More than 30 years have passed since the day the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union, meeting in Geneva, adopted a joint statement declaring that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” It was more than just rhetoric. Less than a year later, in Reykjavik, Iceland, they agreed on the parameters of future treaties on the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear forces, or INF, and the radical reduction of strategic nuclear arms. A year after that, in 1987, the first of these treaties was signed in Washington. The elimination of the entire class of nuclear missiles opened the way to a process of real nuclear disarmament.
The INF Treaty and subsequent treaties reducing strategic nuclear arms established an innovative system of verification, inspections, data exchange and mutual consultations to ensure that each side can confidently verify that the other is faithfully adhering to the treaty limits.
Reykjavik was a historic milestone also because the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union agreed that the ultimate goal of the process of nuclear arms reduction should be the elimination of all nuclear weapons. The path to this goal is inevitably difficult, but the mutual understanding between the two leaders has borne fruit: As of now, the strategic nuclear forces of the two sides have been reduced to a fraction of what they were then.
Another important result of the agreements was the emergence of mutual trust between the two nations, and a healthier international environment overall. This helped to resolve regional issues, facilitated democratic processes and improved the lives of people in many countries.
Over the past few years, relations between major powers have become more complex. There is a danger that the gains achieved in the process of ending the Cold War could be wiped out. Abandoning the INF Treaty would be a step toward a new arms race, undermining strategic stability and increasing the threat of miscalculation or technical failure leading to an immensely destructive war. [Continue reading…]
Vladimir Putin has threatened that Russia will develop new missiles banned by the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty if the US exits the pact and pursues an arms buildup of its own.
The Russian president’s remarks came one day after the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said Moscow was in “material breach” of the cold war-era treaty and issued a 60-day ultimatum for Russia to correct the alleged violations. Otherwise, he said, the US would quit the 1987 accord, considered a milestone in reducing the threat of a nuclear war in Europe.
In Moscow on Wednesday, Putin told journalists the US had provided “no evidence” of Russian violations, and threatened an arms race if the US sought to develop new medium-range missiles after exiting the treaty. [Continue reading…]