February 5, 2019

INF Treaty

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

On Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally announced that the US was suspending participation in the INF (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) Treaty with Russia. The bilateral treaty was signed in 1987 and banned intermediate range land-based nuclear missiles. US State Department, Arms Control Association

NATO issued a statement in support:

“Following nearly six years of U.S. and Allied engagement with Russia, on 4 December 2018, NATO Allies declared that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system…which violates the INF Treaty…

“Allies regret that Russia, as part of its broader pattern of behaviour, continues to deny its INF Treaty violation, refuses to provide any credible response, and has taken no demonstrable steps toward returning to full and verifiable compliance…

“The United States is taking this action in response to the significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security posed by Russia’s covert testing, production, and fielding of 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile systems. Allies fully support this action.” NATO

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that despite Russia’s violations, diplomacy aimed at continuing the treaty remains preferable to an all-out arms race.

“True, it's not fair that Russia is violating the treaty. Yes, the U.S. should offer an effective response. But the U.S. under President Trump has made little apparent effort to seek a different kind of solution to the problem. The preferred action among his hawkish advisers has always been to start building more nukes…

“It's important to be reminded of an essential truth about nuclear weapons: They are genocidal-level weaponry. One bomb can destroy a city. We've seen it happen — twice — in Japan. An actual nuclear war would probably end civilization. So any action that increases the number of such weapons — and thus makes their use more likely — isn't simply a bad idea, it's morally wrong.”
The Week

“Think of it like highway speed limits. The limit is 65, and Russia is speeding at 75. If we throw away the speed limit, Russia can now go 125 with no constraints. How is this better?
The Hill

While the Trump administration argues that this is evidence of the President getting tough with Russia, many note that Putin has been “threatening to withdraw from the treaty for more than a decade… Russia in some ways seemed to be goading the United States to cancel it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong call, mind you… But just because it’s saying Russia did something wrong doesn’t necessarily mean Russia will be chastened or won’t like the outcome.”
Washington Post

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) write that “President Trump could have avoided this by genuinely collaborating with our NATO allies to jointly pressure Russia from the start. Several allies proposed options to address the violation and ensure Russian compliance in an effort to preserve the treaty… [but] the Trump administration blocked NATO discussion regarding the INF treaty and provided only the sparest information throughout the process.”

“The U.S. and Russia are sleepwalking toward a nuclear disaster, and America’s best hope of avoiding catastrophe is reengaging with Russia… Congress must develop a governance agenda—shared by a broad consensus of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, and between Congress and the White House—that successfully challenges the now-prevailing assumption that we have no choice on Russia policy except self-imposed paralysis… Congressional leaders from both parties must help create the political space to steer the world’s nuclear superpowers away from catastrophe.”

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right supports the decision, arguing that Russia has continued to violate the treaty despite exhaustive diplomatic efforts, and that the strategic threat from China is too great to ignore.

From the Right

The right supports the decision, arguing that Russia has continued to violate the treaty despite exhaustive diplomatic efforts, and that the strategic threat from China is too great to ignore.

“For nearly a decade, the U.S. government tried a number of tactics to get the Russians to meet their treaty obligations. U.S. officials tried negotiations. They tried public shaming. In December, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo persuaded NATO to formally declare Russia as in breach of the treaty. None of it worked… It’s fair to worry about a new nuclear arms race between the U.S., Russia and China. The problem is that the race is already on — and the U.S. is not running.”

"The State Department says Washington has formally raised violations with Russia more than 30 times. Even Barack Obama recognized the problem as part of his belated awakening to the threat posed by Mr. Putin. [But] a last-ditch effort with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization failed… Arms control with adversaries rarely works, and it’s impossible when Washington ignores blatant violations.”
Wall Street Journal

“Russia has flagrantly violated the treaty for at least the past three years and utterly rejected demands to return to compliance. Not only that, Russia also rejected repeated NATO requests to verify [whether it was in compliance]... All NATO's 28 member states agree that Russia is ‘in material breach’ of its obligations under the INF Treaty…  

“If the U.S. did not withdraw, we'd be signaling American weakness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, spurring him to further international outrages. Abiding by our treaty obligations while Russia flouted its own would show the Kremlin it could get away with anything without Washington making a fuss.”
Washington Examiner

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have called on President Trump to exhaust every diplomatic effort to maintain the treaty, but opponents of Pelosi’s position would certainly counter that the United States has been wagging its finger at Russia regarding this treaty for 13 years. It seems unlikely the next six months will change [Russia’s] stance…

“[Meanwhile] China has rapidly become a dominant force in the Pacific–thanks in no small part to its development of ballistic missiles that would have been in direct violation of the INF treaty, had China ever signed it… [The treaty] hinders America’s ability to develop a well-rounded offensive or defensive position in the Pacific.”

“Russian misbehavior aside, this ostensibly bilateral treaty is obsolete in a multilateral world, giving a strategic advantage to other adversaries. China has aggressively expanded its intermediate-range missiles to assert its influence in the Pacific while the U.S. is constrained by the INF, threatening both our posture in that theater and the security of our Pacific allies.”
National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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