United States to withdraw Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

Vastavam web: The United States will officially withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on Friday, clearing the way for a new arms race with Russia — and throwing China into the mix. The treaty — concluded by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 — limited the Cold War powers’ medium-range missiles, both conventional and nuclear.

Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump’s administration announced its intention to ditch the agreement, accusing Moscow of repeatedly violating its terms — a charge Russia denied. “I think the INF Treaty has served us well, but it only works if both parties comply,” new US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said recently. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill suspending Moscow’s participation on July 3.

Unless something changes in the coming days, the mutual withdrawal will spell the end of the deal, which eliminated a range of missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310-3,420 miles). That paved the way for the mothballing of Russian SS-20 missiles and American Pershing missiles deployed in Europe.

Even if European nations have expressed concerns about the consequence of a new arms race, NATO endorsed the US position, saying Russia’s 9M729 missile had violated the INF agreement. Moscow insists the new projectile has a maximum range of 480 kilometers — within INF parameters. The Pentagon is thrilled that it will now be able to modernize its arsenal to counter the mounting might of China, which is looking to assert its military supremacy in Asia.

“Most of China’s inventory is of intermediate range missiles and so we need to make sure we have the capability as well to respond should we — God forbid — get in a fight with them one day,” Esper said. The United States has pledged not to deploy new nuclear-armed missiles in Europe, but made no such promise on the deployment of conventional weapons.

Advances in technology have allowed for the development of mid-range missiles that are much more precise than those made 30 years ago, explained career diplomat William Courtney, who is now a senior fellow at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Rand Corporation. “The technology has changed so much that is makes it militarily attractive,” said Courtney, an arms control expert.