American Missile Policy Endangers International Security
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Lucas Leiroz, researcher in Social Sciences at the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; geopolitical consultant.
Trying to avoid further escalation of tensions, the Russian Federation asked the US and other Western powers to avoid further violations of the rules implemented by the former Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). Indeed, the current US missile policy is a real threat to international security and needs to be revised as soon as possible.
Konstantin Vorontsov, Deputy Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-proliferation and Arms Control, recently made statements about the threats posed by the American practice of producing and deploying nuclear-capable missile systems around the world. Vorontsov highlighted the joint actions with non-nuclear countries, through which the US has managed to form tactical points for possible nuclear actions against its enemies around the planet – mainly Russia.
“The US activity in creating and deploying global missile defense systems in various regions of the world, in combination with building up the potential of high accuracy non-nuclear weapons capable of solving strategic tasks remains a negative factor fraught with significant risks for strategic stability (…) In violation of obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NATO goes ahead with the practice of joint nuclear missions involving non-nuclear European countries on whose territory US nuclear bombs are deployed. Destabilizing modernization of these weapons and their delivery vehicles is being carried out. We have repeatedly stressed the need for returning US nuclear weapons to the national territory of the United States, eliminating the infrastructure for its deployment in Europe and curtailing joint nuclear missions”, he said.
The Russian official said that the US withdrawal from its commitment to the norms imposed by the INF Treaty destabilizes world security, which is why Moscow asks that Washington continue to maintain the treaty’s obligations, despite its withdrawal. Vorontsov makes it clear that the solution is for the US to act responsibly, in order to guarantee a strategic balance in the midst of the current scenario of tensions. In this sense, the best thing to do would be to prioritize the concept of reciprocity, so that Washington, even exempted due to its withdrawal from the treaty, would self-impose limitations of action in its missile policy in order to act reciprocally with Russia, which is a country that does not violate the terms of the INF.
“The termination of the treaty on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles as a result of the United States’ pullout has produced a situation where in terms of international nuclear missile disarmament agreements the world has been thrown back by more than 30 years (…) We are urging Washington and its allies to display responsibility and assume, on the basis of reciprocity, obligations similar to those assumed by Russia, not to be the first to deploy systems previously banned under the INF Treaty”, he added.
In fact, the end of the INF Treaty was an episode of great damage to world peace, whose responsibility lies exclusively with the US, which left the agreement unilaterally, nullifying any possibility of negotiation to extend its validity. Signed in 1987 between the Cold War’s leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the agreement ensured for decades an important balance in the international balance of power. Its terms established the elimination of ballistic and cruise missiles, nuclear or conventional, whose range was between 500 and 1,000 km, which contributed enormously to the demilitarization of the world order.
The Americans, however, have always been much more relaxed about the deal than the Russians. For example, between 1987 and 1991, the date established by the treaty to eliminate prohibited weapons, the USSR eliminated 1,846 missiles, while the US destroyed just a few more than 800 weapons in the same period of time. In 2019, the agreement was also terminated due to the American unwillingness to negotiate new terms, following the one-sided American decision to withdraw, later responded by Russia with an equivalent act. Since then, the global security situation has been much more fragile and unstable, especially given the US policy of allocating weapons, including with nuclear capabilities, in foreign countries – which is why Russia made this recent appeal.
The American withdrawal from the treaty was just a clear symptom of the only interest that guides Washington’s decisions: to guarantee its hegemony at the world level. In a global context of late Cold War, the Treaty served to diminish Soviet military capacity and consolidate American supremacy. However, in the context of the rise of a multipolar world, the existence of the document came to be seen as a “problem”, which is why the solution was to simply finish it. Concern for peace has never been part of American foreign policy doctrine. It remains to be seen whether Washington will act at least with caution and prudence in order to avoid escalations that do not benefit either side.
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