Student Name: Drew Spitzer
Course: PSCI 3022
Instructor: Prof. Sarah Sokhey
Published: March 15, 2019
The INF Treaty, or the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, was first brought into place in 1987, signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. This treaty was a significant step in the de-escalation of the Cold War and also signified a cooperation between the USSR and the U.S. that they had not seen since WWII. 32 years later, on February 2nd, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would cease to honor the INF Treaty due to allegations against Russia for not complying with the INF regulations. Russia denies these claims and calls for evidence to be shown to validate U.S. accusations. If the Russian government wants to avoid a long term escalation in a missile arms race, or further damage relations with the U.S., it should comply with the existing treaty, or re-negotiate a compromise as a new treaty.
The INF Treaty states that ground launch missiles, whether conventional or ballistic, be prohibited to have a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, requiring all such missiles be destroyed. However, this treaty does not ban the research and development of these missiles, only physical in-flight testing. In recent years, the U.S. has accused Russia of not only testing missiles that break the INF Treaty, but also deploying them in active military situations. While no verifiable proof has been brought forth, at least to public disclosure, on either side, a confrontation ensues as a battle of wills between Trump and Putin, with the idea that neither can step down to lose popularity or appear weak. As journalist Pavel Baev, for The Jamestown Foundation puts it, “Putin seems convinced that any step back from his defiant stance as the challenger of U.S. dominance will be interpreted—by the domestic audience, by Western adversaries and by China—as proof of his weakness.” The idea of Putin backing down in this situation is not feasible for him for two reasons. First, as discussed in the Jamestown article, he would appear weak within the international community and to his own people. This directly breaks the carefully crafted image of a tough, bold, and strict leader of a very powerful country militarily. Secondly, the idea of Putin admitting that they were in violation of the treaty would cause many countries to raise an eyebrow and Russia would come under heavy scrutiny from the international community. In an article on the U.S.’s position on the INF Treaty, TASS quotes Michael Pompeo, current Secretary of State; “Pompeo also said that Washington had ‘raised the Russian non-compliance with Russian officials, including at the highest level of government, more than 30 times.’”. The fact that the U.S. and Russian top political figures have discussed and brought up this issue, further pressures Russia, not to admit wrongdoing and return to compliance, regardless of their claimed innocence or assumed guilt.
With regards as to how Russia should proceed in this argument, their best option would be to come to the table and renegotiate a new treaty that redefines what is acceptable in order to be in compliance, while still respecting an agreed limit. Renegotiating would force honest talk between Russia and the U.S. and promote better relations between the two countries. These weapon platforms, regardless of they are conventional or nuclear provide strategic tactical capabilities to the area they are positioned in. If a new treaty was defined, a shared knowledge of what the other’s capabilities were, would help power projection and overall deterrence regarding their respective militaries. Allowing these new missiles to be built and tested would also help Russia locally in two ways; prevent a potentially costly arms race with the U.S. and spur economic growth within local Russian companies. Russia would not only be risking an arms race economically, but also strategically where each country races to place missiles in tactical locations in order to dissuade the other from using them.
Arguments against Russia renegotiating a new INF Treaty can be seen from two different perspectives; a western perspective, where the belief is that Russia should immediately return to full compliance with the treaty, and the pro-Russian perspective which still assumes innocence from violating the treaty. While the premises for Russia not to enter into negotiations for a new treaty pose significant risks, it will be more viable for them to follow that course of action and not disclose the fact they were in violation of the treaty, regardless of whether they were or not. Fully aware of this, the U.S. most likely hoping that a renegotiation of the treaty is the most plausible option for the foreseeable future, while Russians are posed to remain inactive in their efforts to reach a compromise or admit to any illicit activity.
While the battle of domineering presidents continues, the fact remains that there will most likely be an increase in activity towards strategic deterrence on both sides reminiscent of the Cold War. Both countries undoubtedly have memories of the tension the Cold War caused as they are faced with key decisions that determine military policy. However, this is not the USSR dealing with an united U.S.; this is the Russian Federation dealing with a very divisive American government. As Trump continues to polarize the U.S., while Putin’s approval rating dips, mass support will play a part in this as the age of protests and demonstrations continue to influence how policies are made. Keeping an open mind and a healthy respect for each other will mitigate risks involved in how the Russian and American governments proceed into this new era.
Gathered from article “Russia denies it violates INF Treaty. OK, show it” Brookings.edu
Taken from The Jamestown Foundation, “Russia Enters a Treacherous New Post-Arms Control World
Taken from TASS article “US Suspends INF Treaty Obligations – Pompeo” found on tass.com
See CNBC.com article “The world’s two greatest nuclear powers are ditching a crucial nuke treaty”