Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.
Donald Trump told reportersÂ this weekend that the United States will âterminateâ the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a landmark arms control agreement with Russia that has helped keep global peace since the Cold War.
The U.S.-Russia treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, forced both countries to scrap all of their nuclear missiles that had a short enough range (500 to 5,500 km) to be launched in a surprise nuclear strike without early warning.
Trump justified the move by accusingÂ Russia of having violated the agreement, and said theyâve âbeen violating it for years.â Indeed, U.S. and NATO officials haveÂ long criticizedÂ Russia for testing a cruise missile that they sayÂ violates the treaty.
But experts say that withdrawing from the INF isnât the solution to that problem. In fact, they warn, leaving the INFÂ benefits Russia and Russia only.
Michael Carpenter, formerÂ foreign policy adviserÂ to former Vice President Joe Biden, said Trump âwill be handing Vladimir Putin a giftâ if he follows through with withdrawing from the treaty.
âOur allies will be furious, while the only party that stands to benefit is Russia,â he said.
It seems strange on the surface for Trump to harshly criticize Putin over this issue, given hisÂ long-standing bromanceÂ with the Russian dictator.
But leaving the deal allows Trump to give Putin a significant victory. Now Russia can continue developing its treaty-violating weapons â while the U.S. gets all the diplomatic blowback for exiting the deal.
âItâs important to remember that Russia bears full responsibility for violating the INF Treaty in the first place, but this ill-considered move will make it look like the US is to blame,â Carpenter said.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) also blasted Trumpâs shocking decision.
âIf President Trump withdraws from INF first so Russia can justify its noncompliance, he is betraying NATO and Europe to do Putinâs bidding,âÂ Sen. Markey said.
Already, the Russian government says it would be forced to âtake measuresâ in response. ThatÂ could involveÂ openly deploying missiles banned under the INF. (Until now, Russia has denied it is violating the treaty.)
Meanwhile, Russian officials are placing blame for the INFâs demise squarely on the U.S., despite the fact that Russia was the first to violate the treaty.
âThe decision is in line with the U.S. course to quit international agreements,â a Russian Foreign Ministry sourceÂ toldÂ state media.
Trumpâs decision fits conveniently into the RussianÂ narrativeÂ that the U.S. is an untrustworthy global leader, especially on the heels of Trumpâs withdrawals from other international agreements like theÂ Paris Climate Accord, theÂ Iranian Nuclear Deal, and theÂ U.N. Human Rights Council.
The ability to openly deploy short-range nuclear missiles is good news for the Kremlin and leaves the U.S. with few options to counter Russia unless other countries agree to house the controversial weapons â which would make those countries bigger targets in a nuclear strike.
â[I]t is unlikely the United States could persuade NATO, Japan, or South Korea to deployâ short-range nuclear missiles in their territory,Â said Steven Pifer, a non-proliferation expert at the Brookings Institute.
Trump claims exiting the deal will encourage Russia to return to compliance, but it would be a drastic step to take without holding any other summits or negotiations with Russia on the issue.
Itâs possible Trump could have raised the issue of Russiaâs noncompliance at hisÂ summit with PutinÂ in Helsinki this summer â but we have no way of knowing that, because Trump refuses to disclose what they talked about.
We do know, however, that theÂ Kremlin claimsÂ it isÂ prepared to executeÂ the âinternational securityâ agreements reached by Trump and Putin at that meeting.
But what those agreements are, and whether they have anything to do with Trumpâs dangerous and destabilizing exit from the INF, remains a mystery.
Published with permission of The American Independent.Â