US Withdrawal from INF: Implications for Nonproliferation Regimes and European States -Part II


The US announced on Oct. 20 that it would pull out from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. It is a major arms control treaty that destroyed an entire category of nuclear weapons in the final year of Cold war. The US withdrawal comes in the light alleged Russian violations of the treaty by developing and deploying missiles banned by the treaty.

Nevertheless, it is not the only reason, but the US also wants to include China in the INF because the emergence of China is a potential threat to the US. China has deployed intermediate range ground missiles and withdrawing from the INF would make US enable to develop the means to counter these arsenals with land based missiles.  China, while also not seems happy with US decision as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that “Unilateral withdrawal will have a multitude of negative effects.”  The US wants to prevent Russia from gaining a military advantage and it is interested to put all blame on the shoulders of Russia If the treaty collapses. It is a smart strategy of President Trump to weaken the Russian economy by involving it in the arms race. Moving back from the INF would leave the New START treaty as the last robust pillar of the nuclear security structure between the US and Russia. Though, the Russian President has called on the US to negotiations on extending the treaty (owing to expire in 2021). According to the senior nuclear expert Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal the Russian President Vladimir Putin looks interested in avoiding an arms race with NATO because its economy cannot bear the burden.

The US move would have a significant impact on the nuclear security arrangement between the US and Russia. The dissolution of the treaty will slag NATO members into an arms competition with Russia. They also would be forced to finance the development of short – range and intermediate ballistic missiles, which would be deployed in Europe after the termination of the treaty. While NATO’s communiqué planned this year that the alliances would be stronger against Russia by spending 20 percent of their defence budget on military modernization. Steven Pifer, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, stated that once the US withdraws from the treaty, there is no reason for Russia to follow any limit. Russia would be free to deploy the 9M 729 cruise missile and an intermediate-range ballistic missile if it wants, without any restraint. The US pullout would also trigger an arms race among the US, Russia and China with destabilizing consequences for the US and its allies.

Mostly, Western European states in favor of retaining the INF and they want to push Moscow for compliance. The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the Trump’s announcement as “regrettable” and has urged Moscow to resolve its acquiescence issues. While, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson declared Britain stands with the United States, but also hopes the treaty will “continue.” The European states officials statements indicate that no European state is happy with the unilateral decision of the US because they don’t want to host ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles on their soil. The European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini stated on 20 November 2018, that they are extremely worried about the future INF treaty as the Trump administration threatens to withdraw. She said that treaties are important and they need to be respected. If there are issues and problems, European Union believes that there should be proper implementation rather than withdrawal. European Union still hopes that there is space for strengthening its implementation rather than dismantling it”. In fact, they want to preserve the treaty by asking both sides to continue their dialogue to avoid arms race.

In a nutshell the US withdrawal from the treaty would replenish the US nuclear arsenal and it would undermine the arms control and non-proliferation regimes. It would not only undermine the credibility of non-proliferation regime, but it would also force European states to build nuclear weapons to secure themselves.

Sonia Naz
Sonia Naz
Sonia Naz is a visiting Lecturer at International Islamic university and university of Lahore Islamabad. The writer has a degree of M. Phil in International Relations from the COMSATS University Islamabad. She has done Masters in Defence and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah University. She frequently writes on Regional Security, Nuclear Terrorism, Nuclear Security and South Asian Nuclear Politics which have been published in various national, international blogs and newspapers. She can be reached at nazsonia68[at]


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