The statement issued by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on December 4 regarding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty following the meeting of the foreign ministers of the alliance in Brussels puts the seal on the US decision to withdraw from the pact.
Washington has successfully rallied its European allies. Armed with NATO solidarity, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave Russia a 60-day ultimatum to return to compliance with the Treaty. Pompeo hopes to make Russia the culpable party.
However, quite some time ago, the US had already made up it mind to scrap the treaty. The Congress even made provision in the Pentagon budget for R&D relating to intermediate missiles. But an alibi was needed. In 2002, the US unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty and dealt a body blow to international security without bothering to explain. On the contrary, INF Treaty is vital to European security and an alibi is necessary.
In some ways, the INF Treaty has become an anachronism, since it stipulated that the US and Russia should not produce intermediate range missiles. Whereas, many other countries make such weapons today. Washington decided that it too must have such weapons. Pompeo actually admitted this in his remarks on December 4 in Brussels. He said,
“Secondly, while Russia is responsible for the demise of the treaty, many other states – including China, North Korea, and Iran – are not parties to the INF Treaty. This leaves them free to build all the intermediate range missiles that they would like. There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China, in particular when these weapons are being used to threaten and coerce the United States and its allies in Asia.”
“If you ask the question why the treaty wasn’t enlarged to include more nations, including China, keep in mind that it has been tried three times without any success already, and it has failed each time.”
Moscow has calmly reacted. It called the US decision “reckless” and rejected the allegation regarding its non-compliance of the treaty. Once again, Moscow challenged Washington to provide specific details of any Russian violation. But Moscow senses a fait accompli. President Vladimir Putin said yesterday,
“The arguments cited are essentially clear: Russia and the United States are the only countries that do not produce weapons of this kind. This is actually true. Many other countries – probably about a dozen already – make such weapons, while Russia and the United States have limited themselves bilaterally. Now, apparently, our American partners decided that the situation has changed so much that the United States should also have such weapons.”
“What will our response be? Simple: then we will do it too.”
Arguably, it may suit Moscow to enhance its own deterrent capability by targeting Western Europe with nuclear missiles at...