Has President Donald Trump fired the starting pistol on Cold War II? Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, thinks so.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed by the U.S. and Soviet Union in 1987 and became effective in 1988. It eliminated all nuclear and conventional missiles and their launchers with ranges below 3,420 miles.
The treaty grew out of the Soviet deployment of ballistic missiles with a range just under the SALT II Treaty limit of 3,400 miles. Western European leaders had raised concerns that these weapons made them vulnerable to attack, and they threatened deploying new NATO missile launchers across Europe.
After many proposals and negotiations, finally, in 1986, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev proposed the total elimination of all nuclear weapons by the year 2000; the U.S. countered with a phased reduction of INF missiles in Europe and Asia, to zero by 1989. It happened. The U.S. and Soviet Union destroyed more than 2,500 weapons between them by June 1, 1991.
But that was then, and this is now. On Feb. 2, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. sees Russia in noncompliance with the INF Treaty and, if they have not come into compliance in six months, the treaty will terminate. According to Ralph Hutchinson of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, in 2012, President Barack Obama accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty when it tested a new cruise missile. Russia has argued that U.S. bases in Poland and Romania that can launch Tomahawk missiles are a violation of the treaty; Russia also notes the U.S. use of drones is a violation of the treaty.
Hutchinson goes on to say: "It must be noted that the U.S. has embarked on a $1.7 trillion plan to modernize its nuclear weapons stockpile, production infrastructure, and delivery vehicles including low-yield weapons and new missiles systems which inject new concerns into the security plans of other countries."
The U.S. suspension of and withdrawal from the INF Treaty is an irresponsible move that may open the path for a new nuclear arms race — Cold War II — and highlights the importance of real multilateral, binding solutions like the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, also known as the Nuclear Ban Treaty. ICAN's Fihn points out that with Russia and the U.S. putting the entire world at risk, it is urgent for all responsible governments to stand up and join the Ban Treaty.
The Ban Treaty was passed by 120 countries at the United Nations in July 2017. In order to enter into force, the treaty needs 50 countries to sign and ratify it. Seventy nations have signed the treaty, and 22 have ratified it, including former nuclear weapons state South Africa in February.
Considering the enormous consequences of nuclear war, the world must come together as one humanity under threat of annihilation and truly ban these weapons.
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