\WASHINGTON: President Trump’s threats to pull out of a major nuclear arms treaty would undermine the global basis for nuclear restraint and non-proliferation and could have implications for Asia by potentially escalating rivalry between China, India and Pakistan, all three nuclear states, according to a nuclear expert and an analysis published separately.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was signed in 1986 by then American President Ronald Regan and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev. The treaty banned all land-based missile with ranges of 310 to 3,420 missile that can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads. The original treaty led to the destruction of 2,692 missiles between Russia and the US.
If scrapped, it would mark the first reversal by President Trump from an arms control treaty, and Jon Wolfsthal, Director of Nuclear Crisis Group and a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, warned the 2010 New START arms reduction treaty with Russia might be next.
Writing for the Foreign Policy magazine, Wolfsthal said that the end of INF treaty would make the United States and its allies less safe.
American has long accused Russia of violating the treaty, prompting calls from some defense hawks in the United States to end U.S. participation. Many also argue that the treaty is obsolete as it doesn’t prevent China from building nuclear arsenal. China is not a signatory to the pact.
But, the nuclear expert observed that, imperfect as they are, arms control agreements have proven remarkably successful at countering destabilizing nuclear programs. ”Such agreements should only be ended after careful consideration and if the outcome will improve U.S. security, and where there is at least a plan to restore whatever stability and security is lost by their termination.”
Even if there were merits to the argument that the INF Treaty has outlived its usefulness, the Nuclear analyst said there was now a looming question about NEW START, the last binding constraint on US and Russian strategic nuclear systems.
“And all signs point to New START dying at the hands of Trump and (John) Bolton, who could withdraw in advance of the renewal date,” he said.
An analysis by CBNC News published on Wednesday said that the end of INF treaty would have reverberating consequences around Asia, potentially escalating rivalry among nuclear-armed powers. Asia is home to three nuclear states – China, India and Pakistan.
The end of Treaty would free the United States to develop and install weapons on its military bases around Asia to counter to counter growing influence of China which, the experts, say is the main reason for the US to leave the Treaty. China is not part of INF and thus could continue to build long-range nuclear missiles.
According to the report, China may view these moves a threat and a provocation and any reaction from Beijing “could spill over into India and Pakistan”.
“Arms racing is a cascading phenomenon, the CNBC report said quoting Rajesh Basrur, professor of international relations at Singapore-based Nanyang Technological University. “When China competes with the US, it arouses insecurity and a competitive drive in India, which in turn does the same in Pakistan.”