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Select Reactions to the INF Treaty Crisis
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Arms Control NOW

Authored by on November 1, 2018

The Trump administration’s sudden decision and announcement Oct. 20 to “terminate” the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty due to Russian violations of the treaty has been met with bipartisan and international concern.

A collection of select reactions from international partners, members of Congress, and former national security policymakers is provided below and will be updated as further reactions arise.

International Reactions

“We believe in arms control but it has to be balanced and verifiable and therefore I welcome the fact that one of the issues that has been discussed between the US and Russia, which are parties to the New START Agreement, is that they need a new decision to maintain the New START of 2021. I hope that they will find a way to do so because arms control is a way to avoid a new arms race and it is especially important when it comes to nuclear weapons and therefore I welcome it.”

     —Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, Oct. 24, 2018

“President Macron reminded President Trump of the importance France ascribes to this treaty, in particular for European security and our strategic stability. France attributes great importance to conventional and nuclear arms control instruments. The Allies' concern over the very likely Russian violation and the lack of transparency on Russia's implementation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was reaffirmed at the NATO summit this past July…We call on all the parties to avoid any hasty unilateral decisions, which would be regrettable.”

     —Press Briefing by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Deputy Spokesperson of France, Oct. 22, 2018

"We attach great importance to the historic role of this treaty on the issues of arms control and disarmament. We would not like a situation when the US would really have to withdraw from the treaty. We hope that the situation will improve."

     —Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Oct. 22, 2018

“The United States and the Russian Federation need to remain engaged in constructive dialogue to preserve the INF Treaty and ensure its full and verifiable implementation which is crucial for Europe’s and global security…. The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability.”

     —Maja Kocijancic, European Union Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, October 22, 2018

“The announcement by the United States that it intends to withdraw from the INF Treaty is regrettable. It poses difficult questions for us and for Europe. For 30 years, the INF Treaty, which prohibits Russia and the United States from possessing and testing ground launch intermediate-range missiles, has been an important pillar of our European security architecture. It is therefore hugely important, particularly for us in Europe.”

     —Heiko Maas, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Oct. 21, 2018

"Our government pays close attention to peace processes. I am concerned over the US’ decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, I will be in Moscow, I will meet with [Russian] President Vladimir Putin, and I hope to discuss that," Conte said. He noted that due to its traditions and history, Italy "is always ready to cooperate and contribute to peace processes."

     —Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s Prime Minister. Oct. 22, 2018


Members of Congress

“We also have heard that maybe [Trump administration officials] want to end the New START treaty. I think that would be a huge mistake. The START treaty has worked. I feel responsible, with others, but I really led the charge to cause it to be ratified. And it's worked. So I hope we're not moving down the path to undo much of the nuclear arms control treaties that we have put in place… I hope we're going to be able to figure out a way to stay within the treaty.”

     —Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union, Oct. 21, 2018

“There is no doubt that Russia is responsible for the degradation of the INF treaty. However, withdrawing from this treaty without a comprehensive strategy for addressing its underlying strategic implications and without consulting Congress or our allies threatens long-term United States’ national security interests…Congress must now put partisan bickering aside to constrain this administration’s efforts to destroy longstanding arms control agreements, prevent a nuclear arms race and prioritize the security of all Americans.”

     —Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Oct. 21, 2018

“It would be better to build international pressure to hold Russia accountable for violating the treaty and force it back into serious negotiations than to have the U.S. pull out now. In addition, terminating the INF Treaty will complicate - if not undermine - discussions to extend the New START Treaty with Russia. The New START Treaty sets overall totals for strategic nuclear weapons on both sides and will expire in 2021, but can be extended for five years. Trump’s impulsive and glib proposed termination of the INF Treaty and failure to date to begin discussion of extending the New START Treaty could begin the unwinding of international arms control that has provided decades of stability regarding nuclear weapons.”

     —Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Oct. 24, 2018

“Instead, the Administration is opting for a dangerous approach that threatens a nuclear arms race and abandons effective diplomacy to preserve a vital arms control agreement. As you know, the INF Treaty, alongside New START Treaty, forms the basis for our strategic relationship with Russia. These treaties have been crucial tools to help preserve U.S. and European security and reduce the risk of nuclear war with Russia by ensuring mutual transparency and stability of both the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles…We will neither support, nor enable, a precipitous course of action that increases the risk of an unconstrained nuclear arms race.”

     —Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a letter to President Donald Trump, Oct. 24, 2018

@realDonaldTrump is so hellbent on building more nuclear weapons, he wants to cancel a treaty signed by Ronald Reagan. The INF has prevented an arms race in Europe for 30 years. Russia has violated it, & we should hold Putin accountable. Withdrawing just makes America less safe.”

     —Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the Armed Services Committee, Oct. 23, 2018

“President Trump withdrawing the United States from the INF treaty would be a strategic mistake that would weaken our national security and the security of our key allies. Since the Cold War, this arms-control agreement has banned an entire class of dangerous nuclear weapons, reducing the threat of nuclear war. Russia has violated this treaty for several years, and we must take strong diplomatic actions to address that violation. However, withdrawing from the treaty will only accelerate a nuclear arms race, leaving us far less safe.”

     —Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, (D-Calif), Oct. 22, 2018

“There is no question Russia has acted in bad faith and violated the INF Treaty, which is why there has been a bipartisan consensus to push diplomatic efforts to bring Russia into compliance. We should be reinforcing efforts to strengthen and expand membership in the INF, not scrapping it.”

     —Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Oct. 22, 2018

“I think it's a big, big mistake to flippantly get out of this historic agreement that Reagan and Gorbachev signed. This was a big part of Reagan's legacy and we should not get rid of it. It was an important step. We went from 64,000 nuclear-tipped missiles down to 15,000. It has been an historic agreement. I think what we should do instead of getting out event is I've asked the president, and I advised him privately and in public, that he should appoint nuclear negotiators, nuclear arms control negotiators to actually work with the Soviets. We have complaints that they are not in compliance. They also have complaints that some of our missile launchers in Europe are not in compliance. Let's have a rational discussion with experts on this and see if we can resolve it…I think John Bolton is the one advising the president to get out of the INF Treaty and I don't think he recognizes the important achievement of Reagan and Gorbachev on this. Look, I spent an hour with Gorbachev a couple of months ago and they still regard this, this reduction of nuclear arms and a disaster that would be nuclear war, I think in a very sincere manner, at least from Gorbachev, that reducing the arms was very important and I don't want to see another nuclear arms race with Russia or with any other country.”

     —Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Oct. 21, 2018

“Pulling out of the INF Treaty plays squarely into Russia’s hands while undermining America’s security and betraying our NATO allies. Without question, Russia is violating the INF Treaty. Threatening American withdrawal will not increase our negotiating leverage, it only falls hook, line, and sinker for Putin’s predictable attempts to goad the United States into justifying Russian noncompliance. The Trump administration’s naïveté is surpassed only by its recklessness. It should instead work more closely with our NATO allies to force Russia back into compliance.”

     —Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Oct. 19, 2018


Former National Security Leaders

“Now is not the time to build larger arsenals of nuclear weapons. Now is the time to rid the world of this threat. Leaving the [INF] treaty would be a huge step backward. We should fix it, not kill it.”

     —George P. Schultz, former secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, Oct. 25, 2018

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is gravely misguided. Withdrawing will not make us safer, it will rob us of leverage essential to our own security and power. It will foolishly play into the hands of Russian propagandists by focusing global attention on our rejection of the treaty instead of Russian violations. And it will make the world a more dangerous place…The INF treaty gives us benefits, as does the other major arms control agreement, the 2010 New START treaty. Both sides are complying with New START and are benefitting from its weapons limits and verification procedures. An important step toward greater stability would be for President Trump to offer to extend New START to 2026. I urge him to do so.”

     —Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ret.), former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, (R-Indiana), Oct. 25, 2018

“President Trump announced last week the United States’ plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty and his country’s intention to build up nuclear arms. I am being asked whether I feel bitter watching the demise of what I worked so hard to achieve. But this is not a personal matter. Much more is at stake. A new arms race has been announced. The I.N.F. Treaty is not the first victim of the militarization of world affairs.”

     —Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, Oct. 25, 2018

“The rollout of this decision put the U.S. in the position of being the one that will have killed the treaty, and that will be detrimental to our ability to work not just with Russia or China, but our allies as well, and it will be detrimental to our ability to sustain the New START Treaty, which is even more in the U.S. interest than the INF treaty,”

     —Jim Miller, former undersecretary of defense for policy under President Obama, Oct. 22, 2018 

“The INF failure and the failure to get into discussions about extending New START is a sign of the U.S. sleepwalking into a new nuclear arms race. This is going to have consequences for the U.S. and our allies that we haven’t thought through."

     —Richard Burt, former U.S. chief negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty under George H.W. Bush, Oct. 22, 2018

“ Both sides should make a more serious effort to address respective claims of non-compliance and offer transparency and verification mechanisms to resolve the current problems with INF. They should also continue to implement the 2010 New START Treaty and agree to extend it through 2026.”

     —Sam Nunn, former U.S. Senator for Georgia, and Ernie Moniz, former Secretary of Energy under President Barack Obama, Oct. 22, 2018