Trump withdrawal from INF Treaty a bad move

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 29, 2018
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U.S. President Donald Trump (L) meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Donald Trump is living up to his reputation as a deal breaker, the latest agreement on his hit list being the historic Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty of 1987.

He has long shown his tremendous disapproval of the treaty, so it was really only a matter of time before he added it to the important international treaties from which the U.S. has withdrawn under his presidency.

His concerns about the INF related to a belief that Russia is violating it, while the U.S. has beenhamstrungby adherence to its terms and conditions. Another issue is that countries not a party to the treaty might forge ahead to developing their own intermediate range missiles, thus putting the United States at a serious disadvantage.

The INF was signed in Washington by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev after years of negotiations. It was a landmark achievement towards ending the Cold War and an effort to limit the spread of lethal weapons.

Under the agreement, the two super powers agreed to permanently eliminate ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles capable of hitting targets within a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty helped destroy an entire class of nuclear missiles and, in the process, saved the world from the horrors they threatened to unleash.

Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton is believed to be the real force behind the decision to scrap the deal. He, more than anybody else in America, has been arguing for years in favor of ditching it.

During the George W. Bush administration, Bolton played a key role in American withdrawal from a treaty with Russia limiting antiballistic-missile systems and also from an agreement with North Korea to roll-back its nuclear program.

Already, his influence is detected in dumping the Iran nuclear deal, as he forcefully championed against the agreement made in 2015.

In declaring that the INF was dead, Trump said his predecessor Barack Obama should have pulled out years ago. Trump also lumped China with Russia by saying that the two countries were developing weapons while U.S. sat back to fulfill its INF obligations.

Trump also believes that an expanded and more comprehensive version of the INF can be negotiated by involving other countries so that an even-handed deal can be achieved to limit the spread of intermediate range missiles.

This seems somewhat plausible, as the equation of power distribution during the Cold War has changed. New players and power centers are emerging to play a more proactive role in international affairs, so their inclusion is required to address the threat of global arms race.

Any treaty aiming to curtail or banish deadly weapons should certainly include all countries with a capability or intention to develop and deploy such systems. The purpose should be broader elimination of arsenals instead of a narrow focus.

However, it's difficult to gain access to the thought processes of Trump and his close aides in order to understand why they are on the rampage in regard to commitments under multilateral agreements.

So far Trump administration has pulled out of important deals like Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, the North America Free Trade Agreement and the Tran-Pacific Partnership.

The decision to challenge the utility of INF treaty is the latest but may not be the last. However, it will have serious ramifications for international peace and stability because it can trigger a new arms race.

Apart from the bilateral tension between the two nations, the spillover of fresh animosity will be felt in Europe as well as in Asia. It will also impact the economic and industrial health of the international community at a time when we need long-term peace and stability to fully recover from the hangover of 20th century conflicts.

If Trump genuinely thinks that INF is bad for the U.S., there should be an option to negotiate an additional protocol to strengthen it, than just killing the current arrangement. It is important to invest in building bilateral trust if U.S. and Russia are interested in a long-term peaceful relationship.

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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