is gone, Bolton will have played a significant role in destroying or undermining four important arms control and nonproliferation agreements over the last twenty years, and killing off New START will make five. Each time that Bolton’s hard-line views have prevailed, U.S. and allied interests have suffered and the world has become more dangerous and unstable than it was before.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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