Back in 1987, when the Cold War was in full bloom, President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary of the Soviet communist party, Mikhail Gorbachev, negotiated a treaty that essentially banned intermediate range nuclear (INF) forces. Like so many treaties the Soviet Union entered into, they were able to lock in a parity that they were about to lose. The United States was deploying a new series of nuclear capable weapons, specifically the Pershing II and the Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) that threatened to make all of the Warsaw Pact and most of the Western USSR vulnerable to strikes by nuclear weapons without necessarily triggering an exchange of ICBMs. The resulting treaty eliminated all nuclear weapons with a range between 500 and 5500 kilometers.
Once the Soviet Union imploded, for reasons that have never been clear to me, the United States substituted Russia for the USSR and continued to be bound by the treaty. This, in my view, was just one of the silly decisions made by G. H. W. Bush who didn’t want to give the impression that the US was actually happy to see the Soviet Union melt down. Suffice it to say, the treaty has not served our purposes since about 1989. China, which is not a signatory, is developing intermediate range nuclear weapons and the Russians have been busily engaged in violating the treaty. In 2014, the situation deteriorated to the point where the Obama administration, ever supine to all Russian provocations, declared that the Russians were in violation. In 2017, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told NATO leaders that the US had identified two operational Russian units equipped with a banned weapon and that if NATO couldn’t agree to a unified position, then the US would go it alone.
The go it alone happened yesterday when President Trump was boarding Air Force One:
“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One to leave Nevada following a campaign rally.
“And I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” he said. “We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement.
“But Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement. We’re gonna pull out,” he said of the agreement, which was signed in December 1987 by former President Ronald Reagan and former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Russians aren’t happy but f*** them. They are rapacious Third World kleptocracy with the GDP of New York. They need to grow up and deal with it.
“We condemn the continuing attempts to achieve Russia’s concessions through blackmail, moreover in such an issue that has importance for international security and security in the nuclear weapons sphere [and] for maintaining strategic stability,” the official Russian news agency TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.
Mr. Ryabkov told the state-run news agency RIA Novosti that Moscow has repeatedly told Washington that “the Americans have no grounds for accusing Russia of violating this treaty.”
The diplomat said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was expected to meet with U.S. national security adviser John Bolton in Moscow on Monday, according to RIA Novosti.
That meeting will go well:
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) October 21, 2018
But the hits just keep on coming:
This is the darkest day for arms control in history so far. The same day that US announces to pull out of INF Treaty https://t.co/mIoZQ9c2Te Washington also makes clear it is not interested in New START extension. What does this mean for Europe and Germany?
— Ulrich Kühn (@UliTKuehn) October 21, 2018
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
“This is the most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s,” said Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute. “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.”
The biggest arguments against leaving it is that it will set off some kind of an arms race and there will be a public relations price to be paid. Bullsh**.
Leaving the INF treaty now and refusing to extend START in 2021 are great moves and show that Trump’s national security team and practicing realpolitik rather than wish-casting and huffing unicorn farts. The USSR was a horribly unreliable treaty partner and Russia is worse because its weakness and political fragility encourage Putin to engage in adventures in order to keep his domestic popularity high. Russia simply does not have the capability to match the US dollar-for-dollar if we decide to challenge them. In fact, the treaties actually make Russia more dangerous because it locks in a parity that Russia could not otherwise afford. What we are getting out of it is the idea of having a treaty. Period. Trump realizes now, if he didn’t before, that if people already hate you it is pretty liberating because they’ve already used their best shot. No one who disliked Trump will change their minds over him leaving this treaty and, ironically, because of the unreasoning hatred of Russia the media has generated since November 6, 2016, most of the US will cheer him on.
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