- President Donald Trump has said he wants to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
- Gorbachev has joined a number of experts and officials cautioning against US withdrawal from the treaty.
- “There will be no winner in a ‘war of all against all,'” Gorbachev writes, “particularly if it ends in a nuclear war”
Mikhail Gorbachev, the politician who led Soviet Union in its final days, is not personally upset about President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw from the landmark Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty that Gorbachev signed with President Ronald Reagan in 1987.
“Much more is at stake,” Gorbachev wrote Friday in a New York Times opinion column.
The piece comes several days after Trump declared his intention to pull the US out of the INF treaty, and after several years of the US saying that Russia was in violation of its terms.
The treaty banned ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers, or about 310 miles and 3,400 miles. The deal, which was approved by the US Senate in a 93-5 vote, led to the dismantling of nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles in Europe, most of which were Soviet.
“For the first time in history, two classes of nuclear weapons were to be eliminated and destroyed,” Gorbachev writes.
The treaty also helped end a standoff that started in the late 1970s, when the USSR deployed SS-20 intermediate-range nuclear missiles and the US responded by deploying Pershing II nuclear missiles – deployments that prompted mass protests throughout Western Europe.
“There are still too many nuclear weapons in the world, but the American and Russian arsenals are now a fraction of what they were during the Cold War,” Gorbachev writes. “Today, this tremendous accomplishment, of which our two nations can be rightfully proud, is in jeopardy.”
The former Soviet president acknowledges that the US’s allegations of Soviet INF treaty violations are the pretext for withdrawing and notes that Russia has accused the US of its own treaty violations. (Experts have dismissed those Russian allegations, and the US has rebutted them.)
Gorbachev also notes that Russia has proposed further negotiations to address the allegations both sides have raised, but, he says, the US under Trump has avoided such discussions for a reason.
“But as we have seen during the past two years, the president of the United States has a very different purpose in mind. It is to release the United States from any obligations, any constraints, and not just regarding nuclear missiles,” he writes.
“The United States has in effect taken the initiative in destroying the entire system of international treaties and accords that served as the underlying foundation for peace and security following World War II.”
Trump and others have argued the INF treaty is irreparably undermined because of Russian violations and that it is now irrelevant because it does not apply to the array of intermediate-range missiles developed by China.
Others have suggested Trump’s aversion to the INF treaty has more to do with a general disdain for international agreements and cooperation in general. Trump national-security adviser John Bolton, who was in Moscow this week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials, has long been antagonistic toward the INF treaty and to diplomacy in general.
“I don’t think it helps, in reaction to what the Russians are doing, for us to get rid of a treaty that we negotiated with them. We have got to continue to use that and to keep that alive,” Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security, told Business Insider this week. “Doing away with it completely closes that door completely.”
“And as people have said, that certainly gives the Russians the ability to blame us, to say, ‘Look the Americans, they wouldn’t even talk about it,'” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defence for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration.
Trump’s plan to withdraw from the treaty have sparked fears of a new arms race and that the US will look to rearm in Europe. Putin has said if the US deploys new missiles there, Russia would target countries hosting them.
In a meeting with US officials on Thursday, European members of NATO urged the US to try to get Russia to comply with the terms of the treaty rather than to pull out.
“Nobody takes issue with Russia’s violation of the treaty, but a withdrawal would make it easy for Moscow to blame us for the end of this landmark agreement,” a NATO diplomat told Reuters.
The EU has expressed similar concern. “The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability,” EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.
Gorbachev similarly warns against a rush for new weaponry and called on Russia to “take a firm but balanced stand” in support of continued talks and on US allies to “refuse to be launchpads for new American missiles.”
“I am convinced that those who hope to benefit from a global free-for-all are deeply mistaken,” he writes. “There will be no winner in a ‘war of all against all’ – particularly if it ends in a nuclear war.”
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