Stimson in the News

Death of a Treaty by Michael Krepon

in Program

The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty died last week at age 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. The cause of death in both cases was changing geopolitical circumstances. One major power or the other thought it would be better off ridding itself of these instruments of international law. The world will not be healthier as a result of these losses. When something related to nuclear arms control is replaced by nothing, major powers do not become safer as a result.

NATO and the Russian Federation benefitted from the absence of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles for three whole decades. 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 missiles of this kind. These days are gone.

The INF Treaty was Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev’s most historic achievement. They utterly disrespected deterrence theology and war-fighting plans based on stepped up rungs on escalation ladders. They couldn’t have cared less. They agreed that a nuclear war could not be won and must never be fought, and they were both in a position to override their nuclear-military-industrial complexes. The INF Treaty was the result.

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