You’re better off having no deal than a bad deal. And until you scrap the bad deals you’ve signed off on, you’ll never negotiate a better one.
This is the thinking that US President Donald Trump has brought into the White House with him. A game plan that’s seen the US renegotiate NAFTA (now the USMCA), pull out of the Paris climate agreement, and bring China to the negotiating table over its unfair trade practices.
Over the coming months the focus will be on Russia…and China again. This time over a nuclear and ballistic missile treaty. A treaty that China never signed on to, and Trump is intent on rewriting.
Paving the way to normalise relations
On the surface it appears that Russian President Vladimir Putin is taken aback by Washington’s decision to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
In a decree on Monday, Putin suspended Russia’s obligations under the terms of the treaty and said it will continue to do so ‘until the US ends its violations of the treaty or until it terminates’.
Those are the kinds of words we’d expect from the Russian leader in the leadup to new talks.
Indeed, in light of the handwritten letters exchanged between Trump and Putin since their first historic face to face summit, it’s not unlikely the two leaders could be colluding. Not to thwart democracy, as Trump’s opponents back home accuse. But to create the appearance of an alarming military scenario.
Once the public is properly frightened by the alternatives, it would help pave the way to normalise relations between East and West and finally bring Russia back into the international order. A lofty goal that both Putin and Trump have openly called for previously.
Importantly, top leaders on both sides are already talking.
In fact, the Russian president’s command came as the head of the Russian military, General Valery Gerasimov met with US General Joseph Dunford, also the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The talks focused on strategic stability, AP reports.
One of the issues discussed was the INF treaty. Russia’s Defence Ministry labelled these talks as ‘constructive’.
US to withdraw from INF
Roughly a month ago the US stated that it intended to withdraw from the INF. They would terminate in six months unless Moscow returns to compliance. Russia is accusing the US of violating the pact and has denied any breaches, according to AP.
AP reports that the US has accused Russia of not only developing, but deploying a cruise missile that violates requirements of the pact that includes banning production; testing and deploying land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500–5,000kms.
This move reflects the Trump administration’s view that the treaty was a hurdle to efforts needed to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China, and aren’t part of the treaty.
Russia claims that the US breached the pact by deploying missile defence facilities in Eastern Europe that could fire cruise missiles instead of interceptors. The US reject this claim.
The INF treaty collapse is stoking fears of a Cold War-era Europe missile crisis replay. Much like in the 1980s when the US and Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on Europe.
Weapons like this take a shorter amount of time to reach their intended targets, compared to intercontinental ballistic missiles. Their deployment would no doubt raise the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict.
Putin has sent a warning to the US against deploying any new missiles in Europe. He says that Russia will hit back by fielding new weapons that will only take a short amount of time to reach their targets.
At the UN, spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that Secretary-General Antioni Guterres has strong hopes that Moscow and Washington can sort out their differences regarding the treaty in the coming months, AP reports.
‘The INF is a very important part of the international arms control architecture,’ Dujarric said.
‘It has contributed tangibly to the maintenance of peace and stability, notably in Europe.’
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