On Oct. 20, President Donald Trump announced his intention to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. For peace activists and others around the world, this was explosive and terrible news.
The INF was originally signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. Reagan died in 2004; Gorbachev is alive and well at age 87 and was joined on Tuesday by 97-year-old George Schultz in writing an opinion editorial for the Washington Post. Schultz is a former U.S. secretary of state and now a distinguished fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who had also been part of the negotiations that resulted in the signing of the INF.
They wrote: "We were both at Reykjavik (where the INF was signed 30 years ago) and participated in the negotiations before and after that led to the first agreements. We understand that nuclear weapons raise difficult issues. But we are convinced the United States and Russia must resume progress on a path toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. The alternative, which is unacceptable, is the continuing threat of those weapons to our very existence."
They went on to write that the signing of the INF was a historic milestone in that leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union agreed that the ultimate goal of the process of nuclear arms reduction should be the elimination of all nuclear weapons. Other treaties followed, and there was an opening to a process of real nuclear disarmament.
They see the idea of abandoning the INF as a step toward a new arms race, "undermining strategic stability and increasing the threat of miscalculation or technical failure leading to an immensely destructive war."
Five days before their letter in the Washington Post, a press release from U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, along with Sens. Ron Wyden from Oregon and Dianne Feinstein from California, announced the introduction of the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2018, new legislation what would stop the U.S. from entering into a 21st century nuclear arms race. Like the agreement of Gorbachev and Schultz, this was in response to Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the INF Treaty. Sen. Merkley said, "A new nuclear arms race would be costly to our treasury and dangerous for the world."
Even though there is evidence that Russia has violated the treaty, according to the press release, surely U.S. positions that encroach on Russia after assuring them we would not exacerbate the situation. Let's listen to our elders, Gorbachev and Schultz, and really get behind the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2018 with the muscle of logic and sheer determination to free the world from the risks of returning to the Cold War postures of the past.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.