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INF Treaty's Demise: What US Pullout From Arms Control Accord With Russia Means

CC0 / / Soviet inspectors and their American escorts stand among several dismantled Pershing II missiles as they view the destruction of other missile components
Soviet inspectors and their American escorts stand among several dismantled Pershing II missiles as they view the destruction of other missile components - Sputnik International
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On Friday, the United States officially withdrew from a Cold-War era accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that prohibited Washington and Moscow from using and developing certain types of missiles.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed by then-US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, was officially pronounced dead on 2 August 2019.

Here's what it means for nuclear proliferation.

  • The United States suspended its participation in the INF Treaty on 2 February and on 2 August Washington formally withdrew from the arms control pact, which banned the deployment of ground-based nuclear weapons with a range of 500 to 5,500 km. Under the landmark treaty, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to destroy a significant part of their arsenals, thereby ending the arms race. Those historic achievements are now at risk.

  •  The US Department of Defence claims that Washington does not intend to deploy new ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe. However, Aegis Ashore missile defence systems already present in Romania can, if necessary, be replaced by intermediate-range missiles and repurposed for offensive capabilities. Such missiles achieve their targets in a matter of minutes, without leaving the enemy a chance to prepare and repel the attack.

  • The United States and NATO do not need to deploy new ground-based missile systems in order to build nuclear capabilities in Europe. Instead, they can simply boost the presence of ships and nuclear submarines and increase the number of air-based nuclear weapons on the European stage.

  • The treaty extended only to the United States and Russia that is, only two members of the so-called "Nuclear Club". Following in Washington's footsteps, Moscow suspended its participation in the treaty as well, reserving the right to take symmetric measures in matters of ground-based nuclear missiles. Both parties have long questioned each other's compliance with the agreement and exchanged accusations, which eventually led to the pact's break-up. The prospects of finding a way out of the deadlock remain vague: while the United States favours negotiating a new accord that would include other nuclear-armed parties, such as China, Beijing has consistently rejected any idea of joining an INF Treaty 2.0.

  • The agreement's downfall risks triggering a chain reaction that would see the potential expiration of another US-Russia arms control treaty, New START, in 2021 that helped both sidea to reach historically low levels of deployed strategic nuclear warheads.
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