Whether The U.S. Scraps The INF Or Stays In, China Must Be Checked
President Trump recently made it clear that he intends to withdraw the U.S. from the 1987 intermediate range nuclear forces (INF) treaty.
Beyond the merits of being in or out of the treaty, the U.S. must address the treaty’s unintended consequences that resulted in China’s conventionally-armed missile advantage in the Pacific.
While the U.S. was constrained from building short and intermediate range conventional missiles under the bilateral INF treaty with the Russians, the Chinese were not and expanded their military reach and capacity with these systems.
The removal of the constraints of the INF treaty would allow for either the cost-effective U.S. deployment of a relatively inexpensive class of medium range conventional missiles to counter the Chinese missile build-up, or provide the incentive for Russia and China to realize the benefits of a new arms control treaty…..
Much has already been written about the pros and cons of the U.S. stated intention to withdraw from the treaty.
Outside the binary “stay” or “go” options is to realize that treaties are initiated, negotiated, and formed based on the technologies, politics, and geostrategic conditions that exist at the time a treaty is negotiated and then signed.
Clearly those conditions today are very much different than existed in the mid-1980s. The 1987 INF treaty simply no longer applies to the geostrategic conditions that exist today.
However, there now may be an opportunity to evolve the 1987 INF treaty into a 2018 variant that could provide mutually beneficial results for the new signatories—a version that would include China.
In this regard it is important to recognize that the 1987 INF treaty prohibited the U.S. and the Soviet Union from deploying all ground-based nuclear and conventional missiles ranging from 500 to 5500 kilometers as well as their launchers. Inclusion of the term “nuclear” in the treaty description has masked the fact that non-nuclear missiles in these ranges were also restricted….
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