Staff PicksAmerican Suspension of INF Treaty Risks 21st Century Nuclear...

American Suspension of INF Treaty Risks 21st Century Nuclear Arms Race


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“Russia is in material breach of its obligations under the INF treaty”

At the beginning of the month, Trump announced the American suspension of the INF treaty, a treaty that one acted as a pivotal catalyst in ending the tensions of the Cold War once implemented in 1987. The suspension was applied following long term Russian breach of the treaty, which bans intermediate range nuclear forces (INF) – mainly those with a travel range of 500-5500km. With insinuations by the American government suggesting the USA are now working to engineer their own INFs, this risks a new age arms race coming to the surface of international security.

Effectively, the INF treaty banned a class of weapons that would have detrimental effects globally if used. Yet, following its suspension, Trump wrote in his official statement that “we will move forward with developing our own military response options”, suggesting an offensive reaction amongst the West to the actions of Russia. The Russian missile in question, a ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729, has been further scrutinised by global powers and organisations such as NATO.

The organisation, whose name stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and its 29 member states, issued a joint statement in support of Trump’s decision. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, following the meeting of NATO foreign affairs ministers in December, concluded that “Allies agree that this missile system violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risk to Euro-Atlantic security. To which they agree that Russia is therefore in material breach of its obligations under the INF treaty”. The suspension includes a six month implementation period meant to encourage Russian to re-allign with treaty standards. 

This was a somewhat controversial move on behalf of the organisation, as although it tends to stand with America on most matters, its foundations are rooted within the upkeep of international norms and laws – thus its primary role tends to be protecting treaties, such as the INF. This could prove to be a driving wedge for the future relations between NATO allies, with only a handful of current members possessing nuclear weapons themselves, whilst countries such as Denmark refuse to allow nuclear weapons on their soil due to domestic political sentiment.

This could potentially cause complexities within Trump’s plans for future nuclear deployment. The ability to deploy Nuclear weapons into Europe is central in allowing America to appear as a significant challenger to Russia, as without European deployment and support, the weapons are not actually capable of reaching Russia. The situation is further made critical with continuing moves of aggression by Russia towards its neighbouring states, as seen within the last two months from the Kerch-Strait crisis, and continuing occupation of Ukraine and Crimea. 

Unless NATO is able to reinstate a replacement treaty or create a coherent alternative framework within six months, international politics faces a potential revival of Cold War tensions that will inevitably feature a modern day Nuclear Arms race. Yet, with the increasing intricacies we see in our present political system due to the creation of organisations such as NATO and the divisions seen specifically within Eastern Europe, the effects of intensified tensions between Russia and America will have unprecedented consequences. 

Catherine Sirotkin
Catherine Sirotkin
Catherine is an undergraduate student studying Political Science With Sociology at the University of Birmingham. She specialises in Middle Eastern conflicts and has an avid interest in international relations, development economics, as well as minority empowerment in the UK. Catherine is also a keen reader, podcast-listener and believer in God. In addition to politics, she is also a huge food lover, especially in terms of her sweet tooth.

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