Earlier in the day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the INF treaty ended today because of alleged Russian violations. The Russian Foreign Ministry, in response, accused the United States of intentionally creating an insurmountable crisis in order to terminate the agreement.
Several European countries raised concerns about the treaty ending. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas earlier this week said Europe will lose part of its security with the termination of the historic agreement that has been in place since 1987.
George Washington University Research Professor Sharon Squassoni, who served in the State Department’s Nonproliferation Bureau as the Director of Policy Coordination, also believes there is good reason for Europe to worry about the end of the INF.
"You might have hated the treaty - I don’t think many people did - but at least it was a venue for real discussions with Russians about verification, and there was a lot of confidence building on a person-to-person level. And that’s gone once the treaty is gone, so transparency will decrease tremendously", Squassoni said. "That has got to be a big concern in Europe".
Former Pentagon analyst Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel, said that pulling out of the INF Treaty gives the United States more defence flexibility with NATO. She also said some strategists feel placing small tactical or intermediate range nukes on the ground in Europe is cheaper than troops and training.
However, many weaker and poorer NATO countries already believe that they are disrespected by being made "targets" if the United States deploys nuclear weapons on their territory, Kwiatkowski warned.
"I don't think Europe, even Eastern Europe will tolerate this, even though Poland and other eastern NATO member governments have been receptive to mobile nukes on their soil", she said.
Hopefully, the end of the INF might create new opportunities for stronger bilateral military treaties and cooperation, Kwiatkowski suggested.
"However, in cases of countries that are rising in national power and reputation, like Turkey, a bilateral nuclear agreement or the basing of US nukes in their country will be avoided because it makes them look weak, and adds no security value", she cautioned.
Arms Control Needed Now More Than Ever
Trump told reporters on Friday that the United States and Russia would "at some point" reach a nuclear agreement, presumably one along the lines of the now-expired INF.
Squassoni advised that the world needs more arms control agreements today more than it did in 1987 when the Cold War was winding down and the INF was signed.
"When you're in an environment where the propensity for misinformation floating around is much greater, than I think arms control can inject more stability, so I would say it’s even more important today", Squassoni said.
Global nuclear arsenals were less than 25 percent as large as they had been at the height of the Cold War but they remained at potentially very dangerous levels, Squassoni observed.
"At the height of the Cold War, we had 70,000 nuclear weapons between us. We don't have that anymore, but let me tell you 15,000 is enough to obliterate quite a few countries," she said. "Is it marginally safer? Yes. Are we still threatened with nuclear annihilation? Yes. It just seems to me, given where we have come from, I would hate for us to go back there".
There were some hawks in the Trump administration, especially National Security Adviser John Bolton who has always openly sought to destroy all arms control treaties, Squassoni acknowledged. Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin made things even more complex, she added.
"It's all muddled by… [the] very odd relationship that Trump has with Putin. We all watched the Helsinki summit, where Trump seemed to fall over himself to excuse Putin for so many different things", Squassoni said.
Trump‘s disconnect with reality is also part of the problem, she argued.
"I'm not sure anything gets this administration to move to the arms control table with Russia unless Donald Trump gets it into his head that he needs to limit some of these weapons systems," Squassoni said. "I honestly think maybe there's just a naive assumption by President Trump that American nuclear weapons are great and we are spending a lot of money on them … I do not believe that they have an agenda at all".
US policymakers needed to recognize that the scale and effectiveness of their conventional military forces gave them the flexibility to escape from the traps of relying on nuclear weapons as deterrents, Squassoni recommended.
"If you're at all committed to getting rid of nuclear weapons completely than you have to get off deterrence and extended deterrence. You have to figure out a way to deter other countries without actually having nuclear weapons", she said.
Kwiatkowski pointed out that the United States had little in the way of defence against similar missiles that could be delivered from other parties with equal or better capability.
"The [INF] treaty itself was already operationally void, but the current directions of military spending and systems do not bode well for US security," Kwiatkowski said.
"It may be time, not for a bilateral treaty to protect Europe from nuclear war, but rather a multilateral treaty to protect the US itself from becoming that battlefield", she said.
The INF was a successful and excellent agreement because it reflected the desires and beliefs of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the breakup of the Soviet Union and genuinely soothed European fears of nuclear proliferation and attack, Kwiatkowski recalled.
"Those players and conditions no longer exist, and haven't for some time, which is why the treaty had long been a dead letter to the signatories," Kwiatkowski lamented. "Neither political party in the US today is thinking about this: And neocons in both parties are stuck in a past era of a US power differential that no longer exists".
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.