The Trump administration has made a very difficult decision. On Friday, February 1st, the President announced a plan to withdraw from the long-contentious and hotly debated Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia. We’ll tell you why he may have made the surprising move and how the next few months might play out.
- The INF was initially put into place to serve as an end to the cold war. But President Trump pointed out something important in his statement on February 1st; Russia has repeatedly violated the treaty — seemingly with impunity. This includes an unfolding situation in which Russia allegedly developed a covert ground-launched cruise missile system for unknown reasons.
- Trump, after stating that the violations had occurred for “far too long,” was first informed of Russia’s recent transgression in December of 2018. It was then that NATO allies announced they had discovered proof of a Russian “developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729,” cautioning the US that it “poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.”
- Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time NATO Allies have accused Russia of violating the INF. There have been many other instances in the past of similar behavior, ranging from minor transgressions to significant evidence of missile development, since the cold war.
- Both the US and NATO have given Russia ample opportunity to claim responsibility and fix the current problem by destroying the 9M729 system. In standard Russia form, they don’t really seem to care. NATO announced that, “Allies regret that Russia, as part of its broader pattern of behaviour, continues to deny its INF Treaty violation, refuses to provide any credible response, and has taken no demonstrable steps toward returning to full and verifiable compliance.”
- Trump also told the US that Russia’s current missile development “poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.” This includes military members stationed in or visiting near Russian territory as well as soldiers in other Russia-influenced or targeted zones, such as Syria.
- NATO refrained from implicating Trump for the failure of the INF (unlike Democrats and anti-nuclear activists). Instead, they’re pinning the tail on the proper donkey. We quote from their most recent statement: “Unless Russia honours its INF Treaty obligations through the verifiable destruction of all of its 9M729 systems, [it] will bear sole responsibility for the end of the Treaty.”
- Democrats, as mentioned, are also up to their usual shenanigans, claiming that Trump just effectively started World War III. Some are calling it a “huge mistake,” using a recent statement from Vladimir Putin as “proof” Russia is just taking advantage of Trump’s alleged “tantrums” to get what he wants.
- But what exactly did Putin say — and was it really proof Trump made the wrong move? Of course not. The real story is that Putin basically confirmed Russia’s dissolution of the INF and essentially gloated over it. “Our American partners have announced they were suspending their participation in the treaty and we will do the same,” he said. “They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly.”
- It certainly sounds as if Russia was taking advantage of the situation at first, but think about it this way: they weren’t adhering to the INF. Period. What use is it to try to force them into it if they’re refusing to cooperate? Effectively, Russia will keep doing what they’re doing and Trump will now give the US government the power to become stronger at the same time.
- Trying to force a country to adhere to their own weapons treaty, when they have proven their refusal to do so time and time again, is nonsensical. It’s limiting America’s power while allowing a potentially powerful enemy to quietly and covertly gain strength. That’s about as useful as trying to force criminals to follow gun laws when they buy them off of the black market to begin with.
- The President also simplified his decision. We’ll let his words stand as they are, because they’re sensible and strong. “We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other,” he said, adding that the US would not “remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions.”