By Michael Drohan
On Friday Feb 1, 2019 President Trump made the following announcement: “Tomorrow, the United States will suspend its obligations under the INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) Treaty and begin the process of withdrawing from the INF Treaty. For arms control to effectively contribute to national security, all parties must faithfully implement their obligations.”
In those words Trump unilaterally and without any democratic pushback put an end to the 1987 INF Treaty hammered out by then President Reagan and President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. The Treaty, which was signed in December 1987, was an agreement for both parties to prohibit the fielding of ground-launched cruise missiles that could fly between 310 and 3,420 miles. It was, perhaps, the most significant step in ending the Cold War, which had the world on tenterhooks from the early 1950s to the signing of that Treaty. By this Treaty, the US obliged itself to withdraw its forward based cruise missiles, which it had installed in all the allied countries of Europe, threatening the Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union. Abandoning this Treaty is no less symbolic as it represents a belligerence on the part of President Trump not seen since the early 1990s. It is not an exaggeration to say that it purports the beginning of a new deadly arms race between Russia, the US and, no doubt, China.
The reason that Trump gives for walking away unilaterally from this Treaty is that Russia has been in violation of the Treaty. It seems there is substance to this allegation in that Russia has built new supersonic cruise missiles within the range prohibited by the Treaty. But it is alleged also that the US has not been in compliance with the Treaty. Another factor to be considered is that the US through NATO has practically surrounded Russia with newly minted NATO countries breathing down Russia’s neck. Russia rightly sees itself surrounded by so-called enemy countries. And there is another wrinkle to the US withdrawal, which is that it seems none of the European countries want intermediate range nuclear weapons installed in their territories. The reason, no doubt, is that they would be the victims if ever a nuclear spat were to arise. The German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, declared that “ending the Treaty would have many negative consequences.” Japan is also opposed to the breaking of the Treaty when its chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga declared the action would be “undesirable.” All in all, US allies find the withdrawal undesirable and unacceptable.
China was not and is not part of the INF Treaty. It would appear that the real reason for the US walking away from the INF, however, is China, as the US sees this Treaty as hobbling their ability to attack China with intermediate range missiles. This suspicion is strengthened by Trump appointing John Bolton as his national security adviser. Bolton is the most belligerent warmonger on the planet at this moment. He has been saying for decades that the US should walk away from this Treaty because with it the US cannot contain and threaten China. Bolton is angling for war with Iran and Venezuela, just to name a few other of his major targets. He has dubbed Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela a troika of tyranny, all of whose governments he wants to overthrow. The withdrawing from the INF is further complicated by Trump appointing Elliot Abrams as his Envoy to Venezuela. Abrams is an arch war criminal who engineered the IranContra scandal, the war on Nicaragua in the 1980s and the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador. When one puts Trump, Bolton and Abrams together one is pretty sure to have a nuclear cocktail.
If one were to approach the problem with violations of the INF Treaty rationally one might suggest that one have negotiations on compliance and invoke the articles surrounding compliance with the Treaty. It seems, however, that no such measures were ever taken or hinted at. If Trump is such a great negotiator, as he proclaims himself to be in his negotiations with Kim Jung Un of North Korea, how is it that he does not use a little of those skills with President Putin?
This whole debacle points to the fact that Russia, the other signatory to the Treaty, is not the problem at all. That is just a camouflage for something else. And, as it has been pointed out, that else is containing China and putting China under notice. We are just being put off the scent by their raising Russia’s noncompliance. What the whole saga reveals is that we have a troika of nuclear madmen at large: Bolton, Abrams and Trump. What this suggests is that the abolition of all nuclear weapons is our most urgent task at this moment. What these three people illustrate is that nuclear weapons are too dangerous not just for rogue regimes such as North Korea but for the US as well.
Michael Drohan is a member of the Editorial Collective and former board member of the TMC.
(TMC newspaper VOL. 49 No. 2 March 2019. All rights reserved.)