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INF Treaty Withdrawal: Trump Restarts the Arms Race

INF Treaty Withdrawal: Trump Restarts the Arms Race
The US’ planned withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) risks restarting the arms race of the Old Cold War under much more complex New Cold War conditions.

The three-decade-old treaty prohibits the US and the USSR (later Russia) from deploying ground-based nuclear-capable missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometers (which equates to 310-3,420 miles) and is considered to be a fundamental pillar of the contemporary international arms control architecture.

It wasn't without its shortcomings, however, since it didn't concern air- and sea-launched missiles of this category, nor did it ever expand to include any other countries besides the US and Russia. Furthermore, both sides accused the other of undermining its spirit, with the US alleging that Russia's Iskander missiles violate its terms while Moscow has always maintained that Washington's so-called "missile interceptors" could potentially function as intermediate-range cruise missiles.

The US' decision to do away with the deal comes at time of ever-escalating tensions between it and Russia, but also between the US and China, which can't be omitted from this context. Some observers thought that Trump wanted to reform the deal to include China and other countries with the same capabilities that the US and Russia were voluntarily preventing themselves from fielding, but that's no longer the case.

The US now seems willing to commence an arms race in the New Cold War that it believes can be leveraged to divert precious development funds away from the Russian homeland following the strategy that it regards as having contributed to its victory in the Old Cold War against the USSR. Concurrently, the US hopes to deploy the same category of arms in East Asia as China is presently thought to have already been doing.

For as masterful of a plan as it may appear to be on paper, the reality is that the strategic situation has dramatically changed in the intervening three decades since the INF Treaty was promulgated and that the US' previous presumptions about Russian weakness might no longer be relevant. The same can be said for what appears to be its over-exaggeration of Chinese military capabilities in East Asia, too.

The driving force behind the US' withdrawal from the INF Treaty appears to be exactly what a diplomatic source told RIA Novosti over the weekend, namely that "The main motive is the dream about a unipolar world. Will it come true? No."

Andrew Korybko is joined by Edward Lozansky, President of the American University in Moscow and Tom McGregor, commentator for China's state-owned media, based in Beijing.

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