Europe: A world without arms control
Russia and the U.S. are “shedding no crocodile tears” over the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, said François Ernenwein in La Croix (France). Signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, the INF banned both countries from developing, possessing, and deploying all ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges from 300 to 3,400 miles. Such missiles have short flight times and are hard to detect; in the 1980s, the U.S. and the USSR each deployed hundreds of the weapons to Europe, ready to vaporize cities on the opposite side of the Iron Curtain. The INF was a great breakthrough for peace, but Moscow and Washington now consider it a Cold War relic. Russia has been “mocking it for years,” building and developing the 9M729 cruise missile, which has a range of 1,250 miles. President Donald Trump used that breach to justify America’s withdrawal from the INF in February—a pullout that took effect last week. But Trump has other reasons for wanting to scrap the pact. Beijing wasn’t a party to the original deal and so has been free to assemble an arsenal of midrange nukes. With the INF dead, Trump can now “modernize the American arsenal to contain China’s ambitions” in the Pacific.
Welcome to “the new arms race,” said The Guardian (U.K.) in an editorial. Moscow says it will deploy new midrange weapons only if the U.S. does so first, but since NATO believes the Russian military has already moved missiles into the field, the claim rings hollow. Worse still, the last remaining arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia, New START, expires in 2021. Trump has already hinted that the pact—which limits the number of nuclear warheads each country may possess—will not be extended. Trump claims that both Russia and China would be willing to join a new, replacement treaty, but that is extremely unlikely. Beijing has some 260 warheads, “a fraction of the size of Washington’s or Moscow’s stockpile,” and it has no incentive to limit itself.
Why isn’t the European Union shrieking in protest? asked Christoph von Marschall in Der Tagesspiegel (Germany). The INF treaty was the result of protests across Europe by “millions of people” who didn’t want to see their cities incinerated. But now “a new generation has grown up that no longer takes seriously the threat of nuclear war.” Such complacency will be our undoing. The U.S. is already mulling stationing midrange missiles in Japan or South Korea, said the Global Times (China). But any Asian nation that welcomes American missiles will be standing against China and Russia, “directly or indirectly, and will draw fire against itself.” Japan and South Korea depend on China for trade, and it will “be their nightmare if they follow the U.S. to start a new cold war.” China can afford to build “a super weapons arsenal”—and, if provoked, we will do it. ■