Ex­perts urge Trump to save nu­clear treaty

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY RICK GLAD­STONE

New York Times

Alarmed at what they see as dis­in­te­grat­ing curbs on nu­clear weapons, a bi­par­ti­san ar­ray of Amer­i­can non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ex­perts has urged Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to sal­vage a Cold War­era treaty with Rus­sia that he has vowed to scrap.

In let­ters sent to the White House this week that were seen by The New York Times, the ex­perts said the pact, the In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nu­clear Forces Treaty, had re­duced the risk of nu­clear war.

De­spite the treaty’s flaws, they said, the United States should work to fix the ac­cord, not walk away from it.

“The INF Treaty has pre­vented the unchecked de­ploy­ment of nu­clear mis­siles in Europe,” stated one of the let­ters, sent Wed­nes­day to the White House. It was signed by more than a dozen prom­i­nent fig­ures in arms con­trol, in­clud­ing for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Ge­orge P. Shultz and for­mer Se­na­tors Richard Lu­gar and Sam Nunn.

An­other let­ter, dated Tues­day and sent by the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Na­tional Se­cu­rity Lead­ers, a group of for­mer high-level mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, said: “The INF Treaty is a be­drock to our cur­rent arms con­trol regime and serves rather than ham­pers Amer­i­can in­ter­ests.”

There was no im­me­di­ate com­ment from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on the let­ters.

The treaty’s fate may come up this week­end if Trump sees Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia dur­ing a me­mo­rial event in France cel­e­brat­ing the cen­ten­nial of the end of World War I. But there have been con­flict­ing ac­counts from the White House and the Krem­lin on whether the two will even meet.

Putin and his sub­or­di­nates have warned of a new arms race should Trump make good on his pledge to re­nounce the ac­cord. It would be the first time Trump has scrapped an arms-con­trol treaty, Amer­i­can of­fi­cials have said.

Many Euro­pean lead­ers also have ob­jected to Trump’s plan.

Trump and his hard­line aides, par­tic­u­larly John R. Bolton, the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, have long dis­par­aged the treaty, as­sert­ing that Rus­sia has cheated on its terms and that it should in­clude China, which is not a sig­na­tory.

The treaty ended a cri­sis of the 1980s that had come to be seen as a hair-trig­ger for a nu­clear war. The Soviet Union had de­ployed a mis­sile in Europe called the SS-20, ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing three nu­clear war­heads. The United States had de­ployed cruise and Per­sh­ing II mis­siles. All had the ca­pa­bil­ity of reach­ing tar­gets in as lit­tle as 10 min­utes.

The So­vi­ets were par­tic­u­larly fear­ful of a strike that could oblit­er­ate them be­fore they could re­tal­i­ate, fur­ther rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a mis­take or mis­un­der­stand­ing that could lead to an un­speak­able out­come.

Un­der the treaty signed in 1987 by Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan and the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gor­bachev, all land­based cruise or bal­lis­tic mis­siles with ranges of be­tween 311 and 3,420 miles were pro­hib­ited.

The United States has con­tended for years that Rus­sia has vi­o­lated the treaty by de­ploy­ing a pro­hib­ited mis­sile, the SSC- 8, that threat­ens Euro­pean na­tions. The Rus­sians have ar­gued that U.S. anti-mis­sile bat­ter­ies in Europe vi­o­late the treaty be­cause they can be used to fire of­fen­sive weapons at Rus­sia.

Bolton, who vis­ited Rus­sia a few weeks ago to ex­plain the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to aban­don the treaty, called it out­dated. But he did not specif­i­cally rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of a rene­go­ti­a­tion.

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