By Katarzyna Kubiak
U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on October 20 that he intends to have the United States “terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty took many European policymakers and security experts by surprise.
Although the INF Treaty is a cornerstone of European security, most European governments have remained on the sidelines in this dispute because, for one thing, no European NATO allies are party to the agreement. Hence, they do not see themselves as empowered to pressure Moscow or Washington publicly on solutions. Further, the INF Treaty is more of a political symbol to Europeans than a military restraint because they already are within range of Russia’s conventional and nuclear missiles. In addition, some European governments initially viewed the U.S. evidence of presumed Russian violation as not compelling enough.7 As a consequence, it took Washington more than three years to persuade its NATO allies. Finally and probably most importantly, European allies differ among themselves in their preferred approach toward Russia.
Europe Bears the Consequences
If the threat of withdrawal succeeds in bringing Russia back to compliance, it will certainly be an achievement that could reinvigorate arms control more broadly. Nevertheless, the attempt is risky. If it fails, its consequences could generate predominantly unfavorable side effects for Europe without visible advantages on the horizon.
Can the INF Treaty Be Saved?
So far, Washington and NATO have been unsuccessful in their attempts to induce Russia to address compliance concerns.17 In line with the Trump Administration INF Treaty Integrated Strategy,18 the administration pursued diplomatic measures, including convening that month the second SVC meeting. At a June 2018 round of expert-level talks in Geneva, U.S. officials called on Russia to halt testing, production, and deployment of the 9M729 missile, but there have been no follow-on discussions, apparently due to Moscow’s refusal.19
Questions for the Future
With the accord in severe jeopardy, the alliance faces the “need to assess the implications of the new Russian missile,” according to Stoltenberg.25 Such an assessment has military and arms control dimensions.
Such a preservation effort should not be seen as a reward for Russia’s bad behavior. Rather, it should be recognized as an investment in preventing an arms race, as a step to realize the European commitment to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, and as a way for Europe to remain central in shaping the global nuclear weapons landscape. As with the Iran nuclear accord, Europe has a major role to play and a major stake in the outcome.
1. U.S. Department of State, “2014 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” July 2014, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/230108.pdf. See Gen. Paul Selva, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, March 8, 2017, https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/military-assessment-nuclear-deterrence-requirements. See also Gen. John E. Hyten, Testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, March 20, 2018, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Hyten_03-20-18.pdf.
2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Comment by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Regarding the Report of the U.S. Department of State on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” August 1, 2014, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/675835.
3. U.S. Department of State, “INF Diplomacy Highlights Timeline,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287411.htm.
4. U.S. Department of State, “Refuting Russian Allegations of U.S. Noncompliance With the INF Treaty,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287413.htm.
5. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Russia’s Assessment of the U.S. Department of State’s Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” April 14, 2018, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3192916. See “Russian Ambassador Calls U.S. Accusations of INF Treaty Violation ‘Ungrounded,’” Tass, March 2, 2018.
6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova,” December 21, 2018, http://www.mid.ru/en/diverse/-/asset_publisher/zwI2FuDbhJx9/content/brifing-oficial-nogo-predstavitela-mid-rossii-m-v-zaharovoj-moskva-21-dekabra-2017-goda?_101_INSTANCE_zwI2FuDbhJx9_redirect=http://www.mid.ru/en/diverse%3Fp_p_id%3D101_INSTANCE_
7. U.S. Mission to NATO, “October 2, 2018: Press Briefing by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison,” October 2, 2018, https://nato.usmission.gov/october-2-2018-press-briefing-by-ambassador-kay-bailey-hutchison/.
8. German Federal Foreign Office, “Foreign Minister Maas on the U.S. Announcement That It Is Withdrawing From the INF Treaty,” October 21, 2018, https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/newsroom/news/maas-inf-treaty/2151874, German Federal Government, “Zur Ankündigung der USA, sich aus dem INF-Abkommen zurückzuziehen,” October 21, 2018, https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/suche/zur-ankuendigung-der-usa-sich-aus-dem-inf-abkommen-zurueckzuziehen-1540744.
9. German Federal Foreign Office, October 24, 2018, https://twitter.com/AuswaertigesAmt/status/1055114684083462144; German Federal Foreign Office, “Preventing a New Arms Race,” October 23, 2018, https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/newsroom/news/maas-funke-mediengruppe-inf-treaty/2152660.
10. German Federal Foreign Office, “Preventing a New Arms Race.”
11. Embassy of France in London, “France Reminds U.S. of Nuclear Treaty’s Importance,” October 21, 2018, https://uk.ambafrance.org/France-reminds-US-of-nuclear-treaty-s-importance.
12. Peter Stubbly, “UK Stands 'Absolutely Resolute' With the U.S. After Trump Pulls Out of Russia Nuclear Weapons Treaty,” Independent, October 21, 2018.
13. “Jacek Czaputowicz: Polska ze zrozumieniem dla decyzji USA w sprawie INF,” PolskieRadio24.pl, October 22, 2018, https://polskieradio24.pl/5/3/Artykul/2205658,Jacek-Czaputowicz-Polska-ze-zrozumieniem-dla-decyzji-USA-w-sprawie-INF.
14. NATO, “Brussels Summit Declaration,” July 11, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_156624.htm.
15. “U.S. Withdrawal From Nuke Treaty Worries Europeans,” Der Spiegel, October 30, 2018.
16. NATO, “Keynote Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the ‘NATO Talk Around the Brandenburg Tor’ Conference,” November 12, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_160241.htm.
17. U.S. Department of State, “Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” n.d., https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/index.htm (accessed November 22, 2018).
18. U.S. Department of State, “Trump Administration INF Treaty Integrated Strategy,” December 8, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/12/276363.htm.
19. U.S. Department of State, “INF Diplomacy Highlights Timeline,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287411.htm.
20. German Federal Government, “Regierungspressekonferenz vom 22. Oktober 2018,” October 22, 2018, https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/suche/regierungspressekonferenz-vom-22-oktober-2018-1541072. See NATO, “Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Ahead of Exercise Trident Juncture 2018,” October 24, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_159666.htm?selectedLocale=en.
21. U.S. Department of State, “Refuting Russian Allegations of U.S. Noncompliance With the INF Treaty,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287413.htm.
22. European Leadership Network, “ELN Group Statement: A European Response to U.S. Withdrawal From the INF Treaty,” November 7, 2018, https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/group-statement/eln-group-statement-a-european-response-to-us-withdrawal-from-the-inf-treaty/; “Letter to POTUS on US-RF Arms Control 11-7,” November 7, 2018, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kdGky0NumiWz4MWwyFNirxP9NTB9a37h/view; “Statement of the Deep Cuts Commission on the INF-Treaty Crisis and the Way Forward,” November 16, 2018, http://deepcuts.org/files/pdf/Statement_of_the_Deep_Cuts_Commission_on_the_INF_Treaty_final.pdf; “No Nuclear Arms Race in Europe!” n.d., https://kein-wettruesten.de/en/ (accessed November 22, 2018).
23. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, "Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats on Russia’s INF Treaty Violation," November 30, 2018, https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/speeches-interviews/item/1923-director-of-national-intelligence-daniel-coats-on-russia-s-inf-treaty-violation
24. NATO, “NATO-Russia Council Beets in Brussels,” October 31, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_160005.htm?selectedLocale=en.
25. NATO, “Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Ahead of Exercise Trident Juncture 2018.”
26. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review,” February 2018, p. 9, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF (hereinafter NPR Report).
27. NATO, “Keynote Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the ‘NATO Talk Around the Brandenburg Tor’ Conference.”
28. Lena Kampf and Georg Mascolo, “Nato: Russlands Atomprogramm verstößt gegen Abkommen,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, August 31, 2017.
29. NPR Report.
31. Because cruise missile defense is not an off-the-shelf-product, its development would require years. Only the U.S. Congress has shown an interest in funding the development of active defenses to counter ground-launched missile systems within the INF Treaty ranges. See National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-91, 131 Stat. 1283 (2017).
Katarzyna Kubiak is a policy fellow on nuclear and arms control policy at the European Leadership Network in London.