Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF), which was signed 30 years ago in Washington by the leaders of the USSR and the USA. Now the whole world is thinking whether Trump will have enough courage to move from words to actions, when would this happen, and, in fact, what consequences will have the break of one of the key Cold War agreements for the participating countries, their allies and the whole world.
‘This is unacceptable’: What did Trump say?
On October 21, US President Donald Trump, at a meeting with his supporters in Nevada, accused the Russian Federation of not complying with the bilateral treaty on the elimination of medium-range and shorter-range missiles (INF), and also criticized his predecessor as head of the American state Barack Obama, saying that Washington should break the agreement much earlier.
“We stayed within the framework of the contract and observed it, but Russia, unfortunately, does not comply with the agreement. So we will terminate this agreement and withdraw from it,” he said.
“Russia violated the treaty. They have been violating it for many years. I don’t know why President Obama did not negotiate with them and didn’t come out earlier. But we will not let them violate the nuclear agreement, and create weapons that we cannot create,” he added.
At the same time, Trump stressed that the United States may not build up its nuclear potential after withdrawing from the INF Treaty. However, it could happen only if Russia and China agree to conclude a new agreement.
As is known, China did not sign the relevant agreement, but the United States believes that Beijing, like Moscow, is building up its nuclear potential, and therefore also represents a threat not only for Washington, but for the whole world.
‘Not very smart decision’: How Russia responded
The Russian Federation, like many years before, insists that the US accusations of non-compliance with the INF Treaty and the development of weapons prohibited by it are not true. Therefore, it reacted to Trump's statements quite with restrain, considering them to be something like blackmail or a mistake of a not very smart decision.
"Article 15 of the treaty provides for a unilateral withdrawal from it, but in exceptional circumstances, with the proper justification, and within six months. So far, no official steps have been taken to that effect, which still makes it possible to consider Trump’s statement as continuing blackmail rather than an accomplished legal act ", told the head of the Federation Council Committee on international affairs Konstantin Kosachev to Interfax.
However, at the same time, he stressed that the declarative nature of Trump's statements does not make them any less dangerous. "A nuclear power, one of the two participants in one of the fundamental agreements in the field of strategic stability, unilaterally destroys it. If this really happens, the consequences will be catastrophic," he added.
One of the signatories of the INF Treaty, former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, called on the whole world to warn the American president against committing a monstrous mistake.
“It is wrong to break old disarmament agreements. Is it really difficult to understand that the rejection of these agreements, as people say, is not a very smart decision,” he outraged in the commentary to Interfax, noting that all agreements aimed at nuclear disarmament and the limitation of nuclear weapons must be protected for the sake of preserving life on Earth.
While the situation with Trump's intentions is not clear, Russians hurried to threaten the United States with almost a war in response. "If they continue to unilaterally withdraw from various kinds of agreements, and the examples are multiplying - from the agreement on Iran to the Universal Postal Union - then we will have to take retaliatory measures, including of military-technical nature", said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
INF Treaty: What is the essence of the document?
The bilateral treaty on the elimination of medium-range and shorter-range missiles is one of the key agreements of the Cold War, signed by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan on December 8, 1987.
Its main goal was to reduce the risk of war (including with the use of nuclear weapons) and to consolidate peace, both by two states and on the entire planet.
For this, the document itself was intended to destroy and discard further production of all the complexes of ballistic and cruise missiles of ground-based medium and shorter range.
In particular, the Soviet Ballistic missiles Pioner (SS-20), R-12 (SS-4), R-14 (SS-5) and KRNB RK-55 (C-X-4), as well as less OTR-22 (SS-12) and OTP-23 (SS-23) were liquidated.
The United States, in turn, had to eliminate the Pershing-2 ballistic missiles, the BGM-109G (Tomahawk), and the Pershing-1A short-range missiles.
The deadline for their liquidation, established by the contract, for medium-range missiles was 3 years, for shorter-range - 1.5 years.
So, by May 1991 the contract was fully completed. In the USSR, 1,752 ballistic and cruise ground-based missiles were liquidated, in the USA - 859. And they allegedly no longer produced weapons that were banned under this agreement.
Speaking in a simple way, if the agreement is broken, then both Moscow and Washington will again have the opportunity to deploy such weapons, build up nuclear potential and frighten the whole world with its use.
World War III: Should we start to worry?
Talking about the withdrawal of a nuclear state from a disarmament treaty is always a matter of concern, especially for countries that trust them and have abandoned their nuclear weapons, or did not have one.
The reaction of the world was not long in coming. The first among the American allies was Germany. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Washington to consider the consequences of his decision not only for the United States, but also for Europe, which in the event of war with Russia will become a theater of military operations, as well as consider the future attempts to achieve disarmament and so on.
However, experts assure that it’s too early to worry - the very intention of the United States still doesn’t say anything, and Washington, like Moscow, often uses the word "if."
At the moment, it is known that the White House did not make a final decision on withdrawal from the INF Treaty.
The local media suggest that an official decree may be signed within a few weeks. However, ‘to be or not to be’ largely depends on the visit of the US National Security Adviser John Bolton to Moscow on October 22-23.
We recall that during the said visit to Russia, Bolton planned to meet with the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry, foreign policy advisor to the head of the Russian state Yuri Ushakov, and did not rule out the possibility of negotiations with President Vladimir Putin.
According to the latest information, most of the points from this plan have already been fulfilled. But Washington continues to frighten Russia and other states with its withdrawal from this agreement and by building up its nuclear potential, if they do not change their minds and stop arming themselves; Moscow, as before, insists on its innocence, scares the United States in response, at the same time emphasizing that despite this it is ready to work with the White House to eliminate mutual claims in connection with the implementation of the treaty.
Not a new thing for the USA and the Russian Federation
Washington and Moscow have been accusing each other of violating the treaty on the elimination of medium-range and shorter-range missiles, probably for about five years.
In 2014, US President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to the head of the Russian state, Vladimir Putin, that the Russian Federation had tested a cruise missile, which, according to its characteristics, is subject to the prohibition stipulated by the agreement.
We are talking about a certain ground-based missile with the Novator 9M729 nuclear warhead (SSC-8 according to the NATO classification), which was developed on the basis of the Iskander-M 9M728 missile; now they are located in the Kaliningrad region.
Experts believe that, if necessary, with the help of such weapons, Russia can strike a blow at NATO countries as soon as possible.
Moscow did not say much about its new rocket, but insisted that it did not violate the INF Treaty, as it was an alternative to traditional weapons.
Since then, the United States is looking for the proof of its trueness.
In turn, Russia also accused Washington of not complying with the treaty - in particular, after the United States launched a global missile defense system in Europe.
It is interesting that statements about withdrawal from the INF Treaty sound not for the first time. In the same 2014, Russia itself thought about this, but it did not proceed to legal actions.
The problem of this agreement is not in a fact that it is not observed by the subscribing countries, but also that the document does not apply to other nuclear states, such as China, Pakistan, the DPRK, etc.