Why is there a new arms race

Comment: Is there a threat of a new arms race without the INF Treaty?

The treaty that banned the United States and Russia from developing, nuclear arming and deploying land-based missiles and medium-range cruise missiles is history today. This is a burden on the security architecture in Europe, because the INF Treaty was concluded for this continent 32 years ago.

After the previous arms race, the USA and the former Soviet Union agreed to abolish a complete weapon category. A superfluous and costly threat has been eliminated by the US and the Soviet Union, also to the benefit of their respective European allies. This made a European battlefield less likely. The atomic deterrent logic - whoever shoots first, dies second - has remained in place to this day. At a lower level, however. At the end of the 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union still had 12,000 nuclear warheads each. Today there are around 1,600 each on the American and Russian sides.

Trust playful

The end of the INF treaty shows the steadily growing mistrust between the US and NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other. Russia has been increasingly aggressive since 2008. The war against Georgia, the occupation of Crimea, the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the support for the Assad regime in Syria and the provocations on NATO's eastern border are threatening from a Western perspective. The rearmament with new Russian cruise missiles, which has been observed since 2014 at the latest (not under the chaotic US President Donald Trump, but much earlier), ultimately justifies the termination of the INF Treaty by the USA.

Europe correspondent Bernd Riegert

In any case, the contract no longer fit into the strategic environment. It does not include states like China, which for their part have set up land-based medium-range weapons. It did not provide a handle for the new missile defense systems that are being set up in NATO territory against threats from Iran or North Korea, but against violent opposition from the Kremlin. Russia and NATO or the USA should not have thrown the treaty away, but should have modernized it with the involvement of other contracting parties such as China. New types of weapons on the Internet or killer robots could also have been considered. The opportunity was missed by Russia and only half-heartedly pursued by the USA.

The result will now, of course, be a new arms race. The US has already announced the testing of new cruise missiles. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pointed out today that in the 1980s it was necessary to "retrofit" the West in order to get the economically inferior East to sign a treaty.

Saving strategic arms control

Hopefully the two major nuclear powers can at least save their treaty on the limitation of intercontinental weapons (New START), which aims to reduce the number of nuclear weapons that are kept ready for mutual destruction. The other nuclear powers such as Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea and Iran should also urgently be involved in the renegotiation of this treaty. It is questionable whether this will succeed in view of the heated mood and the strong distrust between the current spokesmen in the White House and the Kremlin. Arms control is urgently needed, but the way to get there is difficult to see.

The now buried INF Treaty came about in 1987 only after the concrete heads of CPSU General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev had been replaced in the Soviet Union. Hopefully we don't have to wait for the next generation in the Kremlin to negotiate a meaningful arms-limitation treaty. But also on the American side there can be justified doubts as to whether the current administration is capable of meaningful disarmament talks. An unpredictable president who smashes a lot of foreign policy china and surrounds himself with hawks is not exactly encouraging.