Given the Russian military’s development and deployment of a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the INF Treaty, the Trump administration intends to withdraw from that agreement in six months. The world without the INF Treaty will be less stable and less secure—for Europe, the United States and Russia.
With the treaty’s demise, Russia will be free to openly deploy intermediate-range missiles. NATO will consider military countermeasures. The Pentagon is developing its own intermediate-range missile (development is permitted by the INF Treaty as long as it does not involve flight testing). With the treaty’s end, it will be free to test and deploy the missile.
There is no reason to expect a new agreement in the near term, especially since neither Moscow nor Washington seemed particularly interested in preserving the existing treaty.
Russian officials, moreover, assert that the next nuclear arms control agreement should be multilateral and have expressed concern that third countries have intermediate-range missiles. However, those officials have never advanced a definitive proposal for multilateral talks or answered the question: how could a multilateral agreement have equal limits when Russia and the United States each have more than 13 times as many nuclear weapons as any third country? Of perhaps they think that China and other third countries would agree to unequal limits?
Russian officials ought to consider this and whether they desire to maintain constraints on U.S. nuclear forces. Over the past 50 years, Moscow at times has taken a cavalier attitude toward compliance with its arms control commitments. It did so knowing that U.S. administrations usually attached high importance to arms control and would strive to preserve treaties.
That is no longer the case. President Trump has little understanding of the complexities of nuclear arms, believes New START is a bad deal, and disdains virtually anything done by his predecessor (New START was signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev). National Security Advisor Bolton dislikes arms control agreements in general. Neither Secretary of State Pompeo nor Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan has shown much interest in nuclear arms control. It is not clear that Washington will seek or agree to extension of New START.