Somehow I missed this kinda important story this weekend:
Donald Trump has confirmed the US will leave an arms control treaty with Russia dating from the cold war that has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades.
“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” the president told reporters in Nevada after a rally. “We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”
Trump was referring to the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF), which banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500km to 5,500km. Signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, it led to nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated, and an end to a dangerous standoff between US Pershing and cruise missiles and Soviet SS-20 missiles in Europe.
No prizes for guessing whose fingerprints are all over this measured, well thought out decision:
The Guardian reported on Friday that Trump’s third national security adviser, John Bolton, a longstanding opponent of arms control treaties, was pushing for US withdrawal.
There are arguments! There always are. In this case, it’s an allegation that Russia is violating the agreement w. a cruise missile development program, and that China is looming, outside the treaty. I’m way out of the zone of what passes for my expertise here, so I’ll leave it to Cheryl and/or Adam to weigh in on these claims. Here I’ll just note both claims have the look of assertions that are drummed into service to fill in the gaps marked “pretextual verbiage needed here” on the form providing cover for what one wants to do anyway.
That view is strengthened, I think, by the fact that there isn’t a single arms control treaty these bloody incompetents have ever liked.
Bolton and the top arms control adviser in the National Security Council (NSC), Tim Morrison, are also opposed to the extension of another major pillar of arms control, the 2010 New Start agreement with Russia, which limited the number of deployed strategic warheads on either side to 1,550. That agreement, signed by Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, then president of Russia, is due to expire in 2021.
The early reviews for this buried, weekend news dump are what you’d expect:
Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said: “This is a colossal mistake. Russia gets to violate the treaty and Trump takes the blame.
“I doubt very much that the US will deploy much that would have been prohibited by the treaty. Russia, though, will go gangbusters.”
Old friend Mikhail Gorbachev adds:
Gorbachev, 87, wondered aloud: “Is it really that hard to understand that rejecting these agreements is, as the people say, not the work of a great mind.”
Gorbachev called Trump’s decision “a mistake” and “very strange.”
“Do they really not understand in Washington what this can lead to?” he asked.
And doubly, trebly concur with this:
“All agreements aimed at nuclear disarmament and limiting nuclear weapons must be preserved, for the sake of preserving life on earth,” he added, per the Times.
This is the true measure of the GOP betrayal of America. They knew who Donald Trump was long before he became President. They knew — hell the candidates, Cruz and Graham and the rest said so out loud — that he was the last person you’d want near the nuclear button. And yet when the choice came down to tax cuts and an anti-abortion SC vs the safety and security of the United States…
They all got in line. We, and the world, are in ever deeper peril as a result.
Oh — and one more thing? How is this not a huge story? Republican maladministration wants Europe back on a hair trigger? I’m looking at the New York Times home page and it isn’t there. Our media iz not lerning.
Image: Simone del Tintore (attr.), Still Life with Mushrooms, Fruit, a Basket of Flowers and a Cat, before 1708.