Last week, President Donald Trump announced that the United States will end its three-decade long treaty with Russia. The treaty currently bans a specific type of nuclear weapon that the United States accuses Russia of having.
Signed in 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty forbids the United States and Soviet Union having ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The INF required the destruction of the missiles, launchers and support equipment.
The United States State Department estimates that almost 2,700 missiles were destroyed by 1988, when the treaty began.
Over the two decades after the treaty was sided, both sides upheld the terms of the treaty until 2014, when the Russian military tested a weapon that clearly violated the laws. The Obama administration chose not to respond primarily due to the concerns voiced by the European Union (EU). The EU pleaded that a harsh response from the United States could have started a nuclear war. Ultimately, no response or course of action was made.
In 2017, the treaty resurfaced when General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, explained to Congress that the Russian military had a weapon that violated the treaty.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, President Trump made his final decision in ending the treaty.
“We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement, but Russia has not unfortunately honored the agreement,” said President Trump, “so we’re going to terminate the agreement, we’re going to pull out.”
While some supported the president’s move, the Russian government highly discouraged the action.
“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,” said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov. He added that President Trump’s action “would be a very dangerous step, which, I’m sure, won’t be just understood by the international community, but arouse serious condemnation of all members of the world community, who are committed to security and stability and are ready to work on strengthening the current regimes in arms control.”
If President Trump withdraws the United States from the treaty then there is a high chance that the New START Treaty will also end. The 2010 treaty was a furthering of the INF in banning more nuclear weapons between the United States and Russia. It included a 1,550 missile-limit on nuclear warheads being placed on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles.
This end of the INF also would end the overall denuclearization of the United States and Russia. In the 1960s, the United States had more than 30,000 nuclear weapons. This number was reduced to 22,000 by 1989 and then 4,480 in 2017. The numbers of nuclear weapons could increase due to the ending of the INF treaty, and especially the New START Treaty.
The end of New START “could spell doom,” according to David Welna of NPR.
John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, will reportedly travel to Moscow this week and formally tell the Russian government of the United States’ withdrawal from the INF treaty.