President Trump Says U.S. Will Leave Arms Control Treaty With Russia
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to start the program today looking at a decision that could overturn decades of post-Cold War foreign policy. President Donald Trump told reporters over the weekend the U.S. is withdrawing from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty with Russia. It's called the INF, or the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement. Then-President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the treaty in 1987. It bans all short- and medium-range nuclear and non-nuclear missiles. NPR's Shannon Van Sant has the latest.
SHANNON VAN SANT, BYLINE: The U.S. says Russia violated the treaty through developing a medium-range missile that is able to hit NATO member countries at short notice. Defense Secretary James Mattis has described Russia's breach of the agreement as untenable. Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament research at the Arms Control Association, an advocacy group, says the Trump administration's withdrawal from the treaty will allow Russia to continue the deployment of that type of missile and revive Cold War tensions.
KINGSTON REIF: All constraints on the production and fueling of that missile have gone away, thereby increasing the threat to our allies, particularly in Europe, in range of those missiles.
VAN SANT: Military competition with China was another reason for the U.S. withdrawal. China was never a signatory to the 1987 treaty, which means it can develop medium-range missiles without constraints. Hans Kristensen is the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, which promotes international transparency and nuclear disarmament.
HANS KRISTENSEN: China has undertaken a broad modernization of its military forces, and, as part of that modernization, has increased its own inventory of weapons that fall into the INF range.
VAN SANT: Reif says the end of INF may portend U.S. withdrawal from another agreement - the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which limits nuclear warheads on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles for each country.
REIF: The apparent breakdown of the agreement and the uncertain future of another bilateral U.S.-Russia arms control treaty, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or New START, creates the most serious nuclear arms control crisis we've seen in some time.
VAN SANT: Kristensen says withdrawal from both treaties would spur military competition globally.
KRISTENSEN: It would be the first time, essentially, since the 1970s that there would be no nuclear arms control agreements regulating the nuclear powers of the world. And so the door would be wide open for, potentially, a new arms race between these countries.
VAN SANT: The last time the U.S. withdrew from a major arms treaty was in 2002, when President George W. Bush pulled the U.S. out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned weapons designed to counter ballistic nuclear missiles.
Shannon Van Sant, NPR News, Washington
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