By Robert J. Goldston | June 28, 2019
John Bolton is very likely to succeed in killing the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) on August 2, with strong assists from Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. He argues for broadening the focus of the treaty to include China, rather than resolving the issues with the present treaty. This is a classic maneuver to kill the effective and possible by holding out for the ideal and impossible.
So, going in the opposite direction—“Small (and focused) is beautiful”—what is the minimum effective treaty that might also be possible?
The primary purpose of the INF Treaty between the United States and (now) Russia is to outlaw nuclear-armed short and medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles in Europe, which can perform decapitating strikes on national capitals with little warning. This is an extremely valuable goal because it provides a measure of stability at moments of tension. However, the present INF 1) also outlaws conventionally-armed missiles and 2) is world-encompassing. Neither of these is needed for the INF to perform its primary purpose.
Let us focus on a modification of the INF between the United States and Russia that outlaws nuclear-armed short and intermediate-range land-based missiles in Europe, from Portugal and Ireland to the Ural mountains. Missile batteries can be located by national technical means, and any of those in Europe can be verified to be non-nuclear during on-site inspections.
Rather than insisting on the ideal and the impossible, let us implement the effective and the possible. In this case, small and focused really is beautiful.
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Technology has never caused a war: but has come to be used in conflict. What is driving the planet to another world war is primarily a clash of core interests between the major powers, rather than nuclear weapons per se.