U.S. to Withdraw From INF Treaty
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States intends to withdraw from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a pact made between the United States and Russia that has played an integral role in preserving the safety of their surrounding nations.
Considered to be a landmark agreement, the INF treaty was signed in 1987 by former United States President Ronald Reagan and then Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. Given intermediate-range missiles’ capabilities of traveling over 3000 miles in a matter of minutes and their firepower, the two leaders negotiated to ban missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,420 miles.
In the midst of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, the Obama Administration asserted that Russia had breached the pact by utilizing these nuclear weapons as a show of force to European countries. The United States had also cited that this was not their counterpart’s first instance of violating the agreement, since the Russians had began testing cruise missiles with similar strength to those banned in the treaty in 2008.
In a statement from the State Department, Pompeo stated, “Russia’s violations [of the INF] put millions of Europeans and Americans at risk. Pompeo’s address raised concern amongst arms control experts who have indicated that if the United States withdraws from the pact, a new arms race may transpire. Thomas Countryman, the current chairman for the Arms Control Association, said, “Without the treaty, there is a serious risk of a new intermediate-range, ground-based missile arms race in Europe and beyond."
Pompeo’s statements was the first warning of the United States’s intention to withdraw from the pact. Last October, President Donald Trump suggested that the U.S would leave the treaty, but would give Russia until Feb. 2 to make their case. Since President Trump’s statement, Russia has largely denied the allegations of violating the terms of the treaty. Shortly after a meeting with United States Arms Control representatives, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters that “Unfortunately, there is no progress.”
Perhaps the country looking to take advantage of the dispute between the United States and Russia is China. Since China is currently not bound under the INF treaty, there are no restrictions in their possession or use of these missiles. Without any limitations, China is gaining a tremendous military advantage by increasing the production of these powerful weapons.
The Trump Administration has also cited that these growing tensions could signal improvements in relationships amongst other countries. Global superpowers, including China and Russia, are aiming to make their military presence known on an international scale. In a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday, Dan Coates, the Director of National Intelligence, asserted, “China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s, and the relationship is likely to strengthen in the coming year as some of their interests and threat perceptions converge, particularly regarding perceived U.S. unilateralism and interventionism and Western promotion of democratic values and human rights.”