The world seems to be heading towards a severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s’ as U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision that the U.S. will leave the Cold War era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.
The 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, which banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500km to 5,500km and has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades. “We’ll have to develop those weapons,” the president told reporters in Nevada after a rally. “We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”
The treaty signed between then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, led to nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated, and an end to a dangerous standoff between U.S. Pershing and cruise missiles and Soviet SS-20 missiles in Europe.
The U.S. says Russia has been violating the INF agreement with the development and deployment of a new cruise missile. Donald Trump says the U.S. will “terminate” the 1987 INF after claiming that Russia had been noncompliant for years. “We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement but Russia has not unfortunately honored the agreement so we’re going to terminate [it].”
The move comes amid reports that U.S. national security adviser John Bolton has been pressuring the U.S. President to withdraw from the agreement due to Russia’s ongoing development of cruise missiles. Trump even hinted at nuclear escalation, saying, “If we get smart and if others get smart, and say ‘Let’s not develop these horrible nuclear weapons,’ I would be extremely happy with that. But as long as somebody’s violating that agreement then we’re not going to be the only ones to adhere to it.”
If the U.S. does withdraw from the treaty, it would take six months to take effect. But, Russia has been prompt to react to the announcement. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Sunday that a unilateral U.S. withdrawal would be "very dangerous" and lead to a "military-technical" retaliation.
The treaty is "significant for international security and security in the sphere of nuclear arms, for the maintenance of strategic stability," he told state news agency Tass.
But the man who signed the treaty for Russia has also reacted to the news with trepidation. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev says Trump's plan to withdraw from the key Cold War nuclear weapons treaty is a reversal of efforts to achieve global nuclear disarmament.