A plea to the pres­i­dents of Rus­sia and the United States

Woonsocket Call - - Opinion - By MIKHAIL GOR­BACHEV Gor­bachev was leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991.

This De­cem­ber will mark the 30th an­niver­sary of the sign­ing of the treaty be­tween the Soviet Union and United States on the elim­i­na­tion of in­ter­me­di­ate­and shorter-range mis­siles. This was the start of the process of rad­i­cally cut­ting back nu­clear ar­se­nals, which was con­tin­ued with the 1991 and 2010 strate­gic arms re­duc­tion treaties and the agree­ments re­duc­ing tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons.

The scale of the process launched in 1987 is ev­i­denced by the fact that, as Rus­sia and the United States re­ported to the Non­Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty Re­view Con­fer­ence in 2015, 80 per­cent of the nu­clear weapons ac­cu­mu­lated dur­ing the Cold War have been de­com­mis­sioned and de­stroyed. An­other im­por­tant fact is that, de­spite the re­cent se­ri­ous de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, both sides have been com­ply­ing with the strate­gic weapons agree­ments.

The In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nu­clear Forces (INF) Treaty, how­ever, is now in jeop­ardy. It has proved to be the most vul­ner­a­ble link in the sys­tem of lim­it­ing and re­duc­ing weapons of mass de­struc­tion. There have been calls on both sides for scrap­ping the agree­ment.

So what is hap­pen­ing, what is the prob­lem, and what needs to be done?

Both sides have raised is­sues of com­pli­ance, ac­cus­ing the other of vi­o­lat­ing or cir­cum­vent­ing the treaty's key pro­vi­sions. From the side­lines, lack­ing fuller in­for­ma­tion, it is dif­fi­cult to eval­u­ate those ac­cu­sa­tions. But one thing is clear: The prob­lem has a po­lit­i­cal as well as a tech­ni­cal as­pect. It is up to the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to take ac­tion.

There­fore I am mak­ing an ap­peal to the pres­i­dents of Rus­sia and the United States.

Re­la­tions be­tween the two na­tions are in a se­vere cri­sis. A way out must be sought, and there is one well-tested means avail­able for ac­com­plish­ing this: a di­a­logue based on mu­tual re­spect.

It will not be easy to cut through the log­jam of is­sues on both sides. But nei­ther was our di­a­logue easy three decades ago. It had its crit­ics and de­trac­tors, who tried to de­rail it.

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, it was the po­lit­i­cal will of the two na­tions' lead­ers that proved de­ci­sive. And that is what's needed now. This is what our two coun­tries' cit­i­zens and peo­ple ev­ery­where ex­pect from the pres­i­dents of Rus­sia and the United States.

I call upon Rus­sia and the United States to pre­pare and hold a full-scale sum­mit on the en­tire range of is­sues. It is far from nor­mal that the pres­i­dents of ma­jor nu­clear pow­ers meet merely "on the mar­gins" of in­ter­na­tional gath­er­ings. I hope that the process of pre­par­ing a proper sum­mit is in the works even now.

I be­lieve that the sum­mit meet­ing should fo­cus on the prob­lems of re­duc­ing nu­clear weapons and strength­en­ing strate­gic sta­bil­ity. For should the sys­tem of nu­clear arms con­trol col­lapse, as may well hap­pen if the INF Treaty is scrapped, the con­se­quences, both di­rect and in­di­rect, will be dis­as­trous.

The closer that nu­clear weapons are de­ployed to bor­ders, the more dan­ger­ous they are: There is less time for a de­ci­sion and greater risk of cat­a­strophic er­ror. And what will hap­pen to the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty if the nu­clear arms race be­gins anew? I am afraid it will be ru­ined.

If, how­ever, the INF Treaty is saved, it will send a pow­er­ful sig­nal to the world that the two big­gest nu­clear pow­ers are aware of their re­spon­si­bil­ity and take their obli­ga­tions se­ri­ously. Ev­ery­one will breathe a sigh of re­lief, and re­la­tions be­tween Rus­sia and the United States will fi­nally get off the ground again.

I am con­fi­dent that pre­par­ing a joint pres­i­den­tial state­ment on the two na­tions' com­mit­ment to the INF Treaty is a re­al­is­tic goal. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the tech­ni­cal is­sues could also be re­solved; for this pur­pose, the joint con­trol com­mis­sion un­der the INF Treaty could re­sume its work. I am con­vinced that, with an im­pe­tus from the two pres­i­dents, the gen­er­als and diplo­mats would be able to reach agree­ment.

We are liv­ing in a trou­bled world. It is par­tic­u­larly dis­turb­ing that re­la­tions be­tween the ma­jor nu­clear pow­ers, Rus­sia and the United States, have be­come a se­ri­ous source of ten­sions and a hostage to do­mes­tic pol­i­tics.

It is time to re­turn to san­ity. I am sure that even in­vet­er­ate op­po­nents of nor­mal­iz­ing U.S.-Russian re­la­tions will not dare to ob­ject to the two pres­i­dents. Th­ese crit­ics have no ar­gu­ments on their side, for the very fact that the INF Treaty has been in ef­fect for 30 years proves that it serves the se­cu­rity in­ter­ests of our two coun­tries and of the world.

In any un­der­tak­ing, it is im­por­tant to take the first step. In 1987, the first step in the dif­fi­cult but vi­tally im­por­tant process of rid­ding the world of nu­clear weapons was the INF Treaty. To­day, we face a dual chal­lenge of pre­vent­ing the col­lapse of the sys­tem of nu­clear agree­ments and re­vers­ing the down­ward spi­ral in U.S.-Russian re­la­tions. It is time to take the first step.

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