CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (October 22, 2018)—President Donald Trump recently announced that he will withdraw the United States from a 1987 treaty with the former Soviet Union prohibiting short- and medium-range ground-launched missiles carrying either nuclear or conventional warheads. Trump alleges that Russia has violated the agreement and it is preventing the United States from developing new weapons.
Below is a statement by physicist Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the landmark Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is shortsighted and will ultimately undermine the security of the United States and its allies. Signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the 1987 treaty eliminated ground-based ballistic and cruise weapons with ranges of 300 to 3,400 miles—whether armed with a nuclear or conventional weapon.
“The treaty, which resulted in the destruction of 846 US and 1,846 Soviet missiles, helped rachet down the US-Soviet arms race and defuse tensions. Withdrawing from the treaty, conversely, will open the door to a new and unconstrained competition, threatening US-Russian nuclear stability.
“For several years, the United States has accused Russia of violating the treaty by developing and beginning to deploy the 9M729 cruise missile. Clearly the United States should not ignore it. But the constraints imposed by the INF Treaty are very much in the US interest, so the Trump administration should undertake serious diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue, which it has yet to do.
“What apparently underlies this decision is a general antipathy by key members of the administration to negotiated agreements that in any way constrain US weapons systems. But these agreements also constrain weapons deployment by the other signatories, as well as provide critical verification and transparency measures that reduce uncertainties and strengthen US security.
“Finally, the non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are already fed up with the lack of progress by the weapon states, which are obligated by the treaty to pursue nuclear disarmament. By withdrawing from the INF Treaty, the Trump administration will not just jettison one nuclear weapons treaty, it will further weaken another one.”