U.S. exit from nuclear treaty could spark countermeasures
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U.S. exit from nuclear treaty could spark countermeasures

December 5, 2019


JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, the
President Trump has announced his intention to pull the United States out of a landmark
Cold War nuclear weapons treaty struck 30 years ago with the Soviet Union. So, what would the effect of that be? And is the treaty outdated, as the president
claims? It was 1987, and President Reagan and Soviet
leader Mikhail Gorbachev celebrated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty as common Cold War tensions. Flash forward to this past weekend and President
Trump’s decision to abandon it. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement, and we have honored the agreement. But Russia has not, unfortunately, honored
the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement. We’re going to pull out. JUDY WOODRUFF: The INF scrapped thousands
of ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges from 300 to 3,400 miles. But in 2014, then President Obama accused
Russia of developing and testing a cruise missile, in violation of the treaty. On Sunday, President Trump echoed charge. And, today, he said China should be added
to the agreement. DONALD TRUMP: It’s a threat to whoever you
want. And it includes China. And it includes Russia. And it includes anybody else that wants to
play that game. You can’t do that. You can’t play that game on me. JUDY WOODRUFF: The Russians deny violating
the pact and claim that it is the U.S. breaching the treaty with the Europe-based missile defense
systems it has built. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov,
condemned Mr. Trump’s announcement. Lavrov said last night that he wants answers
from U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who’s in Moscow this week. SERGEI LAVROV, Russian Foreign Minister (through
translator): We will wait for an official explanation from our U.S. colleagues. In case John Bolton is ready to give them,
we will of course listen to him and assess the situation after that. JUDY WOODRUFF: For his part, former Soviet
leader Mikhail Gorbachev said in a statement that — quote — “It can’t be that hard to
understand that discarding such agreements is narrow-minded.” French President Emmanuel Macron’s office
said he too voiced misgivings in a Sunday phone call with President Trump. We ask whether the president has made the
right decision to withdraw from the nuclear arms treaty. And for answers, we turn to Richard Burt. He was assistant secretary of state for Europe
and then served as U.S. ambassador to Germany during the 1980s. He was intimately involved with the original
INF Treaty negotiations. He’s now a managing partner at the consulting
firm McLarty Associates. And Rebeccah Heinrichs, she was a legislative
assistant focusing on foreign and defense policy for a Republican member of Congress. She’s now a senior fellow at The Hudson Institute. It’s a think tank in Washington. And we welcome both of you to the “NewsHour.” Rebeccah Heinrichs, to you first. You have told us you think the president’s
doing the right thing by trying — saying he wants to pull out. Why? REBECCAH HEINRICHS, The Hudson Institute:
Well,this treaty, Cold War treaty, the Russians have been in violation of the treaty for many
years, as early as 2008. The Obama administration made clear in 2014
that the Russians were in violation of the treaty and began this soft diplomatic approach
to try to get the Russian to comply with the treaty. They didn’t. Instead, they started moving forward with
deploying missiles that would violate the treaty. And so the Trump administration came in and
tried a tougher approach, tried to get them to comply, to no avail. And so it’s time — if arms control is going
to mean anything, it has to be enforced. And so it undermines arms control in general
if there aren’t hard consequences for violations such as the Russians have been — have been
doing. JUDY WOODRUFF: Richard Burt, if the Russians
are in violation, why should the U.S. stay in? RICHARD BURT, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary
for European Affairs: Well, this isn’t the first time that we have accused the Russians
of being in violation. And I think, in this case, they are clearly
in violation of the agreement. But we have had other major compliance problems
in a number of different treaties. This is the first time we have actually left
a treaty when we haven’t been capable of resolving the issue. I don’t think the Trump administration, in
taking this decision, went the extra mile in actually trying to solve this problem. I think the public diplomacy of this issue
is just as important as the substance. And the problem is, is that people should
be blaming the Russians. But they’re not. By virtue of this impetuous decision, the
United States is being blamed for stepping out of a very important arms control agreement. And our allies see another example of American
unilateralism. JUDY WOODRUFF: What about — Rebeccah Heinrichs,
what about his point that the Trump administration didn’t do enough to try to bring Russia into
compliance? REBECCAH HEINRICHS: The Trump administration
did try and has been working with allies since President Trump took office. The Obama administration was working quietly
with allies to try to get the — to try to put pressure on the Russians. And, you know, enough is enough. We get to the point. The other issue that’s happening is, while
the Russians are in violation and continuing to become more provocative in their violations,
then you also have this other issue, which is that other countries like China, Iran,
North Korea are not party to the INF Treaty. So you also have a problem of relevance. Is the treaty relevant, combined with this
issue of Russia’s violations? If the other countries like China are going
to be developing these missiles too, then the United States doesn’t want to be tied
to a treaty of which it is the only one abiding by it. JUDY WOODRUFF: Richard Burt, what about that,
that other countries are moving ahead? (CROSSTALK) RICHARD BURT: Well, the only — the only real
country of concern here — and the president mentioned it today — is China. And China is developing new land-based missiles
targeted against United States assets in the region and our allies. But we have no plans and no need for ground-based
missiles. Remember, this treaty only focused on ground-based
missiles. We’re not going to deploy ground-based missiles
in South Korea or Japan or anywhere else in Asia. We’re going to deal with this problem as we
have done in the past. We’re going to deploy them on air-launched
— on — air-launched missiles on aircraft or submarine-launched missiles. And there are no limits on that. So we can certainly respond to a growing Chinese
threat without scrapping a very important treaty, a treaty that is critical to our allies. It has been at the core really of the U.S.-European
security relationship for over 30 years. JUDY WOODRUFF: Rebeccah Heinrichs, I want
you to respond to the China point. And then I want to ask you about the broader
question. REBECCAH HEINRICHS: Sure. China has the largest and most diverse missile
program in the world. Admiral Harris was the commander of Pacific
Command. In 2017, he said that 95 percent of China’s
missiles that they have would violate the INF Treaty, if it were party to that treaty. The United States doesn’t have anything comparable,
according to Admiral Harris. And so you have these air launch and sea launch
capabilities, but for us to actually close that gap in terms of firepower, we’re going
to need ground-launched missiles. And so we need to — we need to get — we
need to close that gap if we are going to deter China. JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re shaking your head. RICHARD BURT: Well, tell me who’s going to
accept ground-launched missiles. Japan? South Korea? No, we don’t need those capabilities. What we need are probably enhanced air launch
capabilities and sea-based capabilities. JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk about the larger
question. What happens? What are the — what are the consequences
if the U.S. pulls out of treaty? RICHARD BURT: Well, I think what it means
is a Russian buildup of missiles against the — against our European allies. The people who are really celebrating the
Trump administration’s decision is the Russian general staff. They have been opposed to the INF Treaty for
10 years, because they have been constrained in developing short- and medium-range missiles
targeted against Europe. They have — they do have this new cruise
missile capability they have developed. They have a new ICBM that could be used as
an intermediate-range missile. So they’re ready to move . They’re ready to
engage in a major buildup. We don’t have those capabilities now. And it would take us several years to develop
them. And today, Wolfgang Ischinger, the former
German ambassador, said — was quoted as saying there’s not going to be a repeat of the INF
deployments in Europe in the 1980s. The Europeans will not accept new mobile missiles
on their territory. So, we’re going to be outmatched in NATO. And that’s going to undermine the credibility
of the American nuclear deterrent. JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Rebeccah Heinrichs,
and the fact that he is saying the Russian generals have wanted this treaty, to get out
of — to be out of the way? REBECCAH HEINRICHS: Then there’s a legal way
to do that. And they haven’t been doing it. Instead, they have continued to violate the
treaty right under our noses, in plain sight. And so if the United States is going to actually
deter Russia, then we cannot be the ones that are constrained by the treaty. I think that the points that were just made
actually were points in favor of the United States saying, well, forget it. If you’re going to continue to move forward
with this, we got to close that gap. JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re not worried about an
arms race breaking out if this treaty is done away with? REBECCAH HEINRICHS: Well, the Russians are
already deploying these — these weapons systems. So we’re the ones that are caught flat-footed
at the point. So if we can do research and development,
work with our allies, I don’t know why we are precluding the possibility that we’re
going to have allies that are interested in the United States providing greater assurances
because of the Russia threat. RICHARD BURT: Well, I’m just amazed that — and
in a matter of days after the president announcing that we’re pulling out of an iconic arms control
treaty, he talks today about a massive new nuclear buildup. That sends the wrong message, not only to
the Russians, but to the entire globe. It makes us look like that we’re not concerned
about global security. We’re only — we’re going to have a very narrow
view, a legalistic view of nuclear weapons. JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Ambassador Richard Burt,
Rebeccah Heinrichs at The Hudson Institute, we thank you both.

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