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United States withdraws from nuclear treaty


By Melissa Schill

In a written statement on Feb. 1, President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in six months. Russia followed suit and also announced their plans to withdraw. Until then, the treaty is suspended.

The INF Treaty is an arms control agreement between Russia and the United States established in 1987 during the Cold War. It prevented both countries from owning nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. This action has garnered both support and concern about potential consequences.

Any weapon that fit this description was required to be eliminated at the time of the treaty’s enactment. Between the two countries, 2,692 missiles were destroyed. Both countries were allowed to observe the other through satellites for the sake of accountability.

According to an article in the Washington Post, the United States has accused Russia of noncompliance with the treaty since 2014, claiming the country was in possession of missiles that fit the description laid out in the treaty.

President Trump released a statement on Feb. 1 that read, “For far too long, Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad…. The United States has fully adhered to the INF Treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions.”

Russia has also claimed in past years that the United States has violated the treaty.

“There’s been a lot of history,” junior Jonathan Dahlager said. The withdrawal from the INF treaty “just formalizes an already changing relationship.” Dahlager is an international relations major, pursuing a Peace and Conflict Certificate and a HNGR certificate.

The United States and Russia have also expressed concern about China’s nuclear arsenal, citing this as reason to eliminate the treaty. Wheaton students voiced their opinions on the withdrawal. “I would say that China is a bigger threat than Russia when it comes to this issue, but they are not under this treaty whatsoever, so I think it makes sense for the United States to pull out of [the treaty],” senior International Relations major Justus Hanson said.

Hanson also believes that remaining at the forefront of technological innovation is reason to withdraw from the treaty. “If our enemies are going to have these types of technologies, I would hope that our country would want to be able to counter those,” Hanson said. “Our country should always be on the cutting edge of technology.”

Some are not as optimistic about the termination of the treaty. Critics of the choice to withdraw worry the United State’s relationship with European allies such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will suffer. These countries that are closer in proximity to Russia and do not have the same level of military technology available are now more vulnerable with the treaty gone.

Junior Taylor Love said, “I think there’s a number of concerns [from NATO] given that the US hasn’t put any plan to replace the INF Treaty.” Love is an international relations major pursuing a certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Senior international relations major Madylin Reno is currently writing her thesis on nuclear weapons, specifically in Iran. Like Love, she said, “I could imagine it’s not a position [NATO] is a huge fan of because Russia is so close to them. Any sort of destabilization in regards to Russia, any sort of deterioration of security is a threat to them first.”

Reno is primarily concerned not only with how the withdrawal might affect the United State’s relationships but also with its image. “Any time we pull out of a treaty, it is significant in that it sends … a signal of inconsistency that you don’t really want when it comes to nuclear weapons,” Reno said.  

There has been no talk of another arms control treaty being drawn up.

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