It is a sign of how wacko things have gotten that the truly most important event of the past week has simply been buried in the news by all the huffing and puffing over Trump’s shutdown ending and these revelations about VA Governor Northam. This would be decision by the US on Feb. 1 to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) treaty with Russia, followed by Russia’s doing so as well shortly thereafter. This is both historic and very serious, far more so than Trump’s wall or Northam’s photographs.
The treaty was signed in 1987 between then US President Reagan and then Soviet President Gorbachev, culminating several years of negotiations. It led to the destruction of around 3600 short and intermediate range nuclear missiles, including most importantly all of those in Europe that threatened the potential outbreak of a war on that continent between NATO and the USSR. It was one of the most important moments on the way to bringing about the end of the Cold War, and indeed it is unfortunately accurate to describe the ending of this treaty as the end of that end.
I have seen a number of people speculating that this action somehow shows Trump “standing up” to V.V. Putin, being a tough guy and all that. But the nearly immediate acceptance with virtually no complaint by Putin of this move suggests otherwise. US and also western European officials have argued that Russia has been in effective violation of the INF since 2014 when it developed a new cruise missile, 97M925, that can be easily modified to make it fly in the forbidden distance ranges. Russian leaders have argued that they were not in violation given that this missile also had as its main range adjusted and therefore are not in violation and none violating the limits had been deployed. Putting such missiles with the violating ranges in deployment would directly threaten western Europe. As it is, Putin is in a position now to rapidly deploy them in a way to threaten western Europe while the US has nothing to put in place to reply to this. So, Putin gets to gain a major military edge and threaten the western Europeans while getting to blame Trump for having ended the treaty by withdrawing and allowing him to do this. The Europeans in question had opposed Trump ending the treaty, with indeed this probably being one of those things Merkel was trying to maintain influence with Trump over by not complaining too loudly about the US pressuring German companies to stop dealing with Iran.
Another factor in this matter emphasized by US leaders is that China was never a part of the agreement, and I gather has been developing such intermediate range missiles. But those were unlikely to be deployed in Europe, where the removal of such missiles 32 years ago was a triumphant movement towards the reduction of mutual tensions and towards peace.
All the way around, there is nothing good at all about this development, and it most definitely doesn’t show Trump doing something that is against the interests or desires of V.V. Putin. The outcome may well be a new arms race, which will please the military-industrial complexes in both the US and Russia, and maybe China as well. No, this is not a good development at all