Aban­don­ing INF talks will threaten our very ex­is­tence

The State - - Business - BY MIKHAIL GOR­BACHEV AND GE­ORGE P. SHULTZ Mikhail Gor­bachev is a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Soviet Union. Shultz is a for­mer U.S. sec­re­tary of state.

More than 30 years have passed since the day the lead­ers of the United States and the Soviet Union, meet­ing in Geneva, adopted a joint state­ment declar­ing that “a nu­clear war can­not be won and must never be fought.” It was more than just rhetoric. Less than a year later, in Reyk­javik, Ice­land, they agreed on the pa­ram­e­ters of fu­ture treaties on the elim­i­na­tion of in­ter­me­di­ate-range nu­clear forces, or INF, and the rad­i­cal re­duc­tion of strate­gic nu­clear arms. A year af­ter that, in 1987, the first of these treaties was signed in Wash­ing­ton. The elim­i­na­tion of the en­tire class of nu­clear mis­siles opened the way to a process of real nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment.

The INF Treaty and sub­se­quent treaties re­duc­ing strate­gic nu­clear arms es­tab­lished an in­no­va­tive sys­tem of ver­i­fi­ca­tion, in­spec­tions, data ex­change and mu­tual con­sul­ta­tions to en­sure that each side can con­fi­dently ver­ify that the other is faith­fully ad­her­ing to the treaty lim­its.

Reyk­javik was a his­toric mile­stone also be­cause the lead­ers of the United States and the Soviet Union agreed that the ul­ti­mate goal of the process of nu­clear arms re­duc­tion should be the elim­i­na­tion of all nu­clear weapons. The path to this goal is in­evitably dif­fi­cult, but the mu­tual un­der­stand­ing be­tween the two lead­ers has borne fruit: As of now, the strate­gic nu­clear forces of the two sides have been re­duced to a frac­tion of what they were then.

An­other im­por­tant re­sult of the agree­ments was the emer­gence of mu­tual trust be­tween the two na­tions, and a health­ier in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment over­all. This helped to re­solve re­gional is­sues, fa­cil­i­tated demo­cratic pro­cesses and im­proved the lives of peo­ple in many coun­tries.

Over the past few years, re­la­tions be­tween ma­jor pow­ers have be­come more com­plex. There is a dan­ger that the gains achieved in the process of end­ing the Cold War could be wiped out. Aban­don­ing the INF Treaty would be a step to­ward a new arms race, un­der­min­ing strate­gic sta­bil­ity and in­creas­ing the threat of mis­cal­cu­la­tion or tech­ni­cal fail­ure lead­ing to an im­mensely de­struc­tive war.

The an­swer to the prob­lems that have come up is not to aban­don the INF Treaty, but to pre­serve and fix it. Mil­i­tary and diplo­matic of­fi­cials from the United States and Rus­sia should meet to ad­dress and re­solve the is­sues of ver­i­fi­ca­tion and com­pli­ance. Equally dif­fi­cult prob­lems have been solved in the past once the two sides put their minds to it.

There is also a need for a broad di­a­logue be­tween the two coun­tries’ of­fi­cials, as well as ex­perts, aca­demics and vet­eran lead­ers and diplo­mats. We are call­ing for the cre­ation of an in­for­mal fo­rum of U.S. and Rus­sian ex­perts to ad­dress the changes in the se­cu­rity land­scape that have oc­curred over the past decades – in­clud­ing mis­sile de­fenses, pre­ci­sion con­ven­tional weapons, space sys­tems, cy­berthreats and the nu­clear weapons of other coun­tries.

We were both at Reyk­javik and par­tic­i­pated in the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­fore and af­ter that led to the first agree­ments. We un­der­stand that nu­clear weapons raise dif­fi­cult is­sues. But we are con­vinced the United States and Rus­sia must re­sume progress on a path to­ward the even­tual elim­i­na­tion of nu­clear weapons. The al­ter­na­tive, which is un­ac­cept­able, is the con­tin­u­ing threat of those weapons to our very ex­is­tence.

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