Trump’s neocons have always hated arms control agreements, INF is no different

Michael Maloof
F. Michael Maloof, former Pentagon security analyst.
Trump’s neocons have always hated arms control agreements, INF is no different
The US’ possible withdrawal from the INF plays to the neocon narrative to oppose anything associated with Russia, since they never have emerged from a Cold War mentality and long have opposed any arms control pacts.

President Vladimir Putin is correct when he said recently that the US pullout from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, had been in the planning stages for some time prior to the announcement in October.

The withdrawal comes as tensions between Russia and the US are mounting on an array of other issues. Yet, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his other neoconservative buddy, National Security Advisor John Bolton, claimed the US pullout from the key nuclear arms pact was due to Russian violations, without ever providing any evidence to support those allegations.

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The INF Treaty is a 1987 arms control agreement between the Soviet Union and the US to eliminate nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

“Mr. Pompeo’s statement comes a bit late,” Putin said. “At first, the American side did announce its intent to withdraw from the INF Treaty, and then they started seeking justifications as to why they should do it.”

It was neocon John Bolton, who has been pressing Trump for some time to pull out of the INF Treaty, claiming it was “outmoded and being violated and being ignored” – without specifying what those violations are.

For years, the neocons have been critical of the INF treaty because it limits US ability to build such missiles since countries like China, North Korea and Iran are producing them. Indeed, the concern is aimed at China.

So, Washington’s announcement has more to do with the absence of other countries as signatories to the pact, than any alleged Russian violations.

In the past, Russia claimed US violated the treaty, but not to the point of threatening any pull out.

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Moscow has pointed to the US decision to establish bases, capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, in Poland and Romania as a violation of the treaty. According to Russia, the US’ prevalent use of armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, such as the MQ-9 Reaper, also violates the pact.

The US withdrawal plays to the neocon narrative to oppose anything associated with Russia. It has also raised concerns over the future of recent Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which expires in 2021.

But like any Trump tactic to get attention, an initial bombastic approach such as the shocking announcement of treaty withdrawal is designed to control events and seek leverage in getting the changes he seeks. We’ve seen a similar approach in how the Trump administration seized the initiative in dealing with North Korea and dropped out of the nuclear agreement, last May, with Iran.

Ironically, in those two cases, whatever the US has sought to gain, in terms of its strategic interests, remains unfulfilled. And the same could be the case with what the US seeks to achieve in announcing its intention to leave the INF.

Since the announcement of the pullout, prominent US politicians have expressed concerns over the move. Even countries such as China and Japan oppose the US’ withdrawal given the strategic consequences that would ensue if Russia were to resume intermediate missile development and deployment.

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