Anti-nuclear weapons groups warned that the Trump administration is ushering in a renewed arms race as National Security Adviser John Bolton confirmed late Tuesday that the U.S. intends to exit the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty (INF), the landmark agreement forged with Russia three decades ago.
In response, the Kremlin confirmed those fears, saying that is exactly how the Russians view the move by the Trump administration.
“This is a very dangerous intention. In fact, it declares an intention to start an arms race and to build up military potential,” Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday, adding that the decision would make the world a less safe place.
After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials, Bolton suggested that the treaty is ineffective in providing security against today’s global threats—a position which the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) denounced as deeply “shortsighted.”
After its signing in 1987, the INF “helped rachet down the U.S.-Soviet arms race and defuse tensions,” wrote Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director of the Global Security Program at UCS. “Withdrawing from the treaty, conversely, will open the door to a new and unconstrained competition, threatening U.S.-Russian nuclear stability.”
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“Walking away from INF should be an option of absolute last resort, yet no serious effort has been made by the Trump administration to resolve mutual allegations of treaty violations and bring Russia back into compliance with a valuable agreement.” —Derek Johnson, Global ZeroThe treaty resulted in the destruction of nearly 900 U.S. missiles and more than 1,800 missiles belonging to the then-Soviet Union, as it banned the use of nuclear weapons with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. It has been credited with largely eliminating nuclear weapons in Europe.
Bolton accused Russia of being in violation of the treaty due to its development of the 9M729 ballistic missile. But Gronlund suggested that the U.S. is truly concerned with constraints on its own nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.
“What apparently underlies this decision is a general antipathy by key members of the administration to negotiated agreements that in any way constrain U.S. weapons systems,” said Gronlund. “But these agreements also constrain weapons deployment by the other signatories, as well as provide critical verification and transparency measures that reduce uncertainties and strengthen U.S. security.”
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