The U.S. administration's suspension of the INF could signal a more aggressive approach to curtail China, according to expert commentary.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s boycott of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) led to the expected result of Russia’s government pulling out of the treaty, which has fostered world peace since the end of the Cold War.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday a 180 day suspension of the 1987 INF, marking yet another move from the current White House’s administration to undermine decades of institutional arrangements put in place to cement the U.S.' hegemony around the world. This would appear to be a strategy based on muscle-flexing to renegotiate an expansion of its power over world affairs.
Far from improvising, this is a means to re-assert U.S. hegemony by promoting the “strategic destabilization of the nuclear balance,” according to RT, referring to the Kremlin’s official stance.
Pompeo chose to blame Russia for this latest departure from traditional policy-making, “For years, Russia has violated the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty without remorse,” he said.
President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the accusation and pointed toward U.S. government’s consistent trend of undermining the treaty.
President Putin replied that Russia would mirror U.S. moves, stating that if the White House is leaving to conduct research and development activities, his country would do the same.
He also expressed concern that treaty partners have been ignoring his calls to modernize its original framework in an effort to improve transparency.
Minister Lavrov stated the U.S. has been overstepping the INF through consistent violations of its terms for time now, “testing drones that matched the characteristics” of ground-based cruise missiles banned in the treaty and “installed MK 41 launching systems for the defense shield in Europe that can be used to fire mid-range Tomahawk cruise missiles without any modification.” Thus, resulting in an implemented air defense system in Europe, and conducting nuclear weapon drills with countries that are not “nuclear-weapon states,” according to RT.
Western experts who support Pompeo’s claims against Russia have also criticized the White House’s bellicose strategy fearing it could lead to a new arms race. Furthermore, this move would jeopardize the ability to negotiate a parallel nuclear arms agreement called New START, according to Foreign Policy.
For some analysts, this is not the first time the U.S. has undermined international law with the aim of improving its own geopolitical position, according to RT.
The move further represents another long-running pillar of U.S. policy toward Europe and Russia consisting in curtailing the latter’s influence by military means. “The US already destabilized the nuclear balance when they decided to get out of the ABM treaty in 2002, and when you look at a map the United States are putting missile defense bases all around Eurasia, creating a feeling of encirclement in Russia and China,” said Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann, geopolitics analyst from Paris-8 University.
According to Thomann, there is another important aspect to consider. The analyst points to an alleged intent by the U.S. government to put pressure on China, a country with whom it has clashed in many fronts, mainly in the form of backing allies engaged in territorial disputes with the Asian giant in the South China Sea, but also in the way of a direct tariff war.
The U.S. feels “threatened by China,” and “The Americans are more concerned about China than Russia (...) The feel the INF treaty is out of date, and they want a new one—and Trump talks about it—that includes Beijing,” said Thomann.
Other examples of the Administration’s inconsistent foreign policy behavior is in the areas of multilateralism and international law that include torpedoing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—also known as the Iran nuclear deal, the precursor of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and undermining of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, this series of actions seem to indicate the U.S. is redoubling efforts to assert its dominance rather than seeking to remove itself from the international arena.