The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty died last week. The cause of death was changing geopolitical circumstances. The INF Treaty was 32. As treaty-years between major powers go, that’s a full lifetime. (Treaty years equal dog years multiplied by two.)
The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty also lasted for three decades. It was 30 at the time of death. Treaties don’t age well when the fortunes of major powers change. When both the INF and ABM treaties were negotiated — in 1987 and 1972, respectively — the United States and the Soviet Union were superpowers. They accepted rough equivalence in strategic capabilities; otherwise there could be no deals. Now Washington and Moscow are on different trajectories, but they have one ambition in common: they both want freedom of action. Treaties stand in the way of freedom of action. The world will not be healthier as a result of killing treaties. When something related to nuclear arms control is replaced by nothing, major powers do not become safer as a result.
For the three decades the INF Treaty remained in force, NATO and the Russian Federation benefited from the absence of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. During that time, there were no war scares, no fears of surprise missile strikes against command bunkers and cities, and no need for new and better “Euro-missiles.” These days are now gone.
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