While the Trump administration ignores warnings from nuclear experts and pursues plans to exit the Cold War-era intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty (INF) with Russia, former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev—who initially signed the deal with former President Ronald Reagan—has joined the chorus of voices cautioning that ditching it poses “a dire threat to peace” by increasing the risk of armed conflict.
“I am being asked whether I feel bitter watching the demise of what I worked so hard to achieve. But this is not a personal matter. Much more is at stake.”
—Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev
Since reports emerged last week that President Donald Trump’s warmongering National Security Adviser John Bolton was working within the administration to garner support for dismantling the 1987 treaty, as experts have denounced the move as “stupid and reckless” and a “colossal mistake,” the president and Bolton have doubled down, justifying the looming withdrawal by claiming that Russia is violating the deal by developing the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile.
Reflecting on the landmark agreement, which led to significant reductions in both American and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons, Gorbachev wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday: “I am being asked whether I feel bitter watching the demise of what I worked so hard to achieve. But this is not a personal matter. Much more is at stake. A new arms race has been announced.”
Gorbachev noted that Trump’s decision to withdraw comes as American “military expenditures have soared to astronomical levels and keep rising,” and in the context of the president’s disdain for global cooperation. “There will be no winner in a ‘war of all against all’—particularly if it ends in a nuclear war. And that is a possibility that cannot be ruled out,” the former Soviet leader warned. “An unrelenting arms race, international tensions, hostility, and universal mistrust will only increase the risk.”
“With enough political will, any problems of compliance with the existing treaties could be resolved,” Gorbachev pointed out. “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.”
“Faced with this dire threat to peace, we are not helpless. We must not resign, we must not surrender.”
While urging the United States and Russia “to return to dialogue and negotiations,” he also called on other nations to refuse to support a new nuclear arms race.
“I hope that America’s allies will, upon sober reflection, refuse to be launchpads for new American missiles. I hope the United Nations, and particularly members of its Security Council, vested by the United Nations Charter with primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, will take responsible action,” he concluded. “Faced with this dire threat to peace, we are not helpless. We must not resign, we must not surrender.”
In addition to Gorbachev’s piece, the Times published on Thursday an op-ed in which George Shultz, Reagan’s former secretary of state, argued that “now is not the time to build larger arsenals of nuclear weapons. Now is the time to rid the world of this threat. Leaving the treaty would be a huge step backward. We should fix it, not kill it.”
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