The United States will formally leave the INF rocket treaty with Russia on Friday after 32 years. This means that one of the turning points of the Cold War is giving way to new uncertainty.
The US and the then Soviet Union signed the INF treaty in 1987. It banned medium-range missiles launched from land, both nuclear and conventional, with a range of 500-5,500 kilometers.
Now that the INF treaty with Russia is dead, the US may again develop medium-range missiles that are launched from land. By the way, the question is whether that will succeed: the government is having difficulty steering the financing for this through Congress.
The US announced last year to step out of the INF treaty because, according to NATO, Russia is violating agreements with the SS-8 Sasin rocket. Moscow states that the weapon has a range of 480 km. has and is therefore permitted. Russian President Vladimir Putin does not seem to attach much value to the agreement: in 2007 he said that Russia's interests no longer served.
NATO warns that the rocket is capable of hitting a European city within minutes and considers the weapon a serious threat.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has announced that the transatlantic alliance will respond to Russia's refusal to dismantle the SS-8 missiles.
What exactly the plans are is unknown, but Stoltenberg makes it clear that it will not be about stationing new nuclear missiles on European territory.
"Kremlin is after seeding uncertainty"
The panic about the demise of the treaty is not too bad: NATO has a conventional arsenal that is more advanced than the Russian one. The Kremlin is therefore primarily concerned with sowing uncertainty, experts say.
The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said on Friday that Germany would like to see a new rocket treaty. In addition to Russia and the US, China should also join. But Beijing is not prepared to do so, Maas says.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms that reading, reports the Chinese state news agency Xinhua . "China will in no way agree to extend the treaty to several countries," said a government spokesperson.
The Trump government says that the end of the treaty will enable the US to develop a missile arsenal that can serve not only as an answer to Russia, but also to China. That has medium-range missiles that are becoming increasingly sophisticated, according to the Pentagon.
"World loses brakes on nuclear war"
There is no risk that the end of the treaty will lead to a worldwide arms race, the German minister Maas said in a radio interview - and Europe would not participate.
The man who signed the agreement in 1987 with US President Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, believes that a new nuclear arms race is underway, he wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times last year.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is also concerned. "The world is losing an invaluable brake on nuclear war," he said Friday. "This is likely to increase, not reduce, the threat caused by ballistic missiles." He insists that the US and Russia quickly make new agreements.
See also: US suspends Cold War nuclear treaty with Russia