U.S. withdrawal of nuclear treaty sparks arms race concerns
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U.S. withdrawal of nuclear treaty sparks arms race concerns

November 25, 2019


>>Sreenivasan: THIS WEEK, A COLD WAR-ERA PACT, THE INTERMEDIATE RANGE NUCLEAR FORCES– OR I.N.F.– TREATY BETWEEN THE U.S. AND RUSSIA EXPIRED. BOTH COUNTRIES ACCUSED EACH OTHER OF VIOLATING THE AGREEMENT FOR YEARS. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BAN LAND- BASED MISSILES WITH RANGES BETWEEN 310 AND 3,410 MILES. JOINING ME NOW FROM WASHINGTON, D.C. FOR MORE ON WHAT THIS MAY MEAN IS JON WOLFSTAHL, DIRECTOR OF THE NUCLEAR CRISIS GROUP, A NONPARTISAN GROUP DEDICATED TO PREVENTING THE USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. HE WAS FORMERLY A SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR ARMS CONTROL AND NONPROLIFERATION AT THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL IN THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. JOHN, IN SOME WAYS, THIS IS A LONG TIME COMING. EVEN THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WAS COMPLAINING THAT RUSSIA WAS VIOLATING THIS TREATY AS FAR BACK AS FIVE, SIX YEARS AGO.>>THAT’S TRUE. THIS HAS BEEN A LONG FOUGHT BATTLE WITH RUSSIA OVER THE FUTURE OF THE TREATY. I WOULD SAY THAT BOTH RUSSIA AND THE UNITED STATES HAD SOME REASONS TO WANT TO GET OUT OF IT, BUT, UNFORTUNATELY, NEITHER THE UNITED STATES OR RUSSIA IS REALLY THINKING ABOUT WHAT IT’S LOSING WHEN THIS TREATY GOES AWAY.>>Sreenivasan: ONE OF THE REASONS THAT PEOPLE FIND THIS… JOHN BOLTON AND OTHERS SAY, “HEY, THIS IS LESS RELEVANT TODAY,” BECAUSE THE LANDSCAPE HAS CHANGED SINCE WHEN THE TREATY WAS WRITTEN. YOU’VE GOT DRONES THAT ARE TECHNOLOGIES THAT WEREN’T INCLUDED IN THE TREATY IN THE FIRST PLACE. YOU’VE GOT DIFFERENT WORLD POWERS NOW THAT HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS. IS THAT FAIR?>>WELL, I MEAN, THE WORLD CHANGES EVERY DAY. THE QUESTION IS WHETHER OR NOT WE ARE SAFER OR LESS SAFE WITHOUT A TREATY THAT BANS THESE LAND-BASED MISSILES IN EUROPE. THE REALITY IS THAT NOW RUSSIA IS FREE, LEGALLY, TO KEEP DEPLOYING WHAT HAD BEEN AN ILLEGAL SYSTEM. IT MAKES IT EASIER FOR THEM TO MOVE THEM AROUND AND TEST THEM. THE UNITED STATES IS ABOUT TO START TESTING ITS OWN VERSION OF THESE MISSILES AND GOING TO TRY AND DEPLOY THEM IN EUROPE. AND LEADERS IN RUSSIA, IN EUROPE, AND IN THE UNITED STATES ARE GOING TO HAVE LESS TIME TO MAKE DECISIONS IN A CRISIS OR IF THERE’S A MILITARY INCIDENT WITH THESE SHORT-FLYING OR SHORT FLIGHT-TIME FAST-FLYING MISSILES IN AND AROUND EUROPE.>>Sreenivasan: SO, IF WE, THE UNITED STATES, HELPS, SAY, FOR EXAMPLE, NATO COUNTRIES ARM THEMSELVES, NOW WHAT? THAT RAISES THE POTENTIAL THREAT BECAUSE EVERYONE’S ON A HAIR TRIGGER AND EVERYONE’S GOT MISSILES RIGHT ON THE BORDER?>>WELL, ACTUALLY, EUROPEAN COUNTRIES WERE FREE TO BUILD AND DEPLOY THESE MISSILES ON THEIR OWN IF THEY WANTED TO. THEY ARE NOT PARTY TO THE I.N.F. TREATY. THIS WAS A BILATERAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND THE SOVIET UNION, THEN SOME OTHER PARTIES JOINED WHEN THE SOVIET UNION FELL APART. SO, IF FRANCE OR POLAND OR GERMANY WANTED TO BUILD THESE MISSILES, THEY COULD HAVE. THE REALITY IS, THE UNITED STATES AND NATO DON’T NEED THESE SYSTEMS BECAUSE WE HAVE AIR- LAUNCHED AND SEA-LAUNCHED MISSILES AND LONG-RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILES THAT CAN TARGET WHAT WE NEED TO TARGET IN RUSSIA. THE PROBLEM WAS THAT RUSSIA NO LONGER SAW VALUE IN THIS TREATY AND CHEATED ON IT. THE QUESTION IS WHETHER OR NOT WE DID A GOOD ENOUGH JOB TRYING TO BRING THEM BACK INTO COMPLIANCE, OR WHETHER THE UNITED STATES UNDER JOHN BOLTON– WHO DOESN’T REALLY CARE ABOUT ARMS CONTROL– SAID, “YOU KNOW WHAT? THIS IS A GREAT EXCUSE TO GET OUT OF THIS TREATY, AND WE CAN DO SOME DAMAGE TO THE ARMS CONTROL REGIME WHICH WE REALLY DON’T CARE FOR ANYWAY.”>>Sreenivasan: AND THE UNITED STATES SAYS, “LISTEN, WE ALSO NEED TO INCLUDE CHINA IN THIS CONVERSATION.” CHINA WROTE BACK YESTERDAY, SAYING, “YOU KNOW WHAT? YOU GUYS ARE IN A DIFFERENT LEAGUE. DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.” I MEAN, DOES THE UNITED STATES WANT TO… WILL THE UNITED STATES AND RUSSIA COME DOWN TO CHINA’S LEVEL OF WEAPONS? UNLIKELY. AND DO THEY WANT TO SIT THERE AND ALLOW CHINA TO COME UP TO OUR LEVEL OF WEAPONS? PROBABLY NOT.>>RIGHT. WELL, CHINA HAS HAD A VERY SMALL NUCLEAR ARSENAL FOR DECADES, AND THEY SO… SHOW NO SIGNS OF TRYING TO RACE TO CATCH UP TO THE UNITED STATES OR RUSSIA. BOTH THE UNITED STATES AND RUSSIA HAVE ABOUT 4,000 NUCLEAR WEAPONS EACH. CHINA HAS LESS THAN 400. SO, WE’RE TEN TIMES THE SIZE OF CHINA. THEY DO HAVE INTERMEDIATE-RANGE MISSILES BECAUSE THEIR ISSUES, THEIR SECURITY IS RELATED TO THEIR NEAR-ABROAD. THE CHAIRMAN… OR THE VICE CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF HAS SAID WE DON’T NEED LAND-BASED MISSILES IN EAST ASIA BECAUSE WE HAVE SHIP-BASED AND AIR-BASED SYSTEMS. SO, THE PUSH TO PULL OUT OF THIS TREATY AND TO DEVELOP SOME OF THESE SYSTEMS ARE NOT DRIVEN BY MILITARY REQUIREMENTS. THEY’RE BEING DRIVEN MORE BY IDEOLOGY AND A “GEE, THEY HAVE THEM, SO WE NEED THEM, TOO.” IT DOESN’T MAKE A WHOLE LOT OF MILITARY SENSE.>>Sreenivasan: FINALLY, WHAT’S THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF THIS TREATY ON THE NEXT BIG ONE THAT’S COMING UP IN A COUPLE OF YEARS?>>WELL, THIS IS, I THINK, WHY MOST PEOPLE ARE SORT OF SAVING THEIR AMMUNITION OVER THE DEATH OF THE I.N.F. TREATY. WE’RE SAD TO SEE IT GO, BUT THE REAL TARGET FOR JOHN BOLTON AND DONALD TRUMP IS THE 2010 NEW START ARMS CONTROL TREATY THAT LIMITS BOTH U.S. AND RUSSIAN STRATEGIC NUCLEAR WEAPONS TO NO MORE THAN 1,550. JOHN BOLTON HATED THIS TREATY. DONALD TRUMP DOESN’T LIKE IT BECAUSE IT WAS NEGOTIATED BY OBAMA. BASICALLY, THE DOUBLE KISS OF DEATH FOR THIS ADMINISTRATION. THE TREATY CAN BE EXTENDED FOR FIVE YEARS, BUT JOHN BOLTON RECENTLY SAID HE SEES NO REASON TO EXTEND IT. AND THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE THAT DONALD TRUMP WILL TRY TO WITHDRAW FROM THE AGREEMENT UNLESS CONGRESS CAN RESTRICT HIS FREEDOM TO DO SO.>>Sreenivasan: ALL RIGHT. JON WOLFSTAHL, DIRECTOR OF THE NUCLEAR CRISIS GROUP, JOINING US FROM WASHINGTON. THANKS SO MUCH.>>SURE. THANK YOU.

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