Are Arms Control Agreements Losing Their Value?

December 6, 2017
Nikolai Sokov

The following is an excerpt from The National Interest.

For a former negotiator, old treaties are like old dogs. They grow feeble and eventually pass away. You watch last years of their life with growing sadness, but know that some things in life are inevitable. The big difference is whether you get a new puppy afterwards or not. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty seems to be dying and no replacement is in sight.

I felt sad when START I expired in 2009, but at least it was replaced with New START half a year later. INF, which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary on December 7, is still in force, but is so feeble that it might not survive long. The saddest part is that it will not be replaced with a new treaty and the ban on U.S. and Russian land-based intermediate-range (five hundred to 5,500 kilometers) will disappear.

Treaties do get outdated. There’s nothing surprising about that. INF was a good—albeit imperfect—treaty for its time. Certain potential drawbacks were clear even at the time of its signing and could have been addressed in a subsequent treaty or treaties. It makes sense to review these drawbacks to better understand what we should have—and have not—done.

INF treaty was bilateral, although it did involve, in an indirect fashion, a number of European countries where the United States and the Soviet Union deployed their intermediate-range missiles. This made sense not only because the two countries were the two protagonists of the Cold War, which was at that time drawing to an end, but also because few countries in the world had or could have missiles in that category. That has changed—plenty of countries in Eurasia have such missiles today—North Korea, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, etc. This has been an important concern for Russia for quite a long time. The United States is not affected as directly, but there are also things to consider: first, U.S. allies are within the reach of these missiles and, second, an intermediate-range missile is a step toward a strategic missile, as North Korea has recently demonstrated, and these can directly affect U.S. territory.

Read the full article at The National Interest.

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