Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S. National security adviser John Bolton during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
On Saturday, President Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. This treaty, signed when Ronald Reagan was president and the USSR still existed, essentially bans the US from possessing nuclear delivery systems that cover the 500 km-5500 km battlespace. Russia has said since 2007 that it doesn’t see what it gets from adhering to the treaty and to make their point they have fielded weapon systems that flout the language of the treaty. In the meantime, the treaty prevented the US from responding to China’s development and deployment of nuclear systems the US can’t legally own.
Today, National Security Adviser John Bolton was in Moscow to deliver the bad news to the Russians face-to-face:
National Security adviser John Bolton held firm Tuesday to President Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from a landmark arms control treaty in place since the Soviet era.
Bolton gave no specific details on the next possible U.S. steps to withdraw from the deal to limit intermediate-range nuclear weapons.
But Bolton echoed Trump’s assertions of Russian violations of the pact, suggesting that no progress was made to ease the impasse during Bolton’s talks with top Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin denies any violations and says scrapping the 31-year-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, would be a “dangerous” development and could spark a new arms race.
“The American position is that Russia is in violation,” Bolton said at a news conference. “Russia’s position is that they are not in violation. So one has to ask how to ask the Russians to come back into compliance with something they don’t think they’re violating.”
In a bit of dark humor that underscored the moment, Putin quipped about the balance between peace and force represented by the Great Seal of the United States.
“As far as I can remember, the U.S. seal depicts an eagle on one side holding 13 arrows, and on the other side an olive branch with 13 olives,” Putin said, sitting across from Bolton at talks before the news conference. “Here’s the question, ‘Did your eagle already eat all the olives and only the arrows are left?’”
“Hopefully I’ll have some answers for you,” Bolton replied. “But I didn’t bring any more olives.”
“That’s what I thought,” Putin said, provoking laughter from Bolton.
It also seems that Trump will meet with Putin on November 11:
Bolton says Trump and Putin will meet in Paris.
(Getting new in-person instructions) https://t.co/u8udnOhtaR
— Thomas Keepout (@solm) October 23, 2018
Putin whined about the sanctions that Trump has imposed on Russia:
Putin tells Bolton that U.S. actions against Russia are “absolutely unprovoked” https://t.co/hPQmy8Ao5s
— Bloomberg Asia (@BloombergAsia) October 23, 2018
And there is a predictable chorus from NeverTrumpers and the left about how this plays right into Putin’s hands. Putin, they say, actually wanted out of the treaty but the same guy who ordered the assassination of regime opponents in Britain by the use of nerve agent didn’t want the bad publicity of leaving it. So he maneuvered the low wattage Trump and low wattage Bolton into making that decision. The reality is that Russia needed the INF to constrain US response to its treaty violations because Russia doesn’t have the intellectual or industrial capital to engage in an arms race with the US.
What this meeting seems like is a genuine reset in US-Russia relations unlike the gimmicky bullsh** Clinton attempted.
Putin acts like a man who knows he’s been caught cheating and righteously called out on it. He respects it because he respects strength. He won’t stop cheating but he will become more measured and circumspect and he’ll be less likely to attempt in-your-face type stuff like he did against an obviously weak and cowed Obama.
My guess is that next year there will be a new treaty but one that is more in line with the needs of the United States.
This is the news conference after the meeting.
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