Brief #74—Civil Rights
On December 4th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced to a meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels that Russia was in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and had 60 days to come into compliance before the United States ended its own adherence with the deal. The INF Treaty, signed by President Reagan and President Gorbachev in 1987 prohibited the two countries from building ground-launched cruise missiles capable of hitting targets at a distance between 310 and 3,400 miles. The treaty does not concern weapons which can be fired from the air or sea, a sector in which the US maintains a formidable advantage.
The accusation that Russia is not in compliance with the treaty is not new, Obama previously made the same claim in 2014, and Trump announced that the United States would be withdrawing in October – only to be talked down by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Trump’s notoriously hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton has been calling for withdrawal for years. Russia has denied violating the treaty, arguing that what the United States cites – their development and testing of a 9M729 missile – does not breach the agreement, as the missile has a gliding warhead and, therefore, is not categorized as a land-based cruise missile because it has a different speed and flight trajectory. Russia has in turn accused the US of violating the treaty, citing US missile defense interceptors in Europe which can be used to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Last Friday, Russia submitted a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly calling for the treaty’s preservation and resolution of any persisting issues. The next day, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that it had reached out to US Defence Secretary James Mattis in the interest of broaching a dialogue, but had been ignored. On Monday, The Department of Defense announced that they had received a proposal from Russia for a discussion, and would “respond to Russia as appropriate”.
While Russia may be in violation of the treaty, it seems that this is only an excuse for the Trump administration’s ultimate goal of leaving the treaty. The 9M729 missile threatens Europe but not the United States, and a weapons expert at the New America Foundation think tank pointed out that we have long since reached the point where Russia could bypass US missile defence systems if it came down to it. In Brussels, Pompeo cited the military threat of China as a weakness of the treaty, as the country has been building a missile stockpile without the restriction of any such treaties. The treaty isn’t the handicap that Pompeo would like to depict. The US has maintained an international network of missile defense systems, and announced plans last February to develop smaller, and thus more usable, nuclear bombs. The arms race that critics warn of in the event of withdrawal from the INF treaty has been in motion for years, but the eradication of a historic demilitarization agreement only serves to push the world closer to nuclear catastrophe. Rather than dismissing diplomacy and running headfirst into a suicidal competition of aggression, the State Department needs to work towards forming a new treaty which encompasses a wider range of participants and weaponry.
- Beyond the Bomb – An activist group looking to reduce the danger of nuclear war around the world
- World Beyond War – An organization dedicated to reducing militarization around the world
This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Foreign Policy Analyst Colin Shanley: Contact Colin@usresistnews.org
Photo by Frédéric Paulussen