Does the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty have a future?

Douglas Barrie says there are practical and symbolic reasons for saving this three-decade-old deal between Russia and the West.  

US army sergeant in radiation mask. Credit: Flickr/US DODBy Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace 

Today there are two questions about the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty: is it worth saving, and if so, can it be saved?

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, and one of the architects of the treaty, thinks so. Earlier this month Gorbachev called for President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump to work together to rescue the three-decade old treaty. For Gorbachev saving the INF would: “send a powerful signal to the world that the two biggest nuclear powers are aware of their responsibility and take their obligations seriously.”

Putin has long been less enamoured of the INF. He reportedly told the Valdai Club the treaty was “unilateral disarmament on the part of the Soviet Union”. As far back as 2007 the then Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov was arguing that the treaty was disadvantageous to Russia. While the deal did remove five types of Soviet ballistic missile (SS-4 Sandal, SS-5 Skean, SS-12 Scaleboard, SS-20 Saber, SS-23 Spider) and the land attack cruise missile, the SSC-X-4 Slingshot, it also removed from Europe the US Pershing II ballistic missile and the BGM-109G Gryphon land-based version of the Tomahawk family of cruise missiles. The accuracy of the Pershing II missile when coupled with a short flight-time to its target was of particular concern to the Soviets.

Read the full article at the European Leadership Network

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