Opinion: Political implications of terminating the INF Treaty
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is one in a series of withdrawals from contractual security arrangements. For the U.S., this step changes little in the bilateral relationship with Russia, but among European policymakers and media it has stirred up outrage. Paradoxically, this comes at a time when nuclear missiles – which are political weapons par excellence – have lost much of their significance in Europe.
Post-Mattis uncertainty and the future of U.S. defense policy
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is not expected to reverse his predecessor’s key Pentagon policies, such as Gen. James Mattis’ signature program to improve force readiness, but he will not be as effective as his predecessor in explaining the vagaries of U.S. policies to allies abroad. Also, President Donald Trump may find out that his ambitious plan for force strengthening and modernization proves even more difficult to push through Congress in the absence of a well-recognized figure at the Pentagon.
2019 Outlook: U.S. foreign policy to stay the course
Unconventional as his leadership style may be, President Donald Trump, succeeded in 2018 in getting both U.S. allies and competitors to pay serious attention to his foreign policy agenda. His administration is undaunted in pursuing U.S. policy goals despite replacements of key officials in the president’s national security apparatus. Mr. Trump will remain focused on crushing transnational terrorist threats to the U.S. and its allies, and dealing with great power competition in Europe, the Middle East and Asia in 2019 before he turns his attention to his bid for reelection.
Europe stands to be the biggest loser of the INF Treaty’s ending
The U.S. has announced officially that it walks away from the 1987 treaty banning intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear weapons, removing a cornerstone of the existing arms control system. The chances of it being replaced with a better, multilateral agreement involving China and a handful of other nuclear powers appear to be slim at this point.
U.S.-Iran confrontation puts the EU in a quandary
The European Union has hoped to make Iran an important part of its energy security scheme and still backs the nuclear deal with Tehran from which the United States has withdrawn. As the world’s fifth largest and OPEC’s third-largest oil producer gropes for ways to circumvent American sanctions against its oil exports, however, the EU can only do so much to help Iran. Geopolitical and economic facts of life are making it hard for the Europeans to ignore the unilateral U.S. abrogation of the treaty.
Dire consequences of ending the INF treaty
If the United States walks away from the 1987 treaty banning intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear weapons, as President Donald Trump claims he wants to do, a cornerstone of the existing arms control system will be removed. The chances of it being replaced with a better, multilateral agreement involving China and a handful of other nuclear powers are very slim.