US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty becomes official on 2 August, six months after Washington announced its intention to suspend treaty obligations.
Nicolai Petro, Silvia-Chandley Professor of Peace Studies and Nonviolence and Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island, has shared his opinion on the prospects of reaching an arms control deal amid uncertainty over the New START Treaty's prolongation.
Sputnik: US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he expects to reach an arms control agreement with Russia. However, 2 August will see the US officially exit the INF Treaty after its suspension earlier this year. National Security Adviser John Bolton said the only remaining US-Russia New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is unlikely to be extended. How do you think the US is going to reach any agreement with Russia while sending contradictory signals? How ready is the current US administration to negotiate?
Nicolai Petro: A discernible pattern has emerged under the Trump administration. In order to win a more favourable initial negotiating position, the president takes a very strident public stance, presumably designed to frighten his interlocutors into taking the deal he will later offer. He then unofficially, but still publicly, suggests that a major agreement is in the offing. This seems designed as much to keep his domestic critics scrambling, as it does to confuse his foreign interlocutors.
Such a tactic undermines all traditional notions of diplomacy, which seeks to build consensus based on quiet and subtle political manoeuvering, but Trump believes that it works. Its greatest disadvantage is that it has become entirely predictable.
Sputnik: Washington insists that China should be included in the arms control system, while Beijing has repeatedly said it's not going to enter unequal treaties. What steps do you expect to see in this regard, from all sides?
Nicolai Petro: I expect China to treat any effort to constrain its international influence, and thereby preserve American hegemony, with great reservation. Having said that, a Grand Deal that would, in essence, lay the foundations for a new international order is not inconceivable. Indeed, it is something that Chinese and Russian diplomats have been talking about for years. The sticking point has always been the reluctance of their American counterparts to engage in such a broad discussion.
Sputnik: A New START extension was one of the key points for Russia during recent talks between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Osaka. Do you expect a new arms race to start if the current treaty is dismantled?
Nicolai Petro: I do not. The Russian government has repeatedly said that it sees no need for such an arms race, and has backed this up by reducing its military expenditures as a percentage of GDP through 2021. The difference between the present and the Cold War era is that, unlike the United States, Russia now has no need for distant power projection capability, which is by far the most expensive aspect of military operations.
Sputnik: What reaction do you expect from Europe given that that is where American systems, designed with the capability to carry INF-violating missiles, are currently deployed?
Nicolai Petro: I expect no immediate negative reaction in Europe. Over the long term, however, America’s withdrawal from this treaty and others serves to bolster the perception among Europeans that America is pursuing its interests unilaterally, without regard for the safety and security of its European allies. As German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas suggests, this inevitably leads to efforts at achieving such safety and security through direct negotiations with Russia.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.