Trump’s INF withdrawal move: Unwise mistake which might translate into a more chaotic situation

What would the US out of the INF Treaty mean for European, transatlantic security, what what be your biggest concern here? Read few comments.


Nikolai Sokov, Senior Fellow, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Monterey

The most immediate challenge is the further weakening of the system of arms control  and security regimes in Europe, which translates into less predictability and a more chaotic situation, when policies will be motivated by military balancing, perceptions of threat, etc. Such environment is conducive to arms races and perceived threat.

In more practical matters – and we are talking several years from now – deployment of theater-range dual-capable ground-launched systems is likely. The challenge is not numbers, but rather the fact that such systems have short warning time. That is, if an early warning system reports launch of missiles, there will be very little or no time to verify such warning or contact the other side; under the conditions of high time pressure, leaders will be more likely give command to launch a counterstrike. That is, the risk of mistake will increase very significantly.

Lastly, we will likely increased tension within NATO. The old basing countries (Germany, Belgium, etc.) will hardly want to receive intermediate-range missiles, unlike in the early 1980s. The logical choice would be the new members of the Alliance, such as Poland, perhaps Romania, and so one (Baltic states are unlikely  candidates as they are too close to Russia).

Michael Krepon, Co-founder, The Stimson Center

It will take time for Russian and US reactions to play out. The Kremlin will continue to express strong reservations and implied threats, but increasing the number of its treaty-prohibited missiles would only reinforce the Trump administration’s complaints and countermoves. The Pentagon is working on a similar ground-launched cruise missile, but will have a difficult time finding a basing country in Europe. Another move — adding to missile defenses along Russia’s periphery — seems quite possible. Tensions will most definitely increase between Moscow and Washington. They can be damped down by extending the treaty governing longer-range nuclear forces — New START— and by negotiating a new agreement that covers both longer-range and intermediate-range forces.

Thomas Nichols*, Professor of National Security Affairs, U. S. Naval War College

I think this is an unwise policy, one that will likely empower the Russians more than restrain them, by freeing them even from the pretense of having to abide by a treaty. The Americans have argued they need to exit the treaty to counter a Chinese build-up, but in my view this is not a strategy. More likely, it reflects the general antipathy of people like John Bolton to arms agreements in general, and the President’s aversion to almost anything that was supported by his predecessors.

* These views are the author’s only do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Naval War College and the U.S. Government

Steven Pifer, Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution, Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University

Trump’s decision to leave the INF Treaty is a mistake.  Washington will get the blame for ending the treaty, and the decision has already provoked negative reactions from some NATO allies.  The treaty’s demise will leave Russia free to deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles for which the U.S. military now has no counterpart.

With Russia violating the treaty, the United States could not be expected to stay in it indefinitely.  But Trump did not need to withdraw from the treaty now.  A smarter strategy would have applied greater military and political pressure to encourage Moscow to come back into compliance.

Here’s a longer piece I published on this question.

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