Donald Trump’s INF exit: Masterminded by John Bolton, to Russia’s benefit

Senior Policy Director Alexandra Bell spoke with Deutsche Welle about the United States’ potential withdrawal from the INF Treaty.

Trump is correct that Russia is not complying with the agreement, said Alexandra Bell, who worked on arms control in the Obama State Department and is now the senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation. But Russia’s violation has been known for years and she believes it does not justify Trump declaring the US withdrawal from such a landmark treaty on the sidelines of a campaign rally in Nevada.

Bell pointed to progress made last year when the US officially named a particular missile, Russia’s Novator 9M729, as being in violation of the treaty, and the Kremlin — while rejecting that the missile was violating the accord — admitted to the existence of the weapon.

“While we are still in a state of denial, we are at least talking about the same, exact missile and that it does exist and that is grounds to move forward,” said Bell. “What I haven’t seen from Washington or Moscow is a clear concerted effort to deal with this issue amongst technical experts,” she added, noting that there had been only one formal strategic security dialogue over the last 18 months. 

But countering a Chinese weapons build up also isn’t a convincing rationale for giving up the INF, according to Pomper and Bell, since the US already possesses air and sea-launched military options in Asia that can credibly fulfill the role of protecting Washington’s and its allies’ interests in the region.

Bell also thinks that Bolton has been consistently whispering in Trump’s ear to nix the treaty, because she does not believe that the president on his own would be greatly interested in the details and possible violations. Read more