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After the INF: Keeping Arms Control Intact Is Tough, Dangerous Work

October 26, 2018 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

President Trump’s announcement that the United States will pull
out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty bodes ill for
the future of arms control. Returning to constraints is possible,
but as nuclear competition is unfettered, the path back to arms
control will likely involve serious crises that remind countries of
nuclear dangers.

It takes a lot of political work to enter such an agreement, and
there are a lot of potential consequences for leaving it. Among
those consequences could be serious crises that remind countries of
the dangers of nuclear competition.

Arms control doesn’t just happen. Countries need to put
significant political effort behind negotiating agreements,
maintaining verification regimes, and keeping pacts alive as
leaders, weapons technology, and the international system
change.

While the Trump administration in general and
John Bolton in particular
ultimately killed the INF, multiple
factors contributed to its demise. The first was a general
weakening of arms control and nuclear stability created by the Bush
administration’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty (another landmark Cold War arms control agreement)
in 2001. America’s move to lift restraints on missile defense

motivated Russia to develop new nuclear weapons
designed to
defeat U.S. defenses. Reassurances that rogue states like Iran and
North Korea are the intended target of U.S. missile defense fall on
deaf ears in Moscow, which has
long viewed such capabilities as highly destabilizing
.

The U.S. could use its
resources and influence to make arms control great again, but this
won’t happen under the Trump administration.


Russia’s decision to deploy missiles that violate the INF Treaty’s
range restrictions
— which prohibit ground-launched
missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km — was another nail in
the treaty’s coffin. Russian noncompliance created a
straightforward argument for Washington to leave the treaty: If the
other side isn’t following the rules, why should we?

Finally, China’s emergence as a major strategic competitor
created a strong incentive for Washington to scrap the treaty.
China is not bound by the INF and has developed a large and
sophisticated ballistic and cruise missile force while
America’s hands were tied by the treaty
. Advocates of leaving
the INF argue that doing so gives the U.S. greater flexibility to
respond to China’s growing military power. INF-range missile
systems would give the U.S. more military flexibility vis-a-vis
China, but an increase in flexibility wouldn’t change the bigger
strategic picture in Asia. Furthermore, the U.S. military’s desire
to destroy targets deep within Chinese territory exacerbates the
risk of a
conventional conflict going nuclear
. More U.S. options for
destroying these targets would heighten these …read more

Source: OP-EDS