European diplomats are seeking to act as intermediaries between Moscow and Washington in the hope of salvaging the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Force (INF) treaty, a cold war-era arms control agreement that Donald Trump has threatened to scrap, The Guardian reports.
However, the diplomats involved are not confident of success in the effort to save the INF treaty. Although they have the support of senior officials in the US defense and state departments, they face opposition from the White House, particularly from the national security adviser, John Bolton.
Nor is it clear whether Moscow is interested in a deal. The collapse of the INF would leave the Russian military free to deploy short- and medium-range nuclear missiles along its borders with NATO amid the US deployment of the missile defense shield in Europe.
It would be hard for the US to benefit militarily from the treaty’s demise, as it would need European allied states to offer launch sites for its missiles – and it is far from clear what country except Poland, already pledged to deploy the Missile Defense base near Redzikowo in Pomerania, would offer its territory and thus make itself a target.
Yet Trump’s abrupt declaration at a political rally in Nevada on 20 October that he was going to pull the US out of the treaty, without informing allies, has focused criticism on Washington rather than Moscow. European officials have asked for time to make a last-gasp attempt to rescue the treaty, which they see as a key pillar of arms control in Europe.
Trump will meet Vladimir Putin and the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires at the end of November, but it is not clear that the issue will be raised. Bolton told Putin when they met in Moscow in October that Trump had made up his mind to dump the treaty, which has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for more than three decades.
The US has been accusing Russia of violating the treaty for more than four years, through the development and deployment of a new ground-launched medium-range missile. Nevertheless, Trump’s declaration of intent on October 20 to pull the US out of the treaty marked a sharp break in US policy, which until then had been to ratchet up pressure on Russia, in part by the US announcing plans to develop its own counterpart missile, to use as a bargaining chip.
Russia has denied its new weapon violates the INF restrictions banning nuclear missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500km. It also accuses the US of breaking the treaty on the grounds that launchers for interceptors in the Aegis ground-based missile defense system in Romania and soon to be deployed in Poland, could be used for an offensive cruise missile.