U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s October 20 announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as a result of Russian cheating set off a wide variety of anxious messages from allies as well as some gratuitous threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin…
Calls for the United States to continue to engage in a constructive dialogue with Russia on this issue bring to mind Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
The United States has been raising Russian violations of the INF Treaty with Moscow since 2014. During that period, Russia completed design of the treaty-busting SSC8 cruise missile, and moved to produce, test, and deploy the system. Multiple SSC8 battalions are in the field and are operational—equipped with nuclear weapons. Continued entreaties to the Kremlin “to make Europe safer” will result only in additional Russian deployments, while Moscow continues to reject any idea that it has violated, let alone eviscerated, the treaty.
The Kremlin’s behavior mirrors almost exactly the situation of the late 1970s and early 1980s when NATO appealed to the USSR to halt deployments of the Soviet SS-20 IRBM only to have Moscow ramp up placing SS-20s in the field. The halt in SS-20 deployments and their eventual elimination thanks to the INF Treaty only occurred as a direct result of NATO’s counter-deployment of Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles.
How can the INF Treaty be considered “an important pillar of our European security architecture” when Russia is exploiting it to place illegal systems in the field while NATO continues to believe itself bound by the treaty’s strictures?