Russia announced on Wednesday, February 6, that within six months it will pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in a “symmetrical” response to the United States’ withdrawal, according to the New York Times.
Russia also still claims that it is not in violation of the treaty, but that the U.S. is. U.S. officials responded by stating the opposite claim.
The INF treaty was signed in 1987 between The United States’ President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union’s General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. The treaty, as described by the US State Department, banned the possession of nuclear weapons that had the capability of striking within a range of 500 to 5500 kilometers.
With this treaty falling apart, there is worry that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will also fall apart. Newsweek quotes Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying, “U.S. experts are already saying that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START], which expires in 2021, will come next.”
New START was an agreement established in 2010 by Barack Obama to update the original START, which was signed by the late George H.W. Bush. The goal of this treaty was and is to decrease strategic nuclear missile launcher and increase inspection and verification in regards to nuclear weapons.
In addition to the situation with New START, Newsweek also reports that the U.S. has begun production of long-range nuclear weapons for the first time since 1991.
There is, however, disagreement about the impact of the disintegration of the INF treaty and, possibly New START. Russian state officials seem not to be worrying about this series of developments. The Moscow Times reports that Lavrov declared that, “I don’t think we’re talking about the development of a Cold War, a new era has begun.”
This position is not held by some other analysts who hold that these events will cause destabilization in Europe and Asia. Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the non-proliferation program at the Washington-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Al-Jazeera that, “The Trump administration has made a huge mistake – it’s a breakdown of arms control. It’s a breakdown of trust between U.S. and Russia. The U.S. will have problems with its European allies, and it will engage in a new arms race with China as well.”
In fact, President Trump’s political opponents within the United States are, according to Al-Jazeera, currently seeking to establish legislation that would not give Trump, or any other future president, first strike capabilities. The United States would, in effect, become a solely second strike nation, at least legally.
These events may also affect Asia. Newsweek claims that Russia may be forced to secure alliances with eastern nuclear powers such as China, North Korea, Pakistan, and India in the absence of an agreement with the United States.
China is also significant, for the fact that according to Fitzpatrick, China is the “real reason” for the United States’ withdrawal from the INF Treaty. China’s weapons development is ever increasing and has resulted in China’s possession of thousands of weapons that would violate the INF Treaty if it were a signatory.
Al-Jazeera reports that China possesses more than 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles, most of which violate the treaty. This may have caused the U.S. to pull out of the treaty with Russia so that it could properly respond to China’s increase in nuclear power, and not Russia’s. China may understand this and has indeed responded to the events regarding the treaty saying that they “may trigger a series of adverse consequences.”
The recent developments of U.S. and Russian foreign policy come in context to a world of evermore-strained relations between the two powers. Russia’s annexation of Crimea along with the U.S. claim that Russia manipulated the 2016 U.S. presidential election only provide more stress to the situation at hand.