An unconvincing reason for US’s INF withdrawall

Thursday, 2018-10-25 13:35:32
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US national security advisor John Bolton (right) meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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NDO – US national security advisor John Bolton has recently concluded his visit to Russia. The visit came shortly after US President Donald Trump announced Washington’s intention of withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) on allegations that Moscow violated the document. An array of countries, including US allies, have confirmed the importance of the INF to global strategic stability and the need to maintain the treaty.

During his two-day stay in Russia, US national security advisor John Bolton talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin and had a series of high-level meetings with leaders of the Russian Security Council, the Grand Kremlin Palace, and the Russian Foreign Ministry. One of the main themes discussed in these meetings was the possibility that Washington would withdraw from the INF.

The aforementioned meetings were described by both sides to have taken place in a constructive and practical atmosphere. Bolton assessed his discussions with President Putin and senior Russian officials as being “comprehensive and effective”. During the 90-minute meeting with the Russian President, in addition to arms control issues and the INF, the two sides discussed other issues, such as the conflict in Syria; the situations in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and the Korean Peninsula; and accusations of Russia’s interference in US elections.

Concerning the INF, the Kremlin Palace stated that the world will become more dangerous if US President Trump implements his plan to withdraw from the treaty. The breakdown of the treaty would be a strong blow to the entire system of weapons control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Moscow warned that if Washington implements the plan, Russia will have to take retaliatory measures. The Kremlin also denied allegations that Moscow is in violation of the provisions of the INF, affirming that Russia has been complying with the INF, while the US constantly violates the agreement.

The INF was signed in 1987 between the US and the Soviet Union (previously) on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles (with a range of 500-5,500km), marking the first treaty between Washington and Moscow on disarmament of nuclear weapons and a major step towards limiting the arms race.

The international public and many countries in the world expressed concern that the US withdrawal from the INF would lead to an arms race threatening global stability. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on the US and Russia to resolve disagreements related to the INF. French President Emmanuel Macron immediately talked with his US counterpart Donald Trump to emphasise the importance of the treaty, especially with regard to Europe’s security and its strategic stability. Chief of the Cabinet Office of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, voiced his hopes that US would reconsider its plan to withdraw from the INF. China has stated that the US made a mistake to unilaterally withdraw from the INF, stressing the significance of the treaty as a turning-point in helping to eliminate nuclear missiles from Europe.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany would seek NATO assistance to maintain the INF. He emphasised that Germany would fight with all diplomatic instruments to maintain the 1987 treaty, which has rescued Europe from nuclear missiles launched from the ground. He pointed out that during the past 30 years, the INF has become “an important pillar in the European security structure”, noting that the US withdrawal from the agreement could adversely affect the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between Russia and the US.

In the face of strong international response, US national security advisor John Bolton said the US would formally announce its withdrawal from the treaty at an appropriate time, pleading that the INF was “outdated and violated and ignored by other countries”. According to him, other nations still could manufacture medium-range ballistic missiles, as well as cruise missiles, while the US is bound by the INF.

However, observers said the reason given by Bolton is unconvincing, because there is no guarantee of a new multilateral agreement as the US unilaterally withdraws from the INF. On the other hand, Washington has not yet come up with an alternative solution to the treaty.

It is hoped that the dialogue process between Russia and the US will be maintained by the two sides. In particular, a summit between Russian President Putin and his US counterpart Trump, expected to take place in Paris, France, this November 11, on the occassion marking 100 years since the end of the First World War, will be an opportunity for the two sides to discuss the prospects of bilateral cooperation in areas such as resolving regional conflicts, counteracting terrorism effectively, and maintaining global strategic stability.