SHAFFER: Trump Made The Right Move Killing Reagan-Era Nuclear Treaty With Russia

Tony Shaffer London Center for Policy Research
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The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was an important step forward in 1987.  It removed a whole class of nuclear weapons from the “Air-Land” battlefield and marked the first real steps in lowering tension between the Soviet Union and the West.

In 1988, as a young intelligence operative, I personally participated in executing the provisions of the treaty by participating in the destruction process of our Pershing II missiles at Longhorn Army Depot in Texas and tracking the activities of the Soviet military officers who monitored our compliance.

The Soviet Union long gone, the Russian Federation has taken a different, much more provocative, course by bring back into its military inventory weapons banned by the treaty.

If the Democrats still think President Trump is working to serve Russian interests, they should take a closer look at his move to exit the INF Treaty with Moscow.

Last week, the president formally announced his decision to scrap the ineffective and outdated nuclear agreement, publicly condemning Russia for violating the pact for years.

“For far too long, Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad,” the president said in a statement. “The United States has fully adhered to the INF Treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions. We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other.”

Of course, Washington should have abandoned the Cold War-era treaty when it first learned about Moscow’s transgressions half a decade ago. After all, the U.S. Department of State first documented that Russia was cheating on the agreement in its 2014 Compliance Report, claiming, based on factual evidence, that the Kremlin did not adhere to its obligation “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” the banned missiles.

In response to these revelations, President Obama ineffectively applied “gentle” diplomatic pressure on Moscow, apparently hoping that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin would return to compliance out of the goodness of his heart. Predictably, Putin didn’t flinch.

Instead of altering its behavior, Moscow unconvincingly argued that it never violated the accord, and that Americans were actually the ones breaching the missile pact.

“It is obvious that such documents are primarily designed to service Washington’s political interests and are therefore openly subjective, prejudiced, and biased,” Russiaargued in 2015.

Trump was determined to not repeat the mistakes of his failed predecessor, so he quickly adopted a tough new strategy for handling Russia’s behavior, culminating in his decision to leave the INF Treaty.

Notably, however, the biggest long-term problem with the missile pact has nothing to do with Russia or its violations — the biggest problem is China. The 1987 strategic agreement never included China, allowing the Communist regime to develop and test banned missile technologies for many years.

Trump was open to an expansion of the basic tenants of the INF Treaty. “Unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and they say, ‘Let’s all of us get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons,’ but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” the president stressed last year.

Trump is correct in his instinct and actions — the U.S. can’t be the only country confined by the INF Treaty. By choosing to exit the agreement, the president is doing exactly what Obama should have done five years ago. There is nothing to be gained by the U.S .staying in an outmoded restrictive arms framework that permits adversaries to create military advantages.

Nobody wants another nuclear arms race with Russia and China — least of all Donald Trump, who would much rather focus on growing the economy and putting Americans back to work. Unfortunately, leaving the INF Treaty is the only meaningful way to get Moscow and Beijing to negotiate a fair pact on missile control that doesn’t just apply to America. Strength, not appeasement or “hope”, must remain the central principle of the Trump foreign policy.

The only nation whose interests President Trump has ever wanted to serve is America, and while he believes those interests are served by fostering international cooperation, his withdrawal from the INF Treaty proves that he’s not willing to let other countries take advantage of the United States.

Tony Shaffer (@T_S_P_O_O_K_Y ) is a retired senior intelligence operations officer who served more than 20 years with the U.S. Army. He is now president of the London Center for Policy Research in Manhattan and an adviser to Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir “Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Operations on the Frontlines of Afghanistan.”

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.