Trump’s Counterproductive Decision to “Terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

Sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The dragon is created from fragments of Soviet SS-20 and United States Pershing nuclear missiles. Credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant

By Daryl G. Kimball and Kingston Reif
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 24 2018 (IPS)

Under the influence of his new National Security Advisor, John Bolton, Trump announced Saturday at a campaign rally that he will “terminate” a key nuclear arms control agreement that helped end the Cold War race–the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in response to a long-running dispute over Russian noncompliance with the treaty.

The decision represents a shift in the administration’s INF response strategy which was announced in January and before Bolton joined the administration.Trump’s move to blow-up the INF Treaty is unnecessary and self-defeating wrong turn that could lead to an unconstrained and dangerous nuclear arms competition with Russia.

The breakdown of the agreement and uncertain future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) creates the most serious nuclear arms control crisis in decades.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty is “unacceptable” and “dangerous.” Russia continues to assert that there is no basis for the U.S. claim that Russia has violated the treaty, but the Russian Foreign Ministry said “there is still room for dialogue.”

Bolton was due to meet in Moscow with President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov.

The INF Treaty Still Matters

The INF Treaty, which was negotiated by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km (300 to 3,500 miles).

The treaty successfully eliminated an entire class of destabilizing nuclear weapons that were deployed in Europe and helped bring an end to the spiraling Cold War arms race. It has been a cornerstone of the U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control architecture. And as NATO defense ministers said earlier this month, the INF Treaty “has been crucial to Euro-Atlantic security.”

Without the INF Treaty, we will likely see the return of Cold War-style tensions over U.S. and Russian deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and elsewhere.

Russian Noncompliance

The INF Treaty, while very successful, has been at risk for some time. In 2014, Washington charged that Moscow had tested a weapon, the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, at a range beyond the limit set by the treaty. In 2017 the Pentagon declared the Moscow had begun deploying the weapon.

Russia denies that it has violated the treaty and asked the United States to divulge the technical details behind the charge. Moscow has expressed its own concerns about U.S. compliance with the pact, notably that U.S. missile defense interceptor platforms deployed in eastern Europe could be used for offense purposes that would violate the treaty.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue have been limited and to date unsuccessful. Since Trump took office, U.S. and Russian officials have met only twice to try to resolve the compliance dispute. Clearly, neither side has exhausted the diplomatic options that could resolve their concerns.

U.S. Withdrawal Would Be An “Own Goal.”

Trump claims that the United States is pulling out to show Russia that it will not tolerate Russia’s alleged violation of the treaty. “We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” Trump said.

Trump may want to sound tough, but the reality is that withdrawing from the treaty weakens U.S. and allied security and does not provide the United States any military advantage in Europe or elsewhere.

• U.S. withdrawal does nothing to bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty and it distracts from the fact that it was Russia’s actions that precipitated the INF Treaty crisis.
• U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty opens the door for Russia to produce and deploy the missile of concern, the 9M729, in greater numbers without any constraints.
• There is no military need for the United States to develop, as Trump has proposed, a new and costly INF Treaty-noncompliant missile. The United States can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets that ground-launched missiles that are prohibited by INF Treaty would.
• NATO does not support a new INF Treaty-range missile in Europe and no country has offered to host it. Attempting to force the alliance to accept a new, potentially nuclear missile would divide the alliance in ways that would delight the Kremlin.

Even without the INF Treaty in force, the U.S. Congress and NATO governments should reject Trump’s push to develop a new U.S. ground-based INF Treaty-range missile in Europe (or elsewhere), and instead focus on maintaining conventional military preparedness to deter adversaries without violating the treaty.

Does the United States Need Ground-launched, INF Treaty-Range Missiles to Counter China?

No. In 2011, long before any Russian INF compliance concerns surfaced, John Bolton proposed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Washington should to withdraw from the treaty in order to counter China, which is not party to the treaty. In his Oct. 20 remarks on withdrawing from the treaty, Trump also pointed to China as a reason for abandoning the INF Treaty.

When asked at a congressional hearing in July 2017 about whether withdrawal from the INF Treaty could be useful because it would allow the U.S. to develop new ground-based systems to hit targets in China, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva said that such a move was unnecessary because the United States can already hold those targets at risk with treaty-compliant air- and sea-based assets.

In his remarks Saturday, Trump suggested he might support a ban on INF Treaty-range missiles if “Russia comes to us and China comes to us” … “and let’s none of us develop those weapons.”

The idea of “multilateralizing INF has been around for more than a decade, but neither Russia nor Washington have devoted serious effort into the concept and China is highly unlikely to join an agreement that would eliminate the bulk of its missile arsenal.

Trump’s INF Treaty decision is a debacle. But without New START it will be even worse

If the INF Treaty collapses, as appears likely, the only remaining treaty regulating the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles will be New START. New START is due to expire in 2021 unless Trump and Putin agree to extend it by five years as allowed for in Article XIV of the agreement.

Unfortunately, Bolton may try to sabotage that treaty too. Since he arrived at the White House in May, he has been slow-rolling an interagency review on whether to extend New START and refusing to take up Putin’s offer to begin talks on its extension.

Key Republican and Democratic Senators are on record in support of New START extension, which can be accomplished without further Senate or Duma approval.

Instead, one option Bolton is talking about is a “Moscow Treaty” approach that would dispense with New START and its rigorous inspection system on warheads and missiles to ensure compliance.

This option would simply set limits on deployed warheads only and without any verification—an approach Moscow is very unlikely to accept because it could give the United States a significant breakout advantage.

The current crisis makes it all the more important to get a serious U.S.-Russian arms control dialogue back on track.

Trump and Putin should agree to relaunch their stalled strategic stability dialogue and commit to reaching an early agreement to extend New START by five years to 2026 – which is essential if the two sides are to meet their legal commitment under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty “to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament ….”

If they fail to extend New START, an even more dangerous phase in U.S.-Russian relations is just over the horizon.

UN World Data Forum 2018 launches Dubai Declaration to boost financing for better data for sustainable development

DUBAI, Oct 24 2018 (WAM)

The second United Nations World Data Forum concluded today with the launch of a Dubai Declaration to increase financing for better data and statistics for sustainable development.

“While it is clear that the data revolution is having an enormous impact, it has not benefited everyone equally,” said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed in her statement at the Forum. “Our task is to make sure data is available to all people. We must make sure it is harnessed to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda at all levels and in all regions and countries But we urgently need to bridge important gaps. Funding for data and statistical systems remains limited. And beyond funding, we need political, technical and advocacy support in all areas.”

The Dubai Declaration calls for the establishment of an innovative funding mechanism open to all stakeholders, that will aim to mobilize both domestic and international funds, and to activate partnerships and funding opportunities to strengthen the capacity of national data and statistical systems. The funding mechanism will be created under the guidance of representatives of statistical systems and different data and donor communities who will support the decision making on the operational modalities and on raising resources to address the data needs for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

“The UN World Data Forum is the best place to launch a declaration on financing for data and statistics,” said Mr.

Over 2,000 data experts from more than 100 countries gathered at the Forum from 22-24 October, with participants from governments, national statistical offices, the private sector and academia, international organizations and civil society groups

Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “To achieve the ambitions set on in the Cape Town Global Action Plan, both increased domestic resources and international support will be needed. My expectation is that the declaration, the outcome of the discussions at this forum, will help us shape the way forward to promote “more and better funding” for data and statistics. The immediate next steps will be translating those ideas into action and ensuring that we maximize the effectiveness of funding for sustainable development data, as this is crucial to fulfil the data needs of the 2030 Agenda.”

“We are delighted to have hosted influential leaders, decision makers and experts from around the world over the past three days here in the UAE,” said Abdulla Nasser Lootah, Director General of the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA). “The positive and insightful outcomes we’ve achieved during this important gathering are essential for unifying visions and empowering individuals, institutions and governments to embrace modern technologies and harness data to serve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) locally, regionally and internationally.”

Over 2,000 data experts from more than 100 countries gathered at the Forum from 22-24 October, with participants from governments, national statistical offices, the private sector and academia, international organizations and civil society groups.

Across over 85 sessions during the three days of the Forum, many innovative solutions to the data challenges of the 2030 Agenda were proposed and partnerships were formed.

Innovative data solutions Some highlights from the Forum include: The launch of a data interoperability guide by a collaborative led by the UN Statistics Division and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, which identifies practical steps to help countries and development partners on the pathway towards integration of data from multiple sources for better monitoring and policy making to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

Important discussions on building trust in data and statistics showed that 70 percent of this expert audience believed there is a crisis in lack of public trust in data, 35 percent felt the top cause is that statistics do not align with pre-conceived ideas, and 37 percent said that improving citizens’ data literacy was needed to tackle this challenge. These sessions highlighted an important area of work for the data community moving forward, particularly as it relates to data literacy for both the public at large and policymakers and the need to ensure data relevance, openness and quality.

A session organized by Data2x featured gender data impact stories, including a moving story of how the results of a survey on domestic violence in Viet Nam shocked government officials into enacting new legislation and awareness-raising campaigns which have become a model across Asia. This story and the others highlighted in this session demonstrate the impact data can have when communicated in a way that policymakers can understand. This data impact story is an important example for other data producers, civil society members and journalists on how data can be used to influence policy actions.

Switzerland to host Forum in 2020 It was announced today that Switzerland will host the next UN World Data Forum in Bern from 18-21 October 2020. The announcement was made at a press conference today by Dr. Gabriella Vukovich, co-chair of the Highlevel Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the group that oversees the organization of the Forum.

“We are looking forward to working with the colleagues from Switzerland to organize an exciting World Data Forum in 2020,” said Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the UN Statistics Division. “The UAE has set a high standard of support, and the energy and engagement behind the Forum continues to build, as evidenced by growing attendance.”

WAM/Tariq alfaham

Population and security

By Zahid Hussain
Oct 24 2018 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Population explosion, though missing from the country’s policy discourse, presents one of the most serious threats to our national security.

There may not be a simple causal [...] Read more »