President Trump has indicated that he will withdraw the United States from a 1987 treaty signed with the former Soviet Union aimed at limiting intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
Urged on by National Security Adviser John Bolton and others, the president believes that Russia has been cheating on the agreement, while the bulk of China’s strategic missile arsenal falls within the range specified by the treaty (500 to 5,500 kilometers/310 to 3,417 miles).
U.S. diplomatic and intelligence officials say highly classified information proves that Russia’s 9M729 missile system is in direct violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
In addition, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on October 2 that the Alliance believes the Russian missile system violates the agreement. “All of the allies agree that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the (INF) Treaty,” Stoltenberg said.
Also, speaking to reporters after a NATO defense ministers meeting on October 4, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned Moscow that it “must return to compliance with the INF Treaty or [the United States] will need to respond to its cavalier disregard of the treaty’s specific limits.”
Analysis: Reports that Russia has been in violation of the INF Treaty have surfaced for months, and that alone would have been justification for the United States to pull out of the treaty. But when you add in the Chinese threat, sticking with the agreement becomes impossible.
It’s estimated that 95 percent of China’s missiles fall within the range specified by the INF Treaty, making it impossible for the U.S. to respond tactically.
While some European nations are concerned about a U.S. pullout, a number of American analysts believe it’s not only the right thing to do but long overdue.
“This was the right move. Russia has been cheating on this treaty for years and there was no hope of getting Moscow to return to compliance. It doesn’t make sense for the United States to be unilaterally constrained by limits that don’t affect any other country,” said Matthew Kroenig, deputy director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.
“Moreover, building INF-range missiles will allow us to increase our firepower in Asia to counter Chinese aggression and coercion. This may prove to be a historical step that ensures a favorable balance of power for the United States and its allies in Europe and Asia for years to come.”
“It is regrettable that we are withdrawing from the INF treaty, but the American hand has been forced by Russia. The Russians have been in violation of this treaty for years and it’s time for them to understand that there will be consequences for their dangerous nuclear policy,” added Evelyn Farkas, the nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, Future Europe Initiative, and Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.
Withdrawing from the INF Treaty isn’t going to make Russia or China change their behavior. But it will unshackle the United States and restore our ability to develop and field systems to counter the threat.