A former US Senate foreign policy analyst said Washington accused Moscow of violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty to use it as a pretext to “dump the treaty” and “threaten a new arms race”.
“One has the distinct impression that the US simply made the accusation as a pretext to dump a treaty that may have been considered inconvenient to military planners trying to make Russia’s European security situation untenable,” Washington-based political analyst James Jatras said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
“…The US chose to crash the existing treaty, threaten a new arms race, and accuse Russia (I think in bad faith) for being responsible,” he noted.
James George Jatras is Deputy Director of the American Institute in Ukraine, a privately funded American NGO. Based in Washington, DC, he is a former US diplomat and adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.
The full text of the interview with Jatras is as follows:
Tasnim: The US on Friday formally withdrew from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia. Washington said last year it would withdraw from the INF, accusing Russia of failing to comply with it. Moscow denies it has violated the treaty and says the Trump administration is pulling out because it wants to pursue a new arms race. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also expressed concerns over the expiration of the INF, saying, “The world will lose an invaluable brake on nuclear war”. “This will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballistic missiles,” he said. What is your assessment of the developments? How do you think about the US claims?
Jatras: I can’t be sure there’s nothing behind the US claims but if there were, why doesn’t Washington produce the evidence? This unfortunately fits into a pattern like Syrian poison gas, Iraqi WMDs, genocide in Kosovo, rape rampages in Libya, Iran’s nuclear program, the Skripal poisonings, Magnitsky, MH17, Russian election meddling, and many more where the US considers it sufficient to make the accusation, which is then considered tantamount to proven fact – even though proof should be easily available if the accusation were true. Not only has no such proof been brought forth with respect to INF, treaty mechanisms for addressing possible violations were not invoked by the US. For a long time, the Americans would not even tell the Russians which launch system the US allegedly considered to be in violation. One has the distinct impression that the US simply made the accusation as a pretext to dump a treaty that may have been considered inconvenient to military planners trying to make Russia’s European security situation untenable.
Tasnim: The US president has said he wants a new nuclear pact to be signed by both Russia and China. Do you think that countries like China would join the nuclear treaty that Trump is seeking to reach?
Jatras: I hope it’s possible but I doubt it. The INF agreement was reached in 1987 under Reagan and Gorbachev. Technology has moved on since then. There are other important players today besides Washington and Moscow, especially Beijing. There would have been more than ample groups for the US to propose a new round of negotiations to update the treaty and expand it to include other countries. If that had been done, I think there’s a good chance some progress could have been made. Instead, the US chose to crash the existing treaty, threaten a new arms race, and accuse Russia (I think in bad faith) for being responsible. Then, Trump says “I hope we’re able to get everybody in a big, beautiful room and do a new treaty that would be much better.” But after previous US disregard for commitments, from expanding NATO to pulling out of the JCPOA, not to mention INF itself, why should anyone, especially Moscow and Beijing, put any stock in anything they hear from Washington? Maybe Trump figured this was just the “art of the deal” (like he seems to have had in mind with the JCPOA): destroy the existing framework, make dubious accusations against the other side, turn up the pressure, then flip around and expect to sign a “better” deal. Maybe that works in New York real estate but Trump doesn’t seem to understand that for the likes of Bolton and Pompeo torpedoing arms control agreements – like torpedoing the JCPOA – is an end in itself.
Tasnim: With the expiration of the treaty, do not you think that the world order would be disrupted? In that case, who would be to blame?
Jatras: Ironically, most observers think that from a purely technical standpoint Russia is better able to fill the space left by the end of the INF agreement than the US is, at least in the short term. There’s even speculation that the Russians wanted the US to behave as we did because now they have no impediment to deploying new systems targeting America’s European allies – whose security will be most at risk now, not that of the US which is out of the INF range from Russia. Ironically, this may produce anti-US sentiment in Europe. There may also be consequences for US deployment of supposed anti-missile systems in Poland and Romania – to “defend” against nonexistent Iranian weapons – but which the Russians believe is just a mask for offensive deployments. Also, the demise of INF sends an ominous signal about prospects for the START treaty on intercontinental weapons that expires in February 2021. If the goal of Trump’s team is to destroy the security framework left over from the first Cold War, they are well on their way. In doing so, they are re-creating an existential danger to the US and indeed to the whole world that those of old enough to remember thought buried for good in 1991.
Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website