US pull-out of INF treaty a disastrous move

The US is suspending its compliance with the decades-old Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty on February 2 and it will officially quit the deal in six months, according to reports citing President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The move has sparked fears of a Cold War-style arms race and even nuclear war between the two big powers posing a threat not only to Europe but also to the entire world.

Russia has consistently denied violation of the treaty and production of new 9M729 missiles. According to Moscow, by leaving the landmark treaty, Washington is destroying a safety mechanism in place since 1987 that prevented conflicts in Europe.

 The only consolation in this grim situation is Washington’s readiness to reverse the pull-out plan if Moscow returns to the treaty and verifiable compliance within the next six months by destroying all missiles banned under INF treaty.

The concerns of arms-control advocates are reasonable as the US has turned increasingly hostile towards Russia after Moscow’s alleged meddling in 2016 presidential elections.

This was evident during Trump’s joint media conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last year. A large section of American public was seething when Trump said Russia does not seem to have interfered in the presidential elections.

The world has changed for the worse after Trump took office. The US president may have a soft corner for Putin and the two leaders may have many things in common. But when the US intelligence agencies and senators cutting across party lines call for military solution against Russia, Trump may be forced to act.

In fact, while confirming the US decision to suspend INF treaty, Trump said on Friday that Washington will go ahead with developing its own military response options to Russia’s 9M729 missiles.

Putin appears to be a level-headed leader but when threatened, he will not shy away from a confrontation.

Trump cannot treat Russia like North Korea. Former chief of the General Staff Yury Baluyevsky said Russia too is ready to respond militarily to the US decision.

If a conflict breaks out between the US and Russia, NATO allies, which have backed the US move to leave INF treaty, will join the conflict, although reluctantly.

This will force China, which is not bound by the treaty, to join hands with Russia.

The communist country, which has been spending a lot in developing powerful missiles, wants to prove it is a super power and it may use an opportunity like this to show its military might. The country is already engaged in a trade war with the US.

Since a nuclear war will be short and the destruction total, no country will push the world into such a situation. That comforting thought does not in any way justify Washington’s suspension of INF treaty.

After the US officially pulls out of the treaty, it can develop intermediate-range ground-launched missiles. The Congress has already cleared an initial $58 million for research in developing such missiles after accusing Russia of violating the treaty in 2017.  

The US move will encourage countries like China and Iran to produce short and medium range missiles and the world will soon become a dangerous place to live in.

Since Russia is unlikely to walk the extra mile to save the INF treaty, the only option left now seems to be to extend the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which expires in 2021, by five years.

As responsible nations, Russia and the US cannot shy away from extending the New START.