Arms Control Expert, Former Congressman: Withdrawing from INF Treaty Makes Nuclear War More Likely


Contact: Anna Schumann
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Non-partisan, non-profit nuclear policy organization opposes President Trump’s decision.

(FEBRUARY 1, 2019 – WASHINGTON) Withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is tantamount to reigniting a nuclear arms race, said former nine-term Congressman John Tierney. The Trump Administration today announced that it would abandon the Reagan-era treaty with Russia, kicking off a six-month process before the withdrawal is formalized.

Fast facts about the INF Treaty:

  • Signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and entered into force in 1988
  • Required the United States and Russia to eliminate nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers
  • Led to the destruction of 2,692 missiles by 1991
  • In 2014, the United States found Russia to be in violation of its treaty commitments by developing, flight-testing and deploying a prohibited cruise missile
  • Russia has adamantly denied the charges and has leveled its own accusations at the United States
  • If INF is allowed to dissolve, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia will be the only agreement left to constrain the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world

Tierney, now Executive Director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said this withdrawal could usher in a new arms race and increase the risk of nuclear war.

“Shortly after his election, then-President-elect Trump said chilling words: ‘Let it be an arms race.’ Countless experts and former officials have said there is no military justification for the missiles eliminated by this treaty. By helping to destroy the INF Treaty, it seems that President Trump is indeed intent on participating in an arms race. Without the INF Treaty, both sides will be free to build a new generation of intermediate-range missiles and press our luck with a replay of the Cold War. Both Washington and Moscow have a duty to save this agreement.”

Senior Policy Director Alexandra Bell, a former State Department official, said the move is not only dangerous, but completely unnecessary.

“We have yet to exhaust diplomatic options. Barely a year ago, the Trump Administration outlined a plan to address this violation. It was never really actualized and by October, the President casually announced his intention to abandon INF on the sidelines of a political rally. Instead of putting the full force of the White House behind a negotiation to fix the agreement, the Administration is willing to let this critically important treaty collapse. There is still time to save INF and leaders in Congress should press the Administration to get back to the negotiating table.”