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. The agreement banned medium-range missiles launched from land, both nuclear and conventional, with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.
Now that the INF treaty with Russia has been terminated, the US can again develop medium-range missiles that are launched from land. The question is whether that will succeed; the US government is struggling to get funding for this through Congress.
The US announced last year to step out of the INF treaty because, according to NATO, Russia is violating the agreements with the SS-8 Sasin rocket. Moscow states that the weapon has a range of 480 kilometers and is therefore permitted. Russian President Vladimir Putin does not seem to attach much value to the agreement. In 2007 he said that the treaty no longer served Russia's interests.
NATO warns that the Russian rocket is capable of hitting a European city within minutes and therefore regards the weapon as a serious threat.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has announced that the transatlantic alliance will respond to Russia's refusal to dismantle the SS-8 Sasin missiles.
The precise plans are not known, 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.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced 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 yet prepared to do so, Maas said.
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 country has medium-range rockets 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 stated in a radio interview. Moreover, Europe would not participate.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who signed the agreement in 1987 with the then American president Ronald Reagan, 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 António Guterres is also concerned. "The world is losing an invaluable brake on nuclear war," he said Friday. "This is likely to increase and 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
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