Liberal anti-nuclear advocates falsely blame Russia for looming breakdown of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

Roger Annis


Feb 8, 2019 - It is common for liberal, anti-nuclear advocates to ascribe equal responsibility to Russia for the U.S. renewal of the nuclear arms race, the latest chapter of which is the unilateral withdrawal by the U.S. from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

U.S. ‘Baker’ nuclear weapon test on July 25, 1946 on Bikini Island, photo taken from 5.6 km away (Wikipedia)

A new set of false accusations against Russia is published on February 8 in the eclectic CounterPunch website. Writer Lawrence Wittner begins his brief commentary in CounterPunch with these words: “At the beginning of February 2019, the two leading nuclear powers took an official step toward resumption of the nuclear arms race.” He drives his ‘Russia-U.S. equivalent’ argument home with these two sentences: “Actually, the scrapping of the treaty should not have come as a surprise. After all, the rulers of nations, especially “the great powers”, are rarely interested in limiting their access to powerful weapons of war, including nuclear weapons.”

But the claim that the U.S. and Russia have taken simultaneous steps to abrogate the INF Treaty (Wikipedia) is false to the core. Here is a partial record of the by-now long U.S. record in weakening if not abrogating past nuclear weapons treaties between the U.S. and Soviet Union as well as potential future ones that, so far–fingers crossed–have averted a catastrophic unleashing of nuclear weapons on the peoples of the world. None of the following facts are mentioned by Lawrence Wittner and CounterPunch:

*  The U.S. announced on February 1, 2019 a unilateral withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, to take effect on August 2, 2019, according to the abrogation terms of the treaty.
*  The following day, the Russian government announced that it would respond to the U.S. provocation by itself withdrawing from the treaty. The government has restated its offer for talks with the U.S. on many nuclear non-proliferation issues.
* The Russian missile system which the U.S. says constitutes a violation of the INF Treaty is the ‘Novator 9M729’. The missile is still under development and Russia has not hidden its development. The 9M729 was publicly displayed by the Russian military for the first time in January 2019 (see: reports in the pro-U.S. think tank Missile Threat and in the anti-Russia New York Times). RT reports that during nuclear talks in Geneva that same month, the Russian government offered to permit increased inspections of the missile’s development. That would reverse a previous decision by the government.
* As far back as 2011, current National Security Advisor John Bolton co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for the abrogation of the INF Treaty. Back then, it was alleged actions by the Iranian government of the day that were cited as the excuse for abrogation. Today, accusations against China have been added to the U.S. pretext.
* The U.S. abrogation of the INF Treaty is only the latest in a long line of measures the U.S. has taken to undermine or break nuclear weapons agreements in bids to achieve nuclear weapons superiority over post-Soviet Union Russia. These include abrogation in 2002 of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the U.S. and Soviet Union. The ABM Treaty prohibited installation of nationwide, anti-ballistic missile systems. U.S. measures have also included the resumption during the Barack Obama presidency of research and production of new generations of nuclear weapons systems designed to heighten first strike capability, for example, ‘hypersonic’ missiles.
* In 2016, the U.S. installed the ‘MK-41′ nuclear and multi-missile capable missile launcher in Romania. It is in the process of installing the same system in Poland and Japan. The U.S. government got around its INF Treaty obligations by claiming that these new installations are “defensive” systems only.

NATO expansion eastward since 1949

* As is by now now well known, the U.S. and its allies have for the past nearly 30 years steadily expanded country membership eastwards in the warmongering NATO military alliance to include countries near-to and even bordering Russia.
* On July 17, 2017, the U.S. and its NATO allies abstained on the historic vote at the United Nations General Assembly in favour of an international treaty to ban the production and possession of nuclear weapons. (See below an appended news compilation on this story.)

Many other anti-nuclear advocates have voiced similar ‘equivalence’ arguments against Russia over the INF Treaty. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, for example, issued a statement on February 1, 2019 which states, “With Russia and the U.S. putting the entire world at risk, it is urgent for all responsible states to stand up and join the Nuclear Ban Treaty.” It writes further, “If Russia and the U.S. are honest about their commitment to nuclear disarmament, both parties should do everything they can to save the Treaty in the coming six-month period. But over the past few weeks, months, and even years, both Russia and the U.S. have signaled an apparent interest in a new nuclear arms race.”

Is someone at ICAN having doubts about the organization’s ‘equivalency’ argument? The title of the aforementioned ICAN statement as published on its website reads, ‘U.S. withdrawal from INF Treaty puts Europe (and the world) at risk’.

UN General Assembly votes on July 7, 2017 to abolish nuclear weapons

News compilation on A Socialist In Canada, July 12, 2017

Introduction by A Socialist In Canada:

Elayne Whyte Gómez, president of the UN conference on nuclear weapons, reacts after the July 7, 2017 General Assembly vote to abolish nuclear weapons vote (photo by Mary Altaffer, AP)

There appears to be a paucity in English-language alternative media in reporting and analyzing the historic vote at the United Nations General Assembly on July 7, 2017 in support of an international treaty to ban the production and possession of nuclear weapons. Enclosed below are two articles from Common Dreams reporting on the vote.

There are four important matters absent from the analysis in Common Dreams and in other reports published to date:

1959 Hollywood film ‘On The Beach’ depicting nuclear annihilation

*  Once it successfully tested its first nuclear weapon in 1949, the Soviet Union strove for agreement with the United States to abolish the weapon. The United States refused.

*  What followed were a series of international treaties to limit the production, proliferation and use of the weapons. See listed in the appendix here below the three most important of those treaties.

*  During the Obama presidency, the United States began a program of ‘modernization’ of nuclear weapons at projected cost of more than a trillion dollars. This continues under President Trump. France and Britain have also announced their own ‘modernizations’.

*  Parallel to the U.S. weapons ‘modernization’ of warhead design and production, U.S. arms manufacturers are researching and testing new missile delivery technology, specifically that of ‘hypersonic’ missiles. See: The end of nuclear deterrence? The U.S. hypersonic missile program, news compilation on New Cold, Feb 12, 2015.

Taking all the above together, it is inaccurate and simplistic to portray present-day Russia as equally culpable as the United States for the nuclear weapons danger in the world. Furthermore, the military and political interventions by the NATO military alliance in recent years in eastern European countries directed against Russia only add to the evidence that it is the United States, not Russia, that is escalating the nuclear war danger in the world.

The full text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is here, as it appears on the website of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). A pdf-format text of the treaty is here: Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, July 2017. The voting record of countries at the General Assembly on July 7, 2017 is here; a pdf-format of the text is here:  Voting record at UN General Assembly, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, July 7, 2017

(Go to this weblink on A Socialist In Canada for the full text of the news compilation.)