Current Affairs – 6
The U.S. will pull out of the Reagan-Putin era Missile treaty
Why was the treaty signed
During the cold war years, the Soviet Union and the western nations led by the United States developed nuclear missiles at a frenetic pace, pouring humongous amount of money and man power to develop more and more advanced missiles to out-smart the adversary. Hundreds and thousands of short range and medium range missiles were developed and deployed by both parties, primarily in the Europe to intimidate the adversary, and thus, preempt any missile attack. The number of missiles swelled as the animosity between the Soviets and the U.S.-led block became more and more bitter. It was clear, the numbers deployed were ridiculously high, and largely unnecessary as it would take just less than a dozen missiles to destroy the enemy. It also became frighteningly evident that the two sides, armed to the teeth, with finger on the triggers, could inadvertently start a war due to technical reasons like malfunction of radar, false alarms, human errors etc. So, the need was felt to deescalate the danger posed by the huge stockpile of nuclear missiles that could reach each other’s cities in a few minutes.
Who signed the treaty and what was stipulated
President Regan of the U.S. and President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union signed the treaty in 1987. The arms control deal banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles of short and medium range (500 to 5000 km range), except sea-launched weapons. This treaty was known as The Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). After signing of the treaty, nearly 2700 such missiles were destroyed by 1991.
The Europeans and the world’s anti-nuclear activists were delighted by this scaling down of weaponry. However, the hostilities reared their head again. The US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. In retaliation, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared in 2007 that the treaty no longer served Russia’s interests, and so, Russia would pull out of it. Thus, the mutual trust between the U.S. and the resurgent Russia took a beating.
Why is the U.S. under Trump taking this action now
During President Obama’s time, America had come to know that Russia was developing certain new type of missiles in violation of the INF. Obama put diplomatic pressure on Putin to dissuade him from going ahead with the missile devilment work as that contravened the INF. Sadly, Putin didn’t relent, and Russia continued to develop the missiles.
Now, President Trump, in his characteristic belligerent style, says he can no longer countenance hostile Russia and China carrying on with their missile programme. He says, America can’t just sit back and watch threats against it grow from two major powers.
What the Europeans say
The decision of President Trump to pull out of the INF has created a lot of unease in European capitals. The Europeans fear that old hostilities will restart bringing nuclear peril to their door steps. They have made their concern known to Trump, but there is little hope that the latter will heed the appeals from the European allies. President Trump has dispatched his emissary John Bolton to Moscow to sound Mr. Putin about America’s changed position.
Nothing happened as President Trump remained firm. So, the INF treaty died today (Aug 2, 2019)