U.S. Dissolution of INF Treaty


In 1987, the United States and Russia entered into a treaty to end the Cold War, a treaty which started the process of nuclear disarmament for both countries. Now, U.S. leaders are considering backing out of the treaty in the light of Russia’s continued disregard for its terms and conditions. (Photo Credits: left, from NPR; right, from DefenseNews.)

Emily Stocksdale, Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, Feb. 1, President Donald Trump issued a statement announcing that the U.S. was officially withdrawing from a long-time treaty with Russia, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  Signed in December 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty prohibited both countries from using short- and medium-range, land-based missiles.  In the past five years, both Russia and the United States have made allegations, claiming that their counterpart broke some aspect of this treaty. Now, the United States has decided to break away from the treaty altogether.

This action does not come as a surprise.  On Dec. 4, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that if Russia did not choose to come into compliance with the INF Treaty within 60 days, the U.S. would leave the treaty.  This ultimatum was given in light of Russia’s numerous violations of the treaty, according to U.S. officials.

The results of this action are still unknown, but they could be incendiary.  The INF Treaty was signed as part of the effort to end the Cold War and was created along with a number of other major treaties in order to help curb the production and use of nuclear weapons.  Breaking the treaty, or even refusing to renegotiate other agreements signed more recently between the two countries which will soon expire, such as New START, could incite a new arms race.

Supporters of this decision note that it does not make sense for the U.S. to continue to comply to treaties which the other party continually violates.  There is some dispute, specifically from Russia, about whether either country is in fact violating the treaty at all; however, most U.S. officials agree that Russia has been violating the treaty for almost a decade.  They claim that Russia has been storing up missiles which are banned under the treaty. This was a concern during the Obama administration, and the problem has only continued under Trump.

Russia has wasted no time in reacting to the dissolved treaty, and they are now stockpiling the once prohibited weapons.  The dissolution of the treaty may pose a threat to European countries as well as the United States, but many say that the treaty was outdated and needed to be revisited anyway.  Perhaps this decision will spur new dialogue between the two countries.