We call on Canada to work with Europe to save the INF Treaty

Under the malign influence of U.S. national security advisor John Bolton, who views international law as a tool of the weak, President Trump has recently announced his intention to “terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  This landmark nuclear arms control agreement helped end the Cold War arms race by banning an entire class of destabilizing U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons that were deployed in Europe.

“The decision [to terminate the INF Treaty] is an unnecessary and self-defeating wrong turn that could lead to an unconstrained and dangerous nuclear arms competition with Russia”, comments Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball.

The ostensible reason for U.S. withdrawal is that Russia is cheating by developing and deploying small numbers of a land-based missile within the prohibited range. But John Bolton has made no secret of his opposition to what he calls an “obsolete treaty“, even without Russian violations. Russia, for its part, points to longstanding concerns over U.S. missile interceptor launchers deployed in Europe that might also be used to deliver prohibited offensive missiles.

Russian disquiet has its origin in an earlier treaty abrogation by the U.S. — in 2001 when George W. Bush unilaterally walked away from the Russia–U.S. Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972. A muted initial response by Russia changed dramatically when the U.S. announced plans in 2007 to build a new missile defence system in eastern Europe.

“We were extremely concerned and disappointed…. It brings tremendous change to the strategic balance in Europe and to the world’s strategic stability.” – Kremlin chief spokesman Dmitry Peskov

It is hard to see what the U.S. gains by ditching the INF Treaty. It removes all further constraints on Russian deployment of hitherto prohibited missiles at a time when the U.S. has no equivalent land-based systems to deploy, and little likelihood of securing allied agreement to their placement on European soil, if they did have them.

If the bigger American worry is China, which is not a party to the INF Treaty and which has focused 95 per cent of its missile force on intermediate-range systems, withdrawal does nothing to constrain China, while the U.S. will face further uphill battles to convince allies in the region to host new American intermediate systems.

But if the military benefits to the U.S. of its withdrawal from the INF Treaty seem dubious, the diplomatic implications are clearly negative, with the controversial American action further splitting the alliance at an already difficult time in transatlantic relations.

Even worse are the potential implications for extending the 2010 New START treaty governing U.S. and Russian long-range systems, another treaty being targeted by John Bolton.

“Without New START, there would be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972…. It is now all the more important to get a serious U.S.–Russian arms control dialogue back on track. If not, an even more dangerous phase in U.S.–Russian relations is just over the horizon.” – Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association

For his part, German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass has pledged to leave “no stone unturned in the effort to bring Moscow and Washington back to the table one more time.”

Order of Canada Members call on Canada to act

As yet there has been little comment by Canada’s Department of Global Affairs on this extremely negative development for arms control and international stability.  We endorse the Letter sent by Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention (CNWC), representing over 1000 members of the Order of Canada, urging Canada:

“to act with urgency and persistence and to stand for a return to the careful, painstaking, and unrelenting diplomacy of nuclear arms control and disarmament.”

For further reaction to the impending INF pull-out, see: INF Termination Is Bad, but It Could Get Worse (Daryl G.Kimball, Arms Control Today, November 2018).

For a lively commentary by Gwynne Dyer on the misguided views on both sides that have led to this decision, see: The INF Treaty: idiots on both sides (The Telegram, 27 October 2018).


Photo credit: Wikimedia images (Gorbachev/Reagan INF signing).

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7 Responses to “We call on Canada to work with Europe to save the INF Treaty”

  1. John GilbertsNovember 5, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

    Given the current Prime Minister and Foreign minister’s toxic hostility to Russia, not to mention their demonstrated subservience to Washington, the prospect of prodding them to take action on this very alarming development will be difficult. A vigorous and highly motivated citizens-based nuclear disarmament movement will likely be necessary to accomplish what is clearly a dangerous march toward the unthinkable.

  2. Charles BeckettNovember 3, 2018 at 3:59 pm #

    It appears that the effort to save the INF simply depends on whether President Trump successfully leads the USA to do bow out. Canada can add its support to Europe to try to head off the direction Mr Trump is taking, but nothing more. Perhaps wise to lay low on this, and maybe Canada should just ask the USA directly not to repudiate the treaty instead of allying with Europe.

  3. Sheila Nabigon-HowlettNovember 3, 2018 at 10:06 am #

    Every effort to get to elimination of nuclear arms is necessary.

  4. Bob StuartNovember 2, 2018 at 5:48 pm #

    This page looks very modern, simple, and elegant. It just does not look very legible, in grey on white san-serif. Typography really can’t get along without contrast. I have enough to read without straining my eyes.

  5. Marlene Ellen KellyNovember 2, 2018 at 5:21 pm #

    Stop Canada’s Arm shipments to Saudia Arabia.
    We need to stop the violence and fighting in our world.

    • Howard DoughtyNovember 4, 2018 at 2:41 pm #

      Agreed, of course … but would it be gigglingly foolish to stand FOR something as well as AGAINST some things?

      I know there’s no algorithm in the “tool-box” of politicians, diplomats and career civil servants for “idealism” that isn’t rooted in some sort of short-term “cost-benefit” analysis. And no one needs to be reminded that Canadian foreign affairs in the age of Trump in particular, but generally throughout our history has been mediocre when it comes to distinguishing ourselves from the dominant ambitions and commands of out imperial betters.

      If, however, Canadians (or anybody else) were willing to state a few fairly flat and not especially ambitious principles of global affairs having to do with, for example, nuclear disarmament, inter-state violence, human rights (including economic assurances as well as political protections) and a couple of others; and, if they were also willing to articulate a few constructive policy goals in terms of ecological activism, economic equity and ethical norms regarding incarceration, torture and state-sanctioned killing) what terrible harm could it do?

      (No one takes us seriously now, so what have we to lose?)

      And, if such a people were to create a record of doing some marginal good and refraining from doing catastrophic damage and to publicize it and try to encourage others to join in such projects, are we convinced that there would be zero moral AND practical effect?

      Surely there are strategies more ennobling than a pre-emptive cringe in the face or at the feet of creatures such as John Bolton and Donald J. Trump.


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