Termination of the INF Treaty must be prevented at all costs

29 January 2019

Termination of the INF Treaty must be prevented at all costs

At the beginning of December the United States gave Russia sixty days, of which only five now remain, to come into line with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Should this not happen, the US will withdraw from the treaty, and this could lead to a new nuclear arms race in Europe and further escalation of the new Cold War. This must at all costs be prevented. Nothing less that Europe's security and, in the worst case scenario, the continued existence of humanity, are at stake.

Sadet Karabalut

The US is stating explicitly that Russia is in breach of the INF treaty. If true, alarming enough in itself. This important treaty, ratified by both countries back in the 1980s, bans the construction of both nuclear and conventional missiles with a reach of 500 to 5,500 kilometres (middle range missiles), a reach which would make Europe into a theatre of war. The treaty led to the destruction of thousands of such missiles and to a relaxation between the US and what was still the Soviet Union, contributing to the end of the original Cold War.

The Netherlands shares the American estimation that Russia is in breach of the treaty and claims, moreover, to have 'independent' information on the matter. Further information would confirm this. But of proof came there none, even to Members of Parliament. This was also the case when it came to the evidence which the US claimed to have available.

That isn't to say that there couldn't be good reasons to surmise that Russia has breached the treaty, but it does mean that vigilance is required. Too often has the world been lied to about crucial matters, and not uncommonly about weapons of mass destruction, as in the run-up to the Iraq war of 2003, when a torrent of American lies was hurled at the world, lies about the range of arms that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had at its disposal.

Furthermore, numerous analyses have concluded that US hawks, as well as some hardliners in Russia, would like to quit the INF treaty because it stands in the way of their fight for hegemony. The American hawks look at the growing power of China, which is not signatory to the treaty, as well as at Russia. The assumption is that the United States' technical lead in the area of defence can lead to a resounding victory in any new arms race by running competitors into the ground. For these hawks, moreover, other treaties restricting nuclear weapons are far from sacred.

In response to the Dutch-backed American claim that the Russians are in breach of the treaty, the Russians have accused the US of the same. They cite, amongst other things, certain aspects of the anti-missile shield that the US has installed in Europe and a number of types of armed drone. Because of the propaganda war and the rapidly rising tensions between East and West which accompany the new Cold War, Russian claims are often conveniently pushed to one side or simply denied. That is extremely easy, but makes no contribution to a solution.

In order to prevent the provocation of a new arms race in which Europe would once more become a potential theatre of war, such a solution is of vital importance. Ultimatums aren't helpful. A sensible solution did come from the Soviet Union's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and George Shultz, US Secretary of State at the time when the treaty was being negotiated. Both advocate maintaining the treaty and exhort the US and Russia to exchange experts so that claims from each side can be checked. If, following this process; transgressions are confirmed, these must of course be dealt with..

In addition, both men insist that the US and Russia should institute a strategic dialogue, in which many more security matters would be on the agenda, such as missile shields, militarisation of space and cyber threats. Against the background of the further escalation of a new Cold War in recent years, such a dialogue is no superfluous luxury.

Foreign Minister Stef Blok should at the same time not sit on the sidelines and wait. By stating plainly that there is no place in the Netherlands for American nuclear weapons and asking other countries in Europe to follow his example, he could send a clear signal. Serious steps should also be taken towards nuclear disarmament, for example by ratifying the treaty banning them, and returning the US nuclear bombs housed in the Netherlands back to the States.

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