Editorial: Leaving nuclear treaty is a mistake


A Tomahawk cruise missile from a 2002 test firing off the coast of California. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty about 30 years ago as part of an important step toward lessening Cold War tensions and halting the nuclear arms race. Not one to stick to the status quo regarding international policy, President Donald Trump announced Saturday that the United States plans to exit the INF Treaty.

The president’s decision to pull out of the treaty not only further confirms the United States’ international reputation as a poor partner, but it also presents a real threat to nuclear disarmament and world security.

Trump has withdrawn from several international treaties since he took office, including the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The president’s desire to put the country before international unity has led many to question the United States’ reliability on the global stage and done damage to our reputation as a strong ally.

The INF Treaty was born out of the Cold War tensions revolving around the possibility of nuclear war. It prohibits both the United States and the then-Soviet Union from making, possessing and testing intermediate-range missiles, which are missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty has acted as a protective measure for Europe as well as the United States and Russia for the past 30 years, but without it this security is no longer certain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a 2017 speech that if other countries develop their nuclear weapons systems, Russia would be ready to do the same. Walking away from the INF Treaty won’t solve the problem of nuclear proliferation — in fact, Trump is effectively giving Russia the opportunity to more brazenly produce and test nuclear weapons.

World leaders have weighed in on Trump’s announcement and many advise the United States to think about the possible results of such an action.

Gorbachev himself recognizes the mistake being made in leaving the treaty he signed in 1987.

“Under no circumstances should we tear up old disagreements,” he said. “Do they really not understand in Washington what this could lead to?”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also called the decision “very dangerous,” and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas spoke to concerns about European security in a statement Sunday.

“We have often urged Russia to address serious allegations that it is violating the agreement,” Maas said. “We now urge the U.S. to consider the possible consequences.”

So far, it appears Trump is attempting to shift the blame for treaty violations completely on Russia, when in reality both countries have accused each other of breaching its terms. This fits into the president’s pattern of decrying an international deal, exiting it and negotiating a new deal that looks incredibly similar to the old one, all while touting the massive success of his administration.

The president has a knack for rebranding and reselling, but this isn’t the right way to approach foreign policy — eventually, the results could be nuclear.

Leave a comment.