The treaty that purported to limit the intermediate range nuclear forces possessed by the USSR (at the time of its agreement) and the US has long been violated by Russia, as the Obama administration acknowledged some years ago. Now President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw from the treaty if both Russia and the People’s Republic of China (which is not a signatory to this Euro-centric treaty) don’t come to the table with meaningful steps to measurably and verifiably limit/eliminate such weapons.
This remark, cited by Deutsche Welle at the link above, illustrates a major misunderstanding of the withdrawal. Steven Pifer, a former top State Department official and US ambassador to Ukraine who was part of the team from Washington that negotiated the INF treaty (no vested interest here in preserving the thing…):
President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the INF treaty now is a mistake. It will cause division within NATO—senior German, French and Italian officials have already questioned it—and the United States will be blamed for the treaty’s demise, despite the Russian violation.
There are a number of things wrong here. For one thing, the attitude completely ignores the fact of Russian violation—which is a first step to Russian breakout in INF technology as well as in operational forces in being—even as it ignores, also, the Russian deployment of INF missiles in Kaliningrad, from which most of western Europe can be targeted and held hostage. An American decision to let Russia get away with this unanswered is a serious threat not only to Europe, but to our own independence of action.
This bit from the same man:
Once the treaty lapses, Russia will be free to deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles for which the United States currently has no counterpart.
They already are, and we already don’t. It’s time to redress that before it gets too far out of hand.
For another thing, it ignores the fact that NATO already stands a treaty divided. Europe is upset with the US over our insistence that they actually honor their own promise, voluntarily made, to commit 2% of their national GDPs to NATO forces. Eastern Europe, especially the NATO member nations of the region, already are upset with the NATO members in western Europe over the latter’s evident reluctance to give practical, physical force to words of defending eastern Europe from Russian aggression. This division, especially, has urgency generated by Russia’s having partitioned and occupied parts of Georgia and Ukraine, Russia’s having moved forces, including tactical nuclear weapons permitted under existing treaties closer to its borders with those eastern European nations, and the presence of those Russian INF forces in Kaliningrad. And the fact that those eastern European nations still remember what it was like to exist with Soviet boots on their necks.
This gives much of the game away:
I oppose Trump’s plan as much for how it’s being done as the substance. Trump has set the US up to take the political heat in the international community and particularly in Western Europe for its failure even though it’s primarily Russia’s fault.
Because form is far more important than actual, physical threat demanding actual physical response. It’s a bit of European arrogance and of the American Left’s submissiveness to expect the US to submit itself to popular opinion—we’ll be blamed for the treaty’s demise and so we should not walk?—when such timidity is so much a threat to our national security.
Never mind that there’s not a treaty to leave, except in the narrowest, most legalist sense, since Russia destroyed it with their weapons development and deployment in careful violation of it.