US Withdraws from INF Treaty August 2, Move Will Undermine US Security

Statement by David Wright, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jul 31, 2019

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (July 31, 2019)—On February 2, President Donald Trump suspended the United States’ obligations under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and notified Russia that the U.S. would officially withdraw from the treaty in six months. That day arrives on Friday, August 2. Signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, the treaty prohibits short- and medium-range ground-launched missiles carrying nuclear or conventional warheads, and the launchers of such missiles. 

Below is a statement by physicist David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

“Withdrawing from this landmark treaty is shortsighted and will ultimately undermine the security of the United States and its allies. The president’s decision will increase tensions between the United States and Russia and open the door to a competition in conventionally armed missiles that will undermine stability. 

“While there appears to be evidence that Russia violated the treaty by testing a new ground-launched cruise missile, Russian complaints about U.S. missile defense systems in Poland and Romania also have merit. These systems are intended to launch interceptor missiles, but appear to be capable of launching cruise missiles as well, in which case deploying the launchers violates the treaty. The United States has apparently not been willing to discuss this issue with Russia in an effort to resolve the concerns of both nations and preserve the treaty. 

“To claim the United States is justified in pulling out of the treaty because of Russian violations does not take the full picture into account. 

“What apparently underlies this decision is the administration’s aversion to negotiated agreements that in any way constrain U.S. weapons systems. But what we’ve gotten from this treaty is the destruction of 1,846 Soviet missiles, in exchange for 846 U.S. missiles, and an agreement that has prevented a buildup of these missiles for more than three decades. Working to resolve the issues around the treaty is a better move for U.S. security than ending it. 

“Pulling out of this treaty leaves New START as the only bilateral nuclear arms agreement between the U.S and Russia. If President Trump pulls out of that treaty as well or allows it to lapse, it will be the first time since 1972 that the two countries will be operating without any mutual constraints on their nuclear forces.”