Nuclear Treaty Framework is in Dangerous Disarray and Needs to be Rebooted
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Nuclear Treaty Framework is in Dangerous Disarray and Needs to be Rebooted

December 2, 2019


It’s The Real News Network, and I’m Greg
Wilpert, coming to you from Baltimore. Last Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
announced that the U.S. is formally withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces, or INF,
treaty. The treaty had been in effect since 1987,
when then-president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed it. It was an agreement to completely eliminate
all nuclear missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Secretary Mike Pompeo justified the U.S. withdrawal
as follows. The United States has gone to tremendous lengths
to preserve this agreement and it to ensure security for our people, our allies, and our
partners. We have raised Russia’s non-compliance with
Russian officials, including at the highest levels of government, more than 30 times,
yet Russia continues to deny that its missile system is non-compliant and violates the treaty. We provided Russia an ample window of time
to mend its ways, and for Russia to honor its commitment. Russia has refused to take any steps to return
real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days. The United States will therefore suspend its
obligations under the new treaty, effective February 2. Russia immediately followed suit on Saturday,
saying that in reaction to the U.S. withdrawal from the INF treaty it would begin the development
of new intermediate range nuclear weapons of its own. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov presented
the Russian view of the treaty like this. The Americans don’t want to acknowledge
their violations in three aspects. Let us also quit. However, we don’t act this way. We think that the agreement is essential. It’s within the interests of our security
and European security. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that
his government is open to reopening negotiations about the treaty, but that the initiative
would have to come from the United States. Joining me now to discuss the implications
of the IMF treaty’s demise is Colonel Larry Wilkinson. He is a retired U.S. Colonel and former chief
of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He’s now a distinguished professor at the
College of William and Mary. Thanks for joining us again, Larry. Thanks for having me. So what would you say is the most significant
consequence of the scrapping of the INF treaty? I think the statement was just given is, for
all its purposes, is fairly accurate. I’m not plugged into the intelligence community
anymore, but I am plugged into alternatives to it, if you will, on the outside. And I have studied the Russians for a long
time. I think it’s probably accurate. And I liked the statement that–was it the
deputy foreign minister? Whoever you quoted there, or whoever spoke,
I like that statement. He’s coming from a–how shall I say it,
we do the same thing–he’s coming from a propagandistic background, of course. But I like what he said. That’s exactly what we need to do. And that may be what’s motivating Vladimir
Putin, to a certain extent, is that he really does want to sit down with the president the
United States and others, eventually, and effect some sort of new nuclear arms control
regime. Because let’s face it, from the nonproliferation
treaty, which I fear is becoming shattered more and more every day, to the whole series
of arms control events that we’ve had, mostly during the Cold War, to control not only nuclear
weapons but arms in general, conventional arms, too, are pretty much in disarray right
now. So his recommendation is a solid recommendation. We do need to sit down–and I wouldn’t
just limit this to Russia and the United States. Maybe initially, because that’s what Putin
is shooting for, and you’ve got to give him something. I want to sit down eventually, and I’d want
the talks with Russia to lead to, a gathering of all the nuclear powers, to include the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea, and Israel. I want all the nuclear powers to sit down
and begin a new and fresh dialogue over what we’re going to do as a human race, and as
states representing that race, to prevent what is one of the most dangerous developments
in the post-Cold War era. And that is these different approaches to
nuclear weapons, not the least of which is the U.S. approach, spending all the money
we’re going to spend over the next decade or so, reenergizing the nuclear weapons complex,
making things even more dangerous. We need to sit down. We need to talk. We do not need to abandon arms control. Indeed, we need to deepen it, widen it, broaden
it, and bring everyone into it. I actually want to get back to that point
in a moment. But first I’m just wondering, it seems like
abandoning this treaty would actually–is actually deepening the divide between Europe
and the United States. After all, Europe remains the most likely
theater for the use of intermediate range forces, nuclear forces. What are your thoughts on these divisions
among these longtime allies? I can see in the Russian doctrine developed
over the last few years a rationale for what they have done. They see the advantage of NATO forces in precision
guided munitions, conventional munitions, to be far in advance of what they would like
it to be. And so they’re going to make up for that
advantage of the NATO powers with small yield nuclear weapons shot at shorter ranges–as
you implied, in Europe. I can understand the military rationale for
that. But at the same time I can also understand
that China’s not in this INF treaty, India’s not in this INF treaty. Others who have the capacity to, and indeed
some have built intermediate nuclear ranged forces, China being most prominent, principally
to protect their domain in the South China Sea. We need to have a new arms control process,
an entirely new process. And saying U.S. withdrawal from the treaty,
or Russian withdrawal from the treaty, or talking about the treaty in isolated terms
really makes no sense anymore. We really do need to start a whole new process,
and seriously. Well, the Trump administration actually used
that as one of its main arguments for abrogating the treaty, saying that China was not part
of the INF treaty, and therefore it didn’t make sense. I mean, I think at one point back in October,
National Security Adviser John Bolton even said something like it was a bilateral treaty
for a multilateral world, or something like that. Which is a little bit strange, considering
that the Trump administration usually prefers bilateralism over multilateralism. But do you think that China’s nonparticipation,
and also India’s, was actually a good reason for abandoning the INF treaty? I think, as I said before, one of the reasons
that we and the Russians need to sit down outside of this excuse to sit down is just
that, that we need to talk about far more wide a range of issues, very difficult issues,
ranging from Syria to Ukraine to you name it, as well as talk about arms control. I think it’s a great reason for Donald Trump
to overcome his political inhibitions, caused mostly by domestic politics, now–one wonders
if those domestic politics are ever going to reveal anything that might be incriminatory,
or might be serious for the President, but at present they seem to be at least embroiling
him–and overcome those constraints and sit down and talk, because Moscow is someone to
whom we need to talk. That’s the principal motivation that I think
we ought to have about it; not just arms control, but other issues, too. And as I said, I think Putin may be reaching
for the sort of meeting that he keeps talking about for the very reasons I just said; that
he realizes, despite our disparagement of him and so forth, and some of it’s deserved,
that he needs to sit down with us and we need to talk, because this is very dangerous, what
we’re doing. We’re planning to spend over a trillion
dollars, about half of it in the next few years, decade or so, on things that we probably
do not need, just as we were going to spend all that money to deploy GLCMs, ground launch
cruise missiles, and Pershings, and such, to Europe with Ronald Reagan, who used that
as leverage to get the INF treaty in the first place, to ban the first class, whole class,
of nuclear missiles by arms control agreements. We need to do something like that again. And not just INF missiles, all the missiles. Some of the things we’re going to do over
the next few years just don’t make any sense. In fiscal sense they don’t make any sense,
unless you’re just saying we’ve got to keep the nuclear energy part of the military-industrial
complex alive, and I’m not for that. Not to the extent that they’re talking about. And they don’t make any sense from the specific
weapons that we’re talking about developing, unless we’re going back into a Hobbesian
world vis a vis nuclear weapons where it’s who can build the most the fastest, and eventually
we’re going to have a slugout between us; a slugout that will probably do as much damage,
if not more, than the climate crisis rolling down the tracks at us. We do not need these existential crises in
the world. Actually, I want to turn to one of the specific
new nuclear weapon systems; that is, over the short range nuclear missiles. The Trump administration has made it clear
that it is moving forward with the development of so-called low yield short range nuclear
missiles, the W76-2, which presumably has a smaller yield than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki
bombs. They’ve been known also as tactical nuclear
weapons. What are your thoughts on this move to develop
those weapons? I’ve been around these discussions for a
long time as a military professional, and as a diplomat. I’ve seen them in all their manifestations,
types, degree, countries involved, and so forth and so on with regard to nuclear weapons
and the owners thereof. And it just makes no sense to start talking
as if nuclear weapons have a utility other than deterrence. They have no warfighting utility, no matter
how small you make them. If the discussions we’ve had with other
countries, like Pakistan, India, China, and so forth hold any lessons for us, if our own
experience with nuclear weapons holds any lessons for us, including the many scholars
who debated nuclear weapons over the past half century-plus, those lessons say you do
not want to use these weapons in actual warfare. You do not want to use them. I don’t care what their yield is. Once you start using nuclear weapons an escalation
cycle will inevitably begin, and you will be using more and more of them. This is not something where you shoot a few
off and say, as the Indians did in 2002, we’ll stop there. Of course, when we see all the damage we’ve
done, and everything’s burning from one point of Islamabad to one point in New Delhi
and so forth, then we’ll stop. No, that’s not the way human behavior works. What you’ll do is shoot more at them, they’ll
shoot more at you, you’ll shoot more at them. And you wind up–I don’t care how small
a yield you start with–you will wind up with a nuclear exchange that probably will
be life threatening on this planet. Daniel Ellsberg has spoken of this eloquently. I think he’s right. We do not need to go here. OK. Well, we’re going to leave it there for
now. I’m speaking to Colonel Larry Wilkerson,
professor at the College of William and Mary. Thanks again, Larry, for having joined us
today. Thanks for having me on The Real News. And thank you for joining The Real News Network.

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  1. The US is probably pulling out of the treaty as an excuse, so that they can build these kinds of missile themselves in order to put more pressure on Russia and the rest of the world.

  2. As usual, Larry makes sense. However we've yet to learn our lesson from ww2. I think I would make the argument that MAD and deterrence in general are effective limits on the scope of conflicts. Imagine what might happen if the nut jobs driving the US war machine could cut loose without the fear of triggering its own demise…

  3. If politicians want to fight let them fight, but keep innocent ppl out of it on all sides of the countries. Id like to see the old mren knock each other's teeth out instead of by yhe stroke of a pen put millions in danger

  4. We need world peace and getting rid of nuclear and at the very least the majority of them and not making new ones.

  5. The USA War Complex is on the brink of bankruptcy, poor things.
    So it's that simple. The USA say it happened that way and it becomes true. The Russians violated the treaty. If that country says it , it's gotta be true.
    Washington and the Swamp Creatures are always right. It's good to know that we have a protector against an invisible enemy, and most importantly they do it with the most aggressive and life terminating weapons .
    What the world has is the power to destroy Earth many, many times over. And they want to increase that destructive power.
    This Administration has indeed done more to literally make life impossible on this planet, than all other Administrations combined.
    Trump was right.
    But only when it comes to Destruction.

  6. How much does all this military crap, tests, war games, wars built on Lies, Nukes to Drones depleted Uranium, Napalm ,agent orange, Moab bomb, and all the other toys around the world, 900 billion dollar budget in the military toilette, how much does all this crap contribute to global abrupt climate change??? To the human extinction when all we are focusing on are death machines attached to computers operated by other computers. Military needs oil and oil addiction is killing all life on this planet, shameful greed. We deserve extinction. We get what we focus on what we do to others we do to ourselves includes all other life form.

  7. I'm pulling out of the treaty with Russia because I don't have a treaty with China. – Donald Trump. Lol what a stupid puppet.

  8. It is always interesting to me that China quietly continues to get stronger with building their economy and military. Although of late their economy has taken a small hit, it ccontinues to grow. All this while the US is in their face with BS and trivia. Wilkerson is a smart guy and he is right but I doubt China is listening.

  9. The US is probably pulling out of the treaty as an excuse, so that they can build these kinds of missile themselves in order to put more pressure on Russia and the rest of the world. BUT this means Russia and China Can excel even faster and the USA will have No defence against such systems . So its seems TRUMP is shooting his own foot. But great news for China and Russia and Pakistan and India

  10. Thanks for this, Greg. But please check your pronunciation of the word "nuclear." It's not "nukuler"… even if WIlkerson, who should know better, doesn't.

  11. Why is this guy in govt? Someone needs to punch him in the throat and send him home.

    I NEVER ELECTED MIKE POMPEO! … So His Pals can make more money. This is sickening.

  12. The only thing i see, that actually deters the escalation, is an effing accident in a Plant where they assemble those goddamned things. so they feel the Generation-lasting Consequences that come with it. i think, most people forgot them.

  13. With apologies to Johnny Mandel.

    I try to find a way to make
    All our little joys relate
    Without that ever-present hate
    But now I know that it's too late, and

    That suicide is painless
    It brings on many changes
    But won't you do it if you must, and leave us, to live…

    Along with Obama's authorization for a ten year, 1.5 trillion dollar program to create a "modernized" and miniaturized generation of new nuclear weapons, this administration's abrogation of treaty after treaty designed to forestall the death of all life on earth, is leading us to ultimate death. I trust that, unlike global warming/climate change, there are few who doubt the catastrophic effects of a thermonuclear exchange. And yet, it continues.

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