Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Radioactive ripple effect of unilateral withdrawal from atomic treaty

Over last weekend, President Donald Trump said the United States will withdraw from the Cold-War era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that eliminated a class of nuclear weapons due to what he called Russian violations, triggering a warning of retaliatory measures from Moscow.

(“Trump Says US to Exit Nuclear Treaty, Russia Vows Retaliation, Telesur, 21 October 2018;"" data-href="

"Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement so we're going to terminate the agreement and we're going to pull out," Your email has been successfully registered.Trump said, adding  the United States will develop the weapons unless Russia and China agree to a halt on development, triggering a warning of retaliatory measures from Moscow. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Sunday that a unilateral U.S. withdrawal would be "very dangerous" and lead to a "military-technical" retaliation. “We will, of course, accept no ultimatums or blackmail methods," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

US National Security Advisor, John Bolton, repeated Trump’s warnings at a meeting in Moscow with his Russian counterparts on Tuesday. (

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, required elimination of land-based short-range and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles by both countries.

China is not a party to the treaty and has invested heavily in conventional missiles, while the INF has banned US possession of ground-launched ballistic missiles or cruise missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 km (311 and 3,418 miles).

This announcement by Trump at a political rally in Texas, came a year after Mikhail S.Gorbachev (the final President of the Soviet Union, 1985-91) wrote in the Washington Post, “The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, however, is now in jeopardy. It has proved to be the most vulnerable link in the system of limiting and reducing weapons of mass destruction.There have been calls on both sides for scrapping the agreement.”Mikhail Gorbachev: My plea to the presidents of Russia and the United States,” Washington Post, October 11, 2017;

Trump’s announcement drew sharp criticism from the now frail 87–year old Gorbachev, who called the decision “reckless” and not the work of “a great mind” and a “ threat to peace.”

(“Gorbachev Calls Trump’s Nuclear Treaty Withdrawal ‘Not the Work of a Great Mind’” by Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times, 21 October 2018;

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson  told the chairperson of the Defence Select committee, Conservative MP Dr Julian Lewis, who had asked in defence questions: “What assessment have [the minister] and his Department made of whether that intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty [INF] treaty, which has been successful for so long, has now been violated by Russia?” that “It has been our clear and consistent view that Russia has been in breach of that treaty. We urge Russia to comply with the [INF] treaty.”(Hansard, 22 October 2018, column 16)

But German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that for 30 years the treaty had been a pillar of Europe's security architecture. "We now urge the United States to consider the possible consequences," of quitting the pact, Maas said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director at the London-based Royal United Services Institute observed:

“This is the most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s.If the INF treaty collapses, and with the New Start treaty on strategic arms due to expire in 2021, the world could be left without any limits on the nuclear arsenals of nuclear states for the first time since 1972.”

Dr Patricia Lewis, Research Director for International Security at Chatham House, another London-based think tank on international affairs, told Channel Four News on 23 October that some arms control experts believe the US has also been in violation of the INF treaty.

As Russia expert Abigail Stowe-Thurston, a research assistant for the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists, pointed ou tin August: “The 2019 [US] defense bill renews calls for the development of a new missile system that will not only violate the INF Treaty but also put the United States on a poor footing with its European allies,”

(“The wrong response to Russia’s INF Treaty violation,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 31, 2018;

US commentators have also suggested that the Trump administration does not want to develop new nuclear nuclear–armed cruise missiles, but to equip them with advanced conventional weapons.

President Trump’s predilection to unilaterally withdraw US membership from both bilateral (such as  INF) and multilateral ( such as the Paris Climate Change  accord)  treaties means other states will be much more cautious in future in signing international agreements with the United States.

Ambassador Bolton announced after his Moscow meetings that the US and Russia have agreed to a new bilateral meeting  on nuclear arms control next month, on November 11th, when the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War is commemorated in Paris.

We will see what happens soon.

(“Bolton Rejects Russian Entreaties to Stay in Nuclear Treaty,” New York Times, October 24, 2018;

In his opening remarks to Mr. Bolton on Tuesday, Mr. Putin joked that the olive branches seemed missing from the eagle’s talon on the Great Seal of the United States.

“As I recall, there is a bald eagle picture,” Mr. Putin said. “It holds 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other as a symbol of peaceful policy, a branch with 13 olives. My question: Has your eagle already eaten all the olives leaving only the arrows?”


Trump and Bolton try to dismantle the INF Treaty

By Elisabeth Eaves, October 22, 2018

The BGM-109G, a ground-launched cruise missile shown here at the National Museum of the US Air Force, was one of the US weapons banned by the INF. (Photo credit: US Air Force.)The BGM-109G, a ground-launched cruise missile shown here at the National Museum of the US Air Force, was one of the US weapons banned by the INF. (Photo credit: US Air Force.)

As the name suggests, an intermediate-range nuclear missile is one that goes a medium distance. In weapons speak, that means 500 to 5,500 kilometers, so, for instance, from Russia to Western Europe and vice versa, but not from Russia to Los Angeles. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union built up their intermediate-range nuclear arsenals in Western and Eastern Europe respectively, until the whole landmass bristled with projectiles capable of obliterating entire cities. Finally recognizing that things were getting out of hand, not to mention awfully expensive, US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gobachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, in 1987. It was a major landmark for nuclear nonproliferation; as the Arms Control Association explains, “The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification.”

Reagan is long gone, Gorbachev, at 87, long out of office, and now that seminal agreement appears to be on its deathbed. Since 2014, the United States has charged Russia with violating the INF. (Back in 2015, Bulletin columnist Pavel Podvig examined what, exactly, Russia was developing that was leading to the US accusations.) On Saturday, US President Donald Trump declared he would soon pull his country out of the INF, and said “we’ll have to develop those weapons,” the Guardian reported. The groundwork has already been laid: As Abigail Stowe-Thurston wrote in the Bulletin in August, “The 2019 [US] defense bill renews calls for the development of a new missile system that will not only violate the INF Treaty but also put the United States on a poor footing with its European allies.”

In short, it seems that at least some players in both countries are chomping at the bit to develop and deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles once again. David A. Wemer at the Atlantic Council offers a good analysis in which he notes, “Although the Obama administration identified the Russian violations, support for a US withdrawal from the INF Treaty did not gain steam until the start of the Trump administration.” John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser and an advocate for pulling out of the INF—and pretty much all treaties—plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.


Russia nuclear treaty: Gorbachev warns Trump plan will undermine disarmament

Gorbachev and a missileReuters and EPA Mr Gorbachev has questioned the sense of withdrawing from the INF

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev says US President Trump's plan to withdraw from a key Cold War nuclear weapons treaty is a reversal of efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament.

Mr Gorbachev - who signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with President Reagan in 1987 - questioned the plan's intelligence.

Mr Trump said Russia had been "violating [the INF] for many years".

Russia has condemned the plans and threatened to retaliate.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin would be seeking an explanation from visiting US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Germany was the first US ally to criticise the move, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urging Washington to consider the consequences both for Europe and for future disarmament efforts.

The INF banned ground-launched medium-range missiles, with a range of between 500 and 5,500km (310-3,400 miles).

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signing the INF treaty in 1987AFP Mr Gorbachev and Mr Reagan signed the INF treaty in 1987

It was signed near the end of the Cold War, a period of relations between the US and the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1989 marked by intense international tension and overshadowed by the threat of nuclear conflict.

In the past five decades the US and Russia have signed a range of joint agreements to limit and reduce their substantial nuclear arsenals.

Who is Mikhail Gorbachev?

  • The last General Secretary of the Soviet Union
  • Appointed in 1985, his domestic reforms and nuclear disarmament deals helped end the Cold War
  • Resigned as Soviet president in 1991 after Soviet republics declared independence

What exactly has Trump said?

President Trump said the US would not let Russia "go out and do weapons [while] we're not allowed to".

"I don't know why President [Barack] Obama didn't negotiate or pull out," the president said of the INF treaty after a campaign rally in Nevada.

In 2014, President Obama accused Russia of breaching the INF after it allegedly tested a ground-launched cruise missile. He reportedly chose not to withdraw from the treaty under pressure from European leaders, who said such a move could restart an arms race.

How has Russia responded?

"This would be a very dangerous step that, I'm sure, not only will not be comprehended by the international community but will provoke serious condemnation," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

The treaty is "significant for international security and security in the sphere of nuclear arms, for the maintenance of strategic stability," he told state news agency Tass.

The minister also told the news agency RIA Novosti that if the US continued to behave "clumsily and crudely" and backed out of international agreements, "then we will have no choice but to undertake retaliatory measures, including involving military technology".

"But we would not want to get to this stage," he added.

Presentational grey line

'A significant setback'

Analysis by BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus

Concern about Russia's development and deployment of a missile system that breaches the INF treaty predates the Trump administration. But the president's decision to walk away from the agreement marks a significant setback for arms control.

Many experts believe that negotiations should have continued to try to bring the Russians back into compliance. It is, they fear, part of the wider unravelling of the whole system of arms control treaties that helped to curb strategic competition during the Cold War.

Other factors too may have played into President Trump's decision. This was a bilateral treaty between Washington and Moscow. China was free to develop and deploy intermediate range nuclear missiles. Some in the Trump administration feel that the INF treaty places them at a growing disadvantage in their developing strategic rivalry with Beijing .

Presentational grey line

Has Russia breached the treaty?

The US insists the Russians have, in breach of the deal, developed a new medium-range missile called the Novator 9M729 - known to Nato as the SSC-8.

It would enable Russia to launch a nuclear strike at Nato countries at very short notice.

Russia has said little about its new missile other than to deny that it is in breach of the agreement. Analysts say Russia sees such weapons as a cheaper alternative to conventional forces.

The New York Times reported on Friday the US was considering withdrawing from the treaty in a bid to counter China's expanding military presence in the western Pacific. China was not a signatory of the deal, allowing it to develop medium-range missiles without restraint.

The last time the US withdrew from a major arms treaty was in 2002, when President George W Bush pulled the US out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned weapons designed to counter ballistic nuclear missiles.

His administration's move to set up a missile shield in Europe alarmed the Kremlin, and was scrapped by the Obama administration in 2009. It was replaced by a modified defence system in 2016.

What is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty?

  • Signed by the US and the USSR in 1987, the arms control deal banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges, except sea-launched weapons
  • The US had been concerned by the Soviet deployment of the SS-20 missile system and responded by placing Pershing and Cruise missiles in Europe - sparking widespread protests
  • By 1991, nearly 2,700 missiles had been destroyed. Both countries were allowed to inspect the others installations
  • In 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared the treaty no longer served Russia's interests. The move came after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002


Trump is creating a nuclear threat worse than the cold war


In ditching the treaty with Russia, the US president risks an arms race with multiple nuclear powers

Guardian,Tuesday,  23 October 2018

A Russian Iskander-M tactical missile: ‘Trump’s decision, if implemented, fires a starting gun in a second global arms race.’

A Russian Iskander-M tactical missile: ‘Trump’s decision, if implemented, fires a starting gun in a second global arms race.’ Photograph: Konstantin Alysh/Defence Ministry handout/EPA

Whoa! There he goes again. Donald Trump’s impulsive decision to rubbish a landmark arms control treaty and develop a new generation of American nuclear weapons deals another devastating, dangerous blow to the rules-based global order. It seems Trump only has to look at an international treaty or a multilateral institution, and he is overcome by an irresistible urge to tear it down.

The man is a menace, that much is true. This latest piece of wilful vandalism will put everyone at greater risk. It’s terrible news for all who seek a nuclear-free world. It’s a significant backwards step away from the obligation of all declared nuclear weapons states, under the 1970 nonproliferation treaty, to reduce and eliminate their arsenals. It’s a reckless, irresponsible act.

But that’s not the worst of it. Trump’s decision, if implemented, fires a starting gun in a second-phase global arms race that could be even more frightening than the two-sided superpower contest that halted when the Soviet Union imploded. The world has changed since 1991. This time around, the race could be many dimensional and multipolar, making it harder to contain. This time, the threat of mutual annihilation will be replaced by multilateral assured destruction.

Trump’s double standard also extends to Iran – ironically, the only country that has kept its nuclear word

It’s possible Trump’s announcement could be a ploy, intended to pressure the Russians in a week when John Bolton, his national security adviser, is holding talks in Moscow. It would be typical of this president to threaten Armageddon only to make nice later, as he did with North Korea. Trouble is, Vladimir Putin is no weak, marginalised actor, like Kim Jong-un. The Kremlin has vowed to match new US weapons, warhead for warhead.

Specifically, Trump justifies his decision by saying Russia’s deployment of new, mobile, medium-range, land-based, nuclear-capable cruise missiles breaches the 1987 intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty. It’s not a new problem; Barack Obama wrestled with it. And the west knows, to its cost, that Putin is in offensive mode on a range of fronts. In March, he ostentatiously displayed Russia’s modernised arms chest, unveiling a 15-warhead long-range missile, wizard underwater drones and a hypersonic missile called the “dagger” that could, he said, strike like a meteorite.

Such juvenile bragging aside, Russia maintains – with some justice – that it is the Americans who have undermined the INF pact by spending billions of dollars on upgrading existing nuclear weapons systems and making them more “usable” by lowering their explosive yields. Fundamentally threatening, from Moscow’s perspective, was George W Bush’s unilateral decision in 2002 to quit the 30-year-old anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty, another cold war arms-control building block. Russia says the subsequent US deployment of antimissile defences – the current Nato-run “missile shield” is based in Poland and Romania – tipped the European balance of forces against Moscow.

Trump’s INF decision also reflects American concern, shared by the Russians, about China – which is not bound by the agreement, and is developing medium-range systems. A possible future threat to Russia’s far east is another reason why Putin believes he needs the mobile, land-launched missiles. Given rising military confrontation between American, Chinese and other nations’ forces in the South China Sea, and Beijing’s aggressive stance towards Taiwan, it is not hard to see why generals on all sides, mired in old, cold-war thinking, take a similar view.

Minor-league nuclear-armed states, such as the UK and France, cannot escape a share of blame for this across-the-board deterioration in nuclear security. London and Paris can barely afford their nukes, financially or morally. They are less an “independent deterrent”, more a forlorn symbol of forfeited great power status. Both governments should set an example to unmonitored nuclear states such as Israel, Pakistan and India, and others who may in future seek to “go nuclear”, by unilaterally disarming. But even Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong anti-nuclear campaigner, cannot bring himself to promise that, lest it derail his political ambitions.

All of which brings us back to Trump, and the breathtaking hypocrisy of a man who last year threatened to “completely destroy” North Korea because it had the temerity to build atomic bombs. Trump insists Kim must disarm totally – even as he plans to expand the US nuclear arsenal. Has the White House considered how this may affect Pyongyang’s willingness to talk peace?

Trump’s double standard also extends to Iran – ironically, the only country that has kept its nuclear word. Tehran faces extreme US sanctions despite its scrupulous adherence to the multilateral 2015 nuclear deal that Trump jettisoned earlier this year. Iran’s leaders will look at this latest exercise in treaty-busting and say America, once again, has shown that its solemn word cannot be trusted. Hardliners will argue it proves the case for an Iranian bomb.

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If Trump goes ahead, and the Kremlin responds in kind, it could mean the return to Europe after 30 years of US land-based missiles, dread offspring of the cruise and Pershing missiles whose deployment in the 1980s was resisted by CND and the Greenham Common women’s peace camp. Alternatively, there could be major new deployments of US air- and sea-launched missiles, plus renewed pressure on Nato countries to put more cash in the kitty.

The trashing of the INF treaty could also kill off an arguably even more important pact, the New Start strategic weapons reduction treaty, negotiated by Obama in 2010, whose renewal in 2021 is already far from certain. In short, the knock-on effects of Trump’s act of gross irresponsibility are globally destabilising, unpredictable and wildly risky. They point to a world for ever ruled by fear of nuclear destruction. But then, fear is how Trump works.



Trump’s Punk Rock Nuclear Policy

The only reason to pull out of the INF Treaty is to give a middle finger to the world.

Jeffrey LewisOctober 23, 2018, 5:07 PM

Donald Trump talks with journalists during a rally against the Iran nuclear deal in Washington on Sept. 9, 2015. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Donald Trump talks with journalists during a rally against the Iran nuclear deal in Washington on Sept. 9, 2015. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)"

Why did President Donald Trump announce that the United States would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty? If you are asking this question, you are already wrong.

You would be wrong because you are looking for a strategic rationale or a policy explanation. And to be sure, some experts will offer those rationales. Russia is violating the INF Treaty. (Probably true.) China is not a party to the agreement and has a bunch of missiles, including nuclear-armed ones, with ranges that would be prohibited if it were. (Definitely true.) Other countries have missiles that would be prohibited were they members, including India, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia (thanks China!), and South Korea. (True, with that list likely to grow.) But this will be a post hoc effort, as analysts seek to explain the campaign stylings of Trump, hoping for a job or maybe just trying to make the best of a bad situation.

While each of these is a reason, not a single one of them is the reason that Trump said on Saturday, “We’re going to terminate the agreement, and we’re going to pull out.” After all, in 2011, John Bolton, now Trump’s national security advisor, called for withdrawing from the INF Treaty because the pact didn’t address “today’s strategic threats,” most notably Iran. Of course, that wasn’t the reason either.

The United States and the Soviet Union signed the INF Treaty in 1987. It bans land-based intermediate- and short-range missiles between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. (Despite the word “nuclear” in the title, it bans all land-based missiles within that range, not just nuclear ones.) The United States was long fine with the treaty since it did not ban those same missiles as long as they were deployed on ships or delivered aircraft. But the Russians gradually grew to feel the treaty was constraining given that other countries around it—including China, India, Iran, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, and South Arabia—all had missiles in this range. After years of complaining that the agreement should be made worldwide, the Russians started nibbling around the edges, eventually (according to the U.S. government) violating it with a fancy new cruise missile, the 9M729. That left former President Barack Obama, and then Trump, to decide what to do about cheating. Obama tried, half-heartedly, to persuade Russia to return to compliance. Trump killed the treaty.

But that is a backstory, not a reason. The fact is, there is no reason—at least, not the sort of reason one might study in an international relations class. Back when Bolton penned that op-ed in 2011 with Paula DeSutter, I realized that it wasn’t really an explanation at all. It was more like, well, a tube of lube.

About the Author

Jeffrey Lewis is director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey@ArmsControlWonk

In Jean Genet’s The Thief’s Journal, he recounts how he was arrested by the Spanish police, who, when confiscating his things, discovered that he had a tube of Vaseline. The context here is important—to the Spanish police in the Francisco Franco-era, that tube of Vaseline was an unmistakable sign of homosexuality. While the object draws homophobic torment and ridicule from the police, Genet begins to the see the object as holding a sort of power: “I was sure that this puny and most humble object would hold its own against them,” he wrote, “by its mere presence it would be able to exasperate all the police in the world; it would draw upon itself contempt, hatred, white and dumb rages.”

Genet, in other words, loved to shock the normies. The sociologist Dick Hebdige used this passage from Genet to illustrate an important idea about the power of objects to shock and discomfort, or as he put it, “the idea of style as a form of Refusal.” Hebdige was interested in subcultures—“the teddy boys and mods and rockers, the skinheads and the punks”—and how “the tensions between dominant and subordinate groups can be found reflected in the surfaces of subculture — in the styles made up of mundane objects which have a double meaning.” In other words, Hebdige understood that the discomfort one might feel in looking at a safety pin through a punk’s nose is precisely the point of the pin. It matters to them that you think it looks awful.

I don’t know why, but Hebdige and his work leaped into mind in 2011 when I read Bolton and DeSutter’s op-ed. It was obvious to me that we were mistaken in understanding the purpose of the object, typeset words printed on thin paper. We should “not mistake the words for an exercise in persuasion,” I realized, “just as we would not confuse the safety-pin through a punk’s nose with a careful analysis of strategic stability.”

Trump’s announcement, made clearly in the context of a campaign rally, is obviously in that same vein. It should be obvious, in an era where “triggering the libs” is an actual reason, that the decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty wasn’t made on the basis of some model showing the balance of nuclear forces.

But what is less obvious is how clear this tendency was long before Trump took office. Bolton and DeSutter’s op-ed, seven years on, looks a lot like a template for the Trump era. Words that mimic the forms of inquiry but that are intended to shock and outrage. Long before Steve Bannon entered the scene, Bolton called himself an “Americanist” and decried the influence of “Globalists,” whom he accused way back in 2000 of “belittling our popular sovereignty and constitutionalism, and restricting both our domestic and our international policy flexibility and power.”

John Bolton, the national security advisor to the U.S. president, gives a press conference in Moscow on Oct. 23. (Yuri Kadovnov/ AFP)



The problem with looking for a reason for Trump’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty is that Bolton, at a fundamental level, would object to needing a reason. After all, needing a reason would seem to imply that there might be some case where the United States would willingly accept some international treaty or agreement that limited the exercise of its sovereignty. Bolton rejects that possibility outright, with almost every treaty an affront to American exceptionalism. “Every time America is forced to bend its knee to international pressure,” Bolton wrote, “it sets a significant, and detrimental, precedent for all of the others.” As an example of this, Bolton cites the death penalty, which he lauds as a “textbook demonstration of popular sovereignty at work” and a result that “enrages the Globalists.”

The problem with looking for a reason for Trump’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty is that Bolton, at a fundamental level, would object to needing a reason.

(Seriously, you should read Bolton’s 2000 essay in the Chicago Journal of International Law on “Should We Take Global Governance Seriously?”)

What is also clearer is how hard the community of experts and pundits has been working to back-fit some reasonable explanation to this profound act of unreason. Almost no one accurately describes Bolton’s worldview in the stark terms that he himself uses. That’s strange because that worldview appealed to Trump, who has a certain affection for the popular sovereignty of an execution. Clothing Trump’s willfulness in secondhand arguments simply helps to obscure the real motivations and normalize the dysfunction.

So let’s not do that. The reason, such that it is, is as clear and striking as the safety pin in a punk’s nose. We can go screw ourselves.

Jeffrey Lewis is director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. @ArmsControlWonk



Trump says US will withdraw from nuclear arms treaty with Russia

Experts warn of ‘most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s’ as Trump confirms US will leave INF agreement

Julian Borger in Washington, Martin Pengelly in New York and agencies

Sun 21 Oct 2018 02.29 

Donald Trump in Nevada on Saturday. He said: ‘We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.’

Donald Trump in Nevada on Saturday. He said: ‘We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.’ Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Donald Trump has confirmed the US will leave an arms control treaty with Russia dating from the cold war that has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades.

“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” the president told reporters in Nevada after a rally. “We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”

Trump was referring to the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF), which banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500km to 5,500km. Signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, it led to nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated, and an end to a dangerous standoff between US Pershing and cruise missiles and Soviet SS-20 missiles in Europe.

UK backs Trump withdrawal from Russia nuclear treaty

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The Guardian reported on Friday that Trump’s third national security adviser, John Bolton, a longstanding opponent of arms control treaties, was pushing for US withdrawal. The US says Russia has been violating the INF agreement with the development and deployment of a new cruise missile. Under the terms of the treaty, it would take six months for US withdrawal to take effect.

US hawks have also argued that the INF treaty ties the country’s hands in its strategic rivalry with China in the Pacific, with no response to Chinese medium-range missiles that could threaten US bases, allies and shipping.

Bolton and the top arms control adviser in the National Security Council (NSC), Tim Morrison, are also opposed to the extension of another major pillar of arms control, the 2010 New Start agreement with Russia, which limited the number of deployed strategic warheads on either side to 1,550. That agreement, signed by Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, then president of Russia, is due to expire in 2021.

This is the most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s

Speaking to reporters in Nevada, Trump said: “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out.

 “We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons and we’re not allowed to. We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honoured the agreement but Russia has not unfortunately honoured the agreement so we’re going to terminate the agreement, we’re going to pull out.”

Asked to clarify, the president said: “Unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and they say, ‘Let’s all of us get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons,’ but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable. So we have a tremendous amount of money to play with with our military.”

Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said: “This is a colossal mistake. Russia gets to violate the treaty and Trump takes the blame.

“I doubt very much that the US will deploy much that would have been prohibited by the treaty. Russia, though, will go gangbusters.”

John Bolton addresses a press conference following a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Geneva.


John Bolton addresses a press conference following a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Geneva. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Russian state news agencies on Saturday cited a foreign ministry source as saying Washington’s move to pull out of the treaty is motivated by a dream of a single global superpower.

 “The main motive is a dream of a unipolar world. Will it come true? No,” a foreign ministry source told Ria Novosti state news agency.

The official said that Russia has “many times publicly denounced the US policy course towards dismantling the nuclear deal”.

US Nato envoy's threat to Russia: stop developing missile or we'll 'take it out'

Washington “has approached this step over the course of many years by deliberately and step-by-step destroying the basis for the agreement,” the official said, quoted by Russia’s three main news agencies.

“This decision is part of the US policy course to withdraw from those international legal agreements that place equal responsibilities on it and its partners and make vulnerable its concept of its own ‘exceptionalism’.”

Russian senator Alexei Pushkov wrote on Twitter that the move was “the second powerful blow against the whole system of strategic stability in the world, with the first being Washington’s 2001 withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile treaty”.

“And again the initiator of the dissolution of the agreement is the US,” Pushkov wrote.

The Pentagon has been generally supportive of the INF treaty but defense secretary James Mattis warned other Nato ministers earlier this month it would no longer be tenable if Russia did not withdraw its Novator ground-based missile, which the US has argued for nearly four years violates the INF range restrictions.

Nato ministers issued a joint statement saying the INF agreement “has been crucial to Euro-Atlantic security and we remain fully committed to the preservation of this landmark arms control treaty”. But they urged Russia to come clean about the capabilities of its new missile.

This president who is constantly telling us he is deal-maker has failed utterly to save Reagan’s nuclear legacy

Alexandra Bell, Centre for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation

The Chinese arsenal has also been a source of concern for the US Pacific Command. Its former commander, Adm Harry Harris, told the Senate in March: “We have no ground-based capability that can threaten China because of, among other things, our rigid adherence, and rightfully so, to the treaty that we sign on to, the INF treaty.”

Lewis disagreed that the INF leaves the US at a significant disadvantage in the Pacific.

“The China stuff is nonsense,” he said. “INF does not prohibit sea- and air-based systems, not does it prohibit South Korea and Japan from developing long-range missiles. If China were a real problem, the US and its allies could have acted long ago.”

Alexandra Bell, a former senior state department official and now senior policy director at the Centre for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, said: “When problems arise in arms control, you work and fix them.

 “What shocks me is that this president who is constantly telling us he is deal-maker has failed utterly to save Reagan’s nuclear legacy. He did nothing with his relationship with Putin. There were trades to be made to fix this treaty and he couldn’t pull it off.”

She added: “Why would the North Koreans have any reason to believe in any deal made with this president, with Bolton whispering in his ear.”

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

US Nato envoy's threat to Russia: stop developing missile or we'll 'take it out'

  • Kay Bailey Hutchison seems to raise prospect of strike
  • Washington says cruise missile breaks 1987 INF treaty

Julian Borger in Washington

Tue 2 Oct 2018 16.17 

Kay Bailey Hutchison said: ‘We would then be looking at a capability to take out a missile that could his any of our countries in Europe and hit America in Alaska.’

Kay Bailey Hutchison said: ‘We would then be looking at a capability to take out a missile that could his any of our countries in Europe and hit America in Alaska.’ Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

The US ambassador to Nato has warned Russia that if it does not halt the development of a new cruise missile in violation of a treaty between the countries, the US will “take out” the missile.

Kay Bailey Hutchison was speaking to reporters about a longstanding issue of contention, a Russian ground-launched cruise missile which Washington says breaks the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

US and Russian nuclear arsenals set to be unchecked for first time since 1972

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Moscow has denied the charge, and the Trump administration has announced plans to develop its own medium-range cruise missile in response, raising the spectre of a new nuclear arms race.

But Hutchison went further in her remarks and appeared to suggest the possibility of a pre-emptive strike when the Russian missiles became operational.

“The counter-measures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty,” the envoy said, mistakenly referring to the missile in question as a ballistic missile, rather than a cruise missile. She also suggested the missile, known as 9M729, was still in development, even though the US accused Russia of deploying it last year.

“Getting them to withdraw would be our choice, of course. But I think the question was what would you do if this continues to a point where we know that they are capable of delivering. And at that point we would then be looking at a capability to take out a missile that could hit any of our countries in Europe and hit America in Alaska.”

The Russian foreign ministry accused Hutchison of dangerous rhetoric.

“It seems that people who make such statements do not realise the level of their responsibility and the danger of aggressive rhetoric,” the ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said, according to Tass news agency.

A few hours later, Hutchison clarified her remarks on Twitter, insisting she was “not talking about preemptively striking Russia”, adding that Russia “needs to return to INF Treaty compliance or we will need to match its capabilities to protect US and Nato interests”.

Hutchison did not specifically explain what she meant by her warning that the US would “take out” the Russian missile.

A US threat of a pre-emptive strike against Russia would be unprecedented since the end of the cold war, and a dangerous new departure in rhetoric and military posture towards Russia.

“If she is saying that if the diplomatic route doesn’t work we will destroy the missiles, that’s obviously dangerous and risks triggering a war that could go nuclear,” Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association, said. “I cannot recall anything like this in the post cold-war period.”

Some nuclear experts speculated that Hutchison may have misspoken, and meant to say that the US would develop ways of destroying the Russian missile for use in the event of a conflict.

Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists, said: “I don’t think the Nato ambassador is threatening pre-emptive attacks against Russian development of INF weapons. She did a poor job in trying to repeat what the US has been saying for several years; that it is contemplating measures in response to the Russian INF violation.

“That can include tweaking existing strike capabilities to hold the new weapons at risk, developing new ones for potential deployment, and/or increasing economic and political pressure on Moscow to return to compliance.”

Kristensen said: “This is going to feed right into the paranoia of Russian planners. She will definitely have to make a follow-up statement to clarify what she intended to say.”



Mikhail Gorbachev: My plea to the presidents of Russia and the United States

Mikhail Gorbachev

Washington Post, October 11, 2017

Mikhail Gorbachev was leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991.

This December will mark the 30th anniversary of the signing of the treaty between the Soviet Union and United States on the elimination of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. This was the start of the process of radically cutting back nuclear arsenals, which was continued with the 1991 and 2010 strategic arms reduction treaties and the agreements reducing tactical nuclear weapons.

The scale of the process launched in 1987 is evidenced by the fact that, as Russia and the United States reported to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2015, 80 percent of the nuclear weapons accumulated during the Cold War have been decommissioned and destroyed. Another important fact is that, despite the recent serious deterioration in bilateral relations, both sides have been complying with the strategic weapons agreements.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, however, is now in jeopardy. It has proved to be the most vulnerable link in the system of limiting and reducing weapons of mass destruction. There have been calls on both sides for scrapping the agreement.

So what is happening, what is the problem, and what needs to be done?

Both sides have raised issues of compliance, accusing the other of violating or circumventing the treaty's key provisions. From the sidelines, lacking fuller information, it is difficult to evaluate those accusations. But one thing is clear: The problem has a political as well as a technical aspect. It is up to the political leaders to take action.

Therefore I am making an appeal to the presidents of Russia and the United States.

Relations between the two nations are in a severe crisis. A way out must be sought, and there is one well-tested means available for accomplishing this: a dialogue based on mutual respect.

It will not be easy to cut through the logjam of issues on both sides. But neither was our dialogue easy three decades ago. It had its critics and detractors, who tried to derail it.

In the final analysis, it was the political will of the two nations' leaders that proved decisive. And that is what's needed now. This is what our two countries' citizens and people everywhere expect from the presidents of Russia and the United States.

I call upon Russia and the United States to prepare and hold a full-scale summit on the entire range of issues. It is far from normal that the presidents of major nuclear powers meet merely "on the margins" of international gatherings. I hope that the process of preparing a proper summit is in the works even now.

I believe that the summit meeting should focus on the problems of reducing nuclear weapons and strengthening strategic stability. For should the system of nuclear arms control collapse, as may well happen if the INF Treaty is scrapped, the consequences, both direct and indirect, will be disastrous.

The closer that nuclear weapons are deployed to borders, the more dangerous they are: There is less time for a decision and greater risk of catastrophic error. And what will happen to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if the nuclear arms race begins anew? I am afraid it will be ruined.

If, however, the INF Treaty is saved, it will send a powerful signal to the world that the two biggest nuclear powers are aware of their responsibility and take their obligations seriously. Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief, and relations between Russia and the United States will finally get off the ground again.

I am confident that preparing a joint presidential statement on the two nations' commitment to the INF Treaty is a realistic goal. Simultaneously, the technical issues could be resolved; for this purpose, the joint control commission under the INF Treaty could resume its work. I am convinced that, with an impetus from the two presidents, the generals and diplomats would be able to reach agreement.

We are living in a troubled world. It is particularly disturbing that relations between the major nuclear powers, Russia and the United States, have become a serious source of tensions and a hostage to domestic politics. It is time to return to sanity. I am sure that even inveterate opponents of normalizing U.S.-Russian relations will not dare object to the two presidents. These critics have no arguments on their side, for the very fact that the INF Treaty has been in effect for 30 years proves that it serves the security interests of our two countries and of the world.

In any undertaking, it is important to take the first step. In 1987, the first step in the difficult but vitally important process of ridding the world of nuclear weapons was the INF Treaty. Today, we face a dual challenge of preventing the collapse of the system of nuclear agreements and reversing the downward spiral in U.S.-Russian relations. It is time to take the first step.

Dr Kate Hudson, general secretary of CND wrote:

:Yesterday Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). This is a dangerous and destabilising move with the potential to take us back to the worst days of the Cold War. It unleashes the possibility, not only of a spiralling nuclear arms race, but of greater numbers of US nuclear weapons coming to Europe. At a time when President Trump’s recent new Nuclear Posture Review commits to ‘usable’ nuclear weapons, and his Defence Strategy ramps up the conflict with Russia and China, this is not good news.

The reality is that the last time these missiles came to Europe, they were designed for the US’s nuclear war to be fought in Europe. Nothing I have heard so far in the ongoing debate over US withdrawal leads me to think that the situation will be different now.

Signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987, the INF treaty banned ground-launched nuclear missiles with ranges from 500km to 5,500km and led to nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated. It meant cruise missiles were removed from Britain and Pershing, cruise and SS-20 missiles from continental Europe. Tearing up the INF Treaty will mark the end of those restraints on nuclear arsenals achieved in the 1980s. It will open the way for the return of cruise-type missiles to Europe – and the increased potential for nuclear war on our continent.

In the 1980s, the deployment of cruise and Pershing marked a massive escalation of the arms race because they greatly reduced the time it took to hit Soviet cities such as Moscow from bases in western Europe, without any equivalent siting of state-of-the-art missiles closer to the population centres of the US. The siting of Soviet SS-20s was used as a justification for the siting of cruise and Pershing, but they did not have the capacity to strike the US. It was for the Soviets exactly the kind of threat that the US had argued it faced from Soviet missiles if they were based in Cuba.

Since  the Cuban Missile Crisis, it had generally been assumed that the ability of the US and Soviet Union to annihilate each other many times over meant that no government would be mad enough to actually start a nuclear war. The prospect of ‘mutual assured destruction’ was believed to mean that deterrence worked and that meant, coupled with d├ętente and arms-limitation talks, that popular fear of nuclear war had receded. Cruise and Pershing missiles changed all that.

The real significance of the new missiles was that they made feasible the prospect of ‘limited nuclear war’ confined to the European theatre. In fact this was made absolutely clear in a government publication at the time. Using the same argumentation that Trump uses to back the development of ‘usable’ nukes, it suggested that faced with the choice of surrender or all-out nuclear war:

‘Having smaller medium-range nuclear weapons could give us another choice in those circumstances – allowing us to bring home to the Russians the appalling risks they would run if they pressed us further. The aim of using them would be to persuade the Russian leadership – even at the eleventh hour – to draw back.’[1]

In other words, cruise was to be used within Europe to avoid the superpowers attacking each other with long-range missiles! This idea of ‘limiting’ nuclear war to Europe provoked horror in the countries where it would take place.

We understood that in the 1980s and we mobilised against it. The INF Treaty was in large part a result of massive international protest against nuclear escalation in the 1980s, including CND protests against cruise missiles which mobilised hundreds of thousands of people. The iconic Greenham peace camp was part of that wave of protest. As a result of the protests and the Treaty, cruise was removed from Britain and across Europe, and Greenham was returned to common land.

Our government’s unforgivable support for Trump’s action cannot go unchallenged. We cannot accept these missiles back in Britain, to put us on the front line in Trump’s nuclear wars. Today we must stand resolutely against this return to the nuclear escalation of the Cold War and CND calls on all peoples once again to reject these moves.

[1] Government publication, Cruise Missiles: A vital part of the West’s Life Insurance, undated.

“INF crisis: No cruise missiles back in Britain,” CND Blog, October 22, 2018;





Trump’s Counterproductive Decision to “Terminate” the INF Treaty
Volume 10, Issue 9, October 21, 2018


Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, 202-463-8270 x107; Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament Policy, 202-463-8270 x104

Under the influence of his new National Security Advisor, John Bolton, Trump announced Saturday at a campaign rally that he will “terminate” a key nuclear arms control agreement that helped end the Cold War race–the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in response to a long-running dispute over Russian noncompliance with the treaty.

The decision represents 
a shift in the administration’s INF response strategy  which was announced in January and before Bolton joined the administration.

Trump’s move to blow-up the INF Treaty is unnecessary and self-defeating wrong turn that could lead to an unconstrained and dangerous nuclear arms competition with Russia.

The breakdown of the agreement and uncertain future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) creates the most serious nuclear arms control crisis in decades.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said today that the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty is “unacceptable” and “dangerous.” Russia continues to assert that there is no basis for the U.S. claim that Russia has violated the treaty, but the Russian Foreign Ministry said “there is still room for dialogue."

Bolton meets Monday in Moscow with President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov.

The INF Treaty Still Matters 

 INF Treaty, which was negotiated by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km (300 to 3,500 miles).

The treaty successfully eliminated an entire class of destabilizing nuclear weapons that were deployed in Europe and helped bring an end to the spiraling Cold War arms race. It has been a cornerstone of the U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control architecture. And as NATO defense ministers said earlier this month, the INF Treaty “has been crucial to Euro-Atlantic security.”

Without the INF Treaty, we will likely see the return of Cold War-style tensions over U.S. and Russian deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and elsewhere.

Russian Noncompliance

The INF Treaty, while very successful, has been at risk for some time. 
In 2014, Washington charged that Moscow had tested a weapon, the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, at a range beyond the limit set by the treaty. In 2017 the Pentagon declared the Moscow had begun deploying the weapon.

Russia denies that it has violated the treaty and asked the United States to divulge the technical details behind the charge. Moscow has expressed its own concerns about U.S. compliance with the pact, notably that U.S. missile defense interceptor platforms deployed in eastern Europe could be used for offense purposes that would violate the treaty.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue have been limited and to date unsuccessful. Since Trump took office, U.S. and Russian officials have met only twice to try to resolve the compliance dispute.

neither side has exhausted the diplomatic options that could resolve their concerns.

U.S. Withdrawal Would Be An “Own Goal.” 

Trump claims that the United States is pulling out to show Russia that it will not tolerate Russia’s alleged violation of the treaty. “We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” Trump said.

Trump may want to sound tough, but the reality is that withdrawing from the treaty weakens U.S. and allied security and does not provide the United States any military advantage in Europe or elsewhere.
  • U.S. withdrawal does nothing to bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty and it distracts from the fact that it was Russia’s actions that precipitated the INF Treaty crisis. 
  • U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty opens the door for Russia to produce and deploy the missile of concern, the 9M729, in greater numbers without any constraints.
  • There is no military need for the United States to develop, as Trump has proposed, a new and costly INF Treaty-noncompliant missile. The United States can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets that ground-launched missiles that are prohibited by INF Treaty would. 
  • NATO does not support a new INF Treaty-range missile in Europe and no country has offered to host it. Attempting to force the alliance to accept a new, potentially nuclear missile would divide the alliance in ways that would delight the Kremlin.
Even without the INF Treaty in force, the U.S. Congress and NATO governments should reject Trump’s push to develop a new U.S. ground-based INF Treaty-range missile in Europe (or elsewhere), and instead focus on maintaining conventional military preparedness to deter adversaries without violating the treaty.

Does the United States Need Ground-launched, INF Treaty-Range Missiles to Counter China?

No. In 2011, long before any Russian INF compliance concerns surfaced, John Bolton proposed in a 
Wall Street Journal op-ed that Washington should to withdraw from the treaty in order to counter China, which is not party to the treaty. In his Oct. 20 remarks on withdrawing from the treaty, Trump also pointed to China as a reason for abandoning the INF Treaty.

When asked at a
congressional hearing in July 2017 about whether withdrawal from the INF Treaty could be useful because it would allow the U.S. to develop new ground-based systems to hit targets in China, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva said that such a move was unnecessary because the United States can already hold those targets at risk with treaty-compliant air- and sea-based assets.

In his remarks Saturday, Trump suggested he might support a ban on INF Treaty-range missiles if "Russia comes to us and China comes to us” ... "and let’s none of us develop those weapons.” The idea of 
“multilateralizing INF has been around for more than a decade, but neither Russia nor Washington have devoted serious effort into the concept and China is highly unlikely to join an agreement that would eliminate the bulk of its missile arsenal.

Trump’s INF Treaty decision is a debacle. But without New START it will be even worse 

If the INF Treaty collapses, as appears likely, the only remaining treaty regulating the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles will be New START. New START is due to expire in 2021 unless Trump and Putin agree to extend it by five years as allowed for in Article XIV of the agreement.

Unfortunately, Bolton may try to sabotage that treaty too. Since he arrived at the White House in May, he has been slow-rolling an interagency review on whether to extend New START and refusing to take up Putin’s offer to begin talks on its extension.

Key Republican and Democratic Senators are on record in support of New START extension, which can be accomplished without further Senate or Duma approval.

Instead, one option Bolton is talking about is a 
“Moscow Treaty" approach that would dispense with New START and its rigorous inspection system on warheads and missiles to ensure compliance. This option would simply set limits on deployed warheads only and without any verification—an approach Moscow is very unlikely to accept because it could give the United States a significant breakout advantage.

The current crisis makes it all the more important to get a serious U.S.-Russian arms control dialogue back on track.

Trump and Putin should agree to relaunch their stalled strategic stability dialogue and commit to reaching an early agreement to extend New START by five years to 2026 – which is essential if the two sides are to meet their legal commitment under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty "to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament …."

If they fail to extend New START, an even more dangerous phase in U.S.-Russian relations is just over the horizon.

—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director, KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. 


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