Trump Accidentally Just Triggered Global Nuclear Proliferation

February 21, 2019
Sarah Bidgood

The following is an excerpt from Foreign Policy

On February 1, the Trump administration made good on its threats and began the official withdrawal process from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and Russia. As others have pointed out, this was a short-sighted decision. By withdrawing from the INF Treaty, the Trump administration has eliminated any consequences of Moscow’s alleged noncompliance, leaving it free to deploy as many intermediate-range missiles as it wants. U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to throw out the rulebook instead of trying to enforce it greases the wheels for a return to U.S.-Russian nuclear arms racing—with potentially dire consequences for international security.

But there is another outcome of the end of INF Treaty that is less examined and no less dangerous: It will undermine global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to countries that don’t yet have them. As an instrument of arms control, the INF Treaty has done much more than limit the capabilities of the individual parties involved. For over 30 years, it has quietly been a central part of the international nonproliferation regime, too. This collection of treaties, informal agreements, and institutions that keep the spread of nuclear weapons in check is often cast in architectural terms: an edifice held up by pillars built on a weathered but enduring foundation. In reality, the nonproliferation regime is a complex and deeply intertwined network that more resembles a spiderweb: stronger than the sum of its parts but likely to unravel if individual threads start to break.

Perhaps the most important thread in this tapestry is the long-running tradition of close cooperation between Washington and Moscow on nuclear issues. The INF Treaty itself is a product of their joint efforts, as are the 1968 Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (commonly known as the NPT), the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, among others. U.S.-Soviet partnership on nonproliferation remained sacrosanct even during the worst moments of the Cold War, in part thanks to regular interaction between Russian and American officials across a host of treaties and other frameworks. As the historical record shows, just talking to one another, almost regardless of outcome, built up trust and personal rapport that kept cooperation going when times got tough.

Continue reading at Foreign Policy

Comments Are Closed