US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the US is suspending its compliance of the Intermediate-Range Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia on Saturday and will start a 180-day procedure to completely withdraw from the arms control accord. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will also suspend participation in the INF treaty. “They say that they are doing research and testing [new weapons] and we will do the same thing,” Putin said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.
Although Washington claimed it would return to compliance of the treaty if Russia verifiably destroys a cruise missile system which the US said was a violation of the treaty, analysts believe such a turnaround would not happen. Two months ago when the US threatened to pull out of the treaty, it began to bury the accord.
Scrapping the treaty would be the beginning of the collapse of the global arms control system. It’s highly likely a new arms race will start.
The arms control agreements reached between the US and the Soviet Union during the latter period of the Cold War not only curbed the arms race to a certain extent, but also produced a political effect that appeased the people. The US withdrawal from the treaty will lead to a grim outlook for the 21st century.
When the treaty was signed, the US was facing formidable challenges from the Soviet Union and two military alliances, the Warsaw Treaty Organization and NATO, were confronting each other. The US now has greater military superiority than it did at that time. Suspending the treaty now is not because US military strength is weaker than over the three decades ago, but because Washington’s thinking has become more radical.
Although the US in the Reagan era launched the Strategic Defense Initiative, nicknamed “Star Wars,” it accepted the concept of security based on a balance of power. But today the US wants an overwhelming advantage and absolute security. It even cannot accept other countries which want to strengthen their strategic defense.
Washington has been hyping the Russian threats in recent years, but Russia’s strategic deterrence is clearly weaker than in the Soviet era. The US has also complained about China’s development of missile capabilities. This is even more unreasonable. China’s nuclear deterrence isn’t comparable to that of the US and Russia. Portraying China’s military development as part of an “arms race,” the US is creating an excuse to suppress China’s legitimate build-up of its national defense.
If the treaty is abolished, security risks will be reassessed and major powers will redefine what “security” is. Overall international relations will be implicated. Such a scenario is unfavorable to an end to the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula and runs the risk of a rise in conflicts in other regions.
As far as China is concerned, the US intends to make the INF treaty a multilateral agreement, which may become an excuse for Washington to exert pressure on Beijing. Without the restraints of the treaty, the US may intensify its deployment of offensive missiles and anti-missile systems around China, further increasing China’s strategic security challenges.
Beijing will never accept the treaty becoming a multilateral agreement. It must reject any request from the US on the issue. Instead of relying too much on land-based missiles for national security, China must diversify its strategic nuclear deterrence. It’s an urgent task.