Bolton urges US exit from INF treaty

National security adviser John Bolton is reported to be urging the president to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty because of violations by Russia.

Everyone agrees that Moscow is probably in violation of the treaty after it tested and deployed a new ground-launched cruise missile.  Russia denies the violation but refuses to display the missile and explain its characteristics.

Withdrawing from the treaty would be one option available to the administration, but Bolton is trying to make the case that we simply can't trust the Russians if they refuse to release information about their new GLCM.

Guardian:

Withdrawal from the treaty, which would mark a sharp break in US arms control policy, has yet to be agreed upon by cabinet and faces opposition from within the state department and the Pentagon.  A meeting on Monday at the White House to discuss the withdrawal proposal was postponed.

The INF faces a congressionally imposed deadline early next year. An amendment in the 2019 defence spending bill requires the president to tell the Senate by 15 January whether Russia is in "material breach" of the treaty, and whether the INF remains legally binding on the US.

Bolton, who has spent his career opposing arms control treaties, is seeking to shrug off the traditional role of national security adviser as a policy broker between the agencies, and become a driver of radical change from within the White House.

Compared to the way other administrations have dealt with Russian violations of arms control treaties, it would certainly be "radical" to actually do something about it.  But withdrawal from the INF is only one option.

The US has briefed its European allies this week about the proposal, sounding out reactions.  The briefing alarmed UK officials who see the INF as an important arms control pillar.  The treaty marked the end of a dangerous nuclear standoff in 1980s Europe pitting US Pershing and cruise missiles against the Soviet Union's SS-20 medium-range missiles.

The US alleges Russia is now violating the treaty with the development and deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile, known as the 9M729.  Moscow insists the missile does not violate the range restrictions in the INF and alleges in return that a US missile defence system deployed in eastern Europe against a potential Iranian threat can be adapted to fire medium-range offensive missiles at Russia.

Asked for comment on the future of the INF, a senior administration official said: "Across two administrations, the United States and our allies have attempted to bring Russia back into full and verifiable compliance with INF.  Despite our objections, Russia continues to produce and field prohibited cruise misses and has ignored calls for transparency."

"The US has started to brief allies with the possibility of withdrawal.  But I don't believe there has been any kind of interagency process in the administration," said Jon Wolfsthal, a former senior director for non-proliferation and arms control at the NSC.

The arms control lobby is horrified at the prospect of actually calling out the Russians for a major treaty violation.  Much better to sweep it under the rug and pretend the Russians are in compliance.

But Putin's arrogance has to be dealt with.  He is challenging the U.S. in eastern Europe and the Middle East, constantly probing for weaknesses and lack of resolve.  Withdrawal from the INF treaty would be a perfect opportunity to put the Russian president in his place.

National security adviser John Bolton is reported to be urging the president to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty because of violations by Russia.

Everyone agrees that Moscow is probably in violation of the treaty after it tested and deployed a new ground-launched cruise missile.  Russia denies the violation but refuses to display the missile and explain its characteristics.

Withdrawing from the treaty would be one option available to the administration, but Bolton is trying to make the case that we simply can't trust the Russians if they refuse to release information about their new GLCM.

Guardian:

Withdrawal from the treaty, which would mark a sharp break in US arms control policy, has yet to be agreed upon by cabinet and faces opposition from within the state department and the Pentagon.  A meeting on Monday at the White House to discuss the withdrawal proposal was postponed.

The INF faces a congressionally imposed deadline early next year. An amendment in the 2019 defence spending bill requires the president to tell the Senate by 15 January whether Russia is in "material breach" of the treaty, and whether the INF remains legally binding on the US.

Bolton, who has spent his career opposing arms control treaties, is seeking to shrug off the traditional role of national security adviser as a policy broker between the agencies, and become a driver of radical change from within the White House.

Compared to the way other administrations have dealt with Russian violations of arms control treaties, it would certainly be "radical" to actually do something about it.  But withdrawal from the INF is only one option.

The US has briefed its European allies this week about the proposal, sounding out reactions.  The briefing alarmed UK officials who see the INF as an important arms control pillar.  The treaty marked the end of a dangerous nuclear standoff in 1980s Europe pitting US Pershing and cruise missiles against the Soviet Union's SS-20 medium-range missiles.

The US alleges Russia is now violating the treaty with the development and deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile, known as the 9M729.  Moscow insists the missile does not violate the range restrictions in the INF and alleges in return that a US missile defence system deployed in eastern Europe against a potential Iranian threat can be adapted to fire medium-range offensive missiles at Russia.

Asked for comment on the future of the INF, a senior administration official said: "Across two administrations, the United States and our allies have attempted to bring Russia back into full and verifiable compliance with INF.  Despite our objections, Russia continues to produce and field prohibited cruise misses and has ignored calls for transparency."

"The US has started to brief allies with the possibility of withdrawal.  But I don't believe there has been any kind of interagency process in the administration," said Jon Wolfsthal, a former senior director for non-proliferation and arms control at the NSC.

The arms control lobby is horrified at the prospect of actually calling out the Russians for a major treaty violation.  Much better to sweep it under the rug and pretend the Russians are in compliance.

But Putin's arrogance has to be dealt with.  He is challenging the U.S. in eastern Europe and the Middle East, constantly probing for weaknesses and lack of resolve.  Withdrawal from the INF treaty would be a perfect opportunity to put the Russian president in his place.