'It’s Virtually Certain US Will Pull Out of INF Treaty' - Former US Diplomat

© Sputnik / Ekaterina ChesnokovaWhite House in Washington, DC
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The US attempt to “bury” the INF Treaty creates new risks for Europe, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. This comes after President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow opposes the destruction of the INF Treaty, but will react in a proper manner to the US withdrawal from it.

The US announced this week that it would suspend its INF Treaty obligations in 60 days unless Russia returns to full compliance. While Moscow has denied breaching the accord, saying that it strictly adheres to treaty conditions.

Sputnik has discussed the future of the INF Treaty with James George Jatras, former US diplomat and adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.

Sputnik: This past NATO summit actually took place amid US plans to pull out of the INF Treaty and that move, of course, has been criticised by both Democrats and the Europeans, what do you think of the prospects for this situation?

Washington has accused Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which was signed by US and Russian leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, where it was agreed that both parties would scrap all land-based, intermediate-ranged atomic weapons and prevent their proliferation in the future. - Sputnik International
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James George Jatras: I don't think the prospects are very good. I think it's virtually certain at this point that the US will pull out of the treaty. I'd like to hope against hope that there's something else going on here; that this is some kind of replay of the art of the deal, and bluster, and threaten, and little rocket man like on North Korea, and this is some kind of way of negotiating towards some other kind of agreement, but I don't really think it's the case.

READ MORE: Russia's Immediate Return to INF Compliance Would Be 'Best Outcome' — Mattis

I think maybe President Trump would prefer something like that, but when I look at his national security team like National Security Advisor Bolton or Secretary of State Pompeo I don't think they have any such intention.

Sputnik: Most people say that if the US were to withdraw this would, of course, lead to huge arms race between Moscow and Washington, do you think that is the case? And is that maybe the point of this all?

A bundle of three Soviet RSD-10 missiles prepared for demolition at the Kapustin Yar launch site. The missiles were destroyed in accordance with the INF Treaty. - Sputnik International
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James George Jatras: If you look two days ago, President Trump sent out a tweet saying that we're spending too much on our military; we can't have another arms race with Russia and China. That doesn't seem to be what he wants, but then again when you look at Secretary Pompeo's statement just one day later, he basically accused Russia of everything under the Sun including violating the INF agreement. It seems that that's the direction in which we're going. It's either a very clever plan or more likely it's a difference of opinion within the administration and Mr Trump is not the one in charge.

Sputnik: Let's talk about the reasons for INF withdrawal, the official reason in any case, and that is the questionable Russian rocket, which by the way has been in development since 2008, if I'm not mistaken. It's been around for a long time, why is it at this point in time that all of a sudden they have a problem with the rocket, I mean the treaty was signed in 1987, 2008 — that's10 years ago, almost 11. Why were there no questions posed at that time? It's actually a borderline, nobody knows for sure is it or is it not in compliance with the INF Treaty. Why has there not been a committee called to assess whether or not this rocket or missile is in fact in compliance?

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James George Jatras: Well, the original INF Treaty goes back to 1980s. Remember the Persian deployments back during the Reagan administration and certainly technology has changed over the years and there's lots of room for questionable issues about things that didn't exist in the 1980s, and there are reasonable suggestions that maybe China or other countries should be a party to this agreement, none of that is reasons to pull out of the agreement.

You're right, if we have concerns about this missile, the 9M729 missile that the Russians have there are all sorts of technical issues about what kind of a launcher it might be mounted on, whether it's been tested within a certain range, those are technical issues and my understanding is that the American side has accused the Russians of testing it within the prohibited range.

READ MORE: US Attempt to 'Bury' INF Treaty Creates New Risks for Europe — Lavrov

The Russians say they have not done so, and they ask for any evidence of that, and the Americans say well we have it, but we can't give it to you because of the sources and methods, and there we have it. But if you put this in context with other things like the ABM Treaty (The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty), like the International Criminal Court or any number of other agreements you could look at where the American side seems bound and determined to break down the structure of international agreements that were put up during the first Cold War to safeguard against the possibility of war, and you have to ask yourself what in the world do these people think they're doing.

Sputnik: By the way is there a mechanism in the current INF Treaty to assess new weapons for compliance?

The Iskander ballistic missile launcher at a parade rehearsal. Grom-2 is ostensibly meant to compete with the Russian SRBM. - Sputnik International
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James George Jatras: Of course there is. There are consultative mechanisms where one side raises issues. And as you say, they can convene experts to look at evidence and come up with an assessment of what one side or the other has done and how it should be handled under the treaty mechanisms. If necessary, especially if there is new technology, why can't the two sides agree on a protocol to the treaty or a revision of the treaty if it seems necessary to do that? But I don't think this is certainly not what the people running things in Washington want.

Sputnik: Has that review protocol been followed in respect to the Russian missile in question?

James George Jatras: To the best of my knowledge it has not.

Sputnik: Have there been cases in the past where there were questions about some other weapons and the protocol was followed, or was this never used?

James George Jatras: I don't know, to the best of my knowledge it hasn't been. And maybe that's one of the problems, and maybe this is something that the Russian side should be more insistent on as well rather than simply saying the Americans are walking away from the agreement.

READ MORE: US's INF Move Could Prove Fatal for Arms Control Treaties — Int'l Law Assoc.

If there's some way for them to throw the dead cat on the on the table and say we're formally invoking these mechanisms, we want the American side to respond and let the Americans reject it.

Sputnik: It seems really strange that nobody has really brought this up before?

James George Jatras: It's right, yes, I think so. And part of it is there is a dialogue on the death going on. I have information at my disposal that the Russian side has tried to raise these things in a problem-solving or business-like way with the American side and there's simply nobody to talk to, nobody at the State Department will respond to them on this.    

The views expressed in this article are solely those of James George Jatras and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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