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Mikhail Gorbachev op-ed: Trump wrong to withdraw from INF treaty

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U.S. President Ronald Reagan (R) shakes hands at his first meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to sign an arms treaty in Geneva,
President Ronald Reagan at
his first meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail
Gorbachev.

REUTERS/Denis
Paquin/Files


  • President Donald Trump has said he wants to pull out of
    the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, signed by
    President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail
    Gorbachev.
  • Gorbachev has joined a number of experts and officials
    cautioning against US withdrawal from the treaty.
  • “There will be no winner in a ‘war of all against
    all,'” Gorbachev writes, “particularly if it
    ends in a nuclear war”

Mikhail Gorbachev, the politician who led Soviet Union in its
final days, is not personally upset about President Donald
Trump’s intention to withdraw from the landmark
Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty that Gorbachev signed
with President Ronald Reagan in 1987.

“Much more is at stake,” Gorbachev wrote Friday in a New York Times opinion
column
.

The piece comes several days after Trump declared his intention to pull the US out
of the INF treaty
, and after several years of the US saying
that Russia was in violation of its terms. 

The treaty banned ground-launched missiles with ranges between
500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers, or about 310 miles and 3,400
miles. The deal, which was approved by the US Senate in a 93-5
vote, led to the dismantling of nearly 2,700 short- and
medium-range missiles in Europe, most of which were Soviet.

For the first time in history, two classes of nuclear
weapons were to be eliminated and destroyed,” Gorbachev
writes.


Ronald Reagan Mikhail Gorbachev INF Intermediate range nuclear forces treaty signing
President
Ronald Reagan, right, and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
exchange pens during the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
signing ceremony at the White House, December 8,
1987.

(AP Photo/Bob
Daugherty)


The treaty also helped end a standoff that started in the late
1970s, when the USSR deployed SS-20 intermediate-range nuclear
missiles and the US responded by deploying Pershing II nuclear
missiles — deployments that prompted mass protests throughout
Western Europe.

“There are still too many nuclear weapons in the world, but
the American and Russian arsenals are now a fraction of what they
were during the Cold War,” Gorbachev writes. “Today, this
tremendous accomplishment, of which our two nations can be
rightfully proud, is in jeopardy.”

The former Soviet president acknowledges that the US’s
allegations of Soviet INF treaty violations are the pretext for
withdrawing and notes that Russia has accused the US of
its own treaty violations. (Experts have dismissed those Russian
allegations, and the US has rebutted them.)

Gorbachev also notes that Russia has proposed further
negotiations to address the allegations both sides have raised,
but, he says, the US under Trump has avoided such discussions for
a reason.


West Germany Cold War Pershing II nuclear missile protest
West
German soldiers carry a banner reading “Soldiers against an
Euroshima No new nuke missiles” through Hamburg, Germany, during
a mass rally of about 200,000 protesters against Pershing II
missile deployment, October 22, 1983.

AP Photo

“But as we have seen during the past two years, the president of
the United States has a very different purpose in mind. It is to
release the United States from any obligations, any constraints,
and not just regarding nuclear missiles,” he writes.

“The United States has in effect taken the initiative in
destroying the entire system of international treaties and
accords that served as the underlying foundation for peace and
security following World War II.”

Trump and others have argued the INF treaty is
irreparably undermined because of Russian violations and that it
is now irrelevant because it does not apply to the array of
intermediate-range missiles developed by China.

Others have suggested Trump’s aversion to the INF treaty has more
to do with a general disdain for international agreements and
cooperation in general. Trump national-security adviser John
Bolton, who was in Moscow this week to meet with Russian
President Vladimir Putin and other officials, has long been
antagonistic toward the INF treaty and to diplomacy in general.


Russia Kremlin Vladimir Putin John Bolton
Russian
President Vladimir Putin, left, and US national-security adviser
John Bolton meet at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, October 23,
2018.

(AP Photo/Alexander
Zemlianichenko)


“I don’t think it helps, in reaction to what the Russians are
doing, for us to get rid of a treaty that we negotiated with
them. We have got to continue to use that and to keep that
alive,” Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the
Center for a New American Security, told Business Insider this
week. “Doing away with it completely closes that door
completely.”

“And as people have said, that certainly gives the Russians the
ability to blame us, to say, ‘Look the Americans, they wouldn’t
even talk about it,'” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant
secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the
Obama administration.

Trump’s plan to withdraw from the treaty have sparked fears of a
new arms race and that the US will look to rearm in Europe. Putin
has said if the US deploys new missiles there, Russia would
target
 countries hosting them.

In a meeting with US officials on Thursday, European members of
NATO urged the US to try to get Russia to comply with the terms
of the treaty rather than to pull out. 


Pershing II missile West Germany Cold War
A
Pershing II missile on a semi-trailer at the US missile base in
Mutlangen, West Germany, after the press was given a chance to
inspect the base, May 20, 1987.

AP
Photo/Thomas Kienzle


“Nobody takes issue with Russia’s violation of the treaty, but a
withdrawal would make it easy for Moscow to blame us for the end
of this landmark agreement,” a NATO diplomat told Reuters.

The EU has expressed similar concern. “The world doesn’t
need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the
contrary would bring even more instability,” EU foreign-policy
chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

Gorbachev similarly warns against a rush for new weaponry
and called on Russia to “take a firm but balanced stand” in
support of continued talks and on US allies to “refuse to be
launchpads for new American missiles.”

“I am convinced that those who hope to benefit from a
global free-for-all are deeply mistaken,” he writes. “There will
be no winner in a ‘war of all against all’ — particularly if it
ends in a nuclear war.”

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