On Saturday, October 21, President Donald Trump threatened that the United States will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a 1987 agreement brokered between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to reduce nuclear tensions. This decision, influenced by Trump’s war cabinet, marks a dangerous and hypocritical move toward deteriorating the already inadequate guardrails preventing nuclear escalations by the world’s two largest nuclear powers. What is needed now more than ever are checks and balances on the President’s limitless authority to launch a nuclear strike – specifically, a No First Use policy.
Here are five takeaways on the decision to withdraw:
1. This is a MAJOR threat to national security and nuclear nonproliferation
Donald Trump and his administration already want to expand the nuclear arsenal, including funding new low-yield nuclear weapons. Withdrawing from this treaty – which has banned an entire class of nuclear weapons – means that the administration can call for the development of even more nuclear weapons. Without the INF Treaty, the world’s two largest nuclear powers will most likely aggravate nuclear tensions and escalate the nuclear arms race.
2. More Trump Administration hypocrisy
One of the main reasons the Trump administration has given for withdrawing from the INF Treaty is Russia’s violations of the treaty. However, what about Russia’s allegations of U.S. violations? Russia has accused the United States of numerous violations: mobilizing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can fire cruise missiles, producing armed drones that are comparable to ground-launched cruise missiles, and using targets for testing missile defenses with similar characteristics to intermediate-range missiles that are banned by the INF Treaty. The Trump administration is so worried about Russia’s nuclear build-up when they should look in the mirror at their own nuclear arsenal.
3. Withdrawal will not help to counter China
Abandoning this agreement between the United States and Russia will do nothing to counter China. Withdrawal will only worsen U.S. relations with both Russia and China, and, even worse, could pull China into a nuclear arms race. In order to truly counter China, what is needed is more diplomacy through treaties – not a complete withdrawal from agreements such as the INF Treaty.
4. The dangerous influence of John Bolton and Trump’s war cabinet
As we have seen in decisions such as withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, John Bolton and the rest of Trump’s war-mongering cabinet are at the center of this decision. Bolton has built his career on racism and undermining cooperation and diplomacy, and the decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty is no different. Bolton has Trump’s ear, a dangerous signal for nuclear nonproliferation efforts.
5. This is why we need a No First Use policy
Fear not – there is a way to counter all of these negative developments. Beyond the Bomb is driving a movement to support No First Use. Right now, Donald Trump has sole authority to launch a nuclear strike. No individual should have the power at their fingertips to inflict a humanitarian disaster on the world. As the United States continues to increase their nuclear arsenal and destroy international agreements that constrain this build-up, pushing for No First Use is more important than ever.