BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS, JR.
In yet another controversial move during his administration, President Donald Trump earlier this month stated that he wanted to ditch the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty because he claims Russia and China, the latter of which is not even included in the treaty, are not following its provisions. Scrapping the INF, especially without a replacement plan is a dangerous move.
President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the agreement in 1987 and it prohibited either nation from creating, testing, or deploying a ground-launched ballistic missile or cruise missile with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. The aim was to stop the proliferation of such weapons and reduce the risk of nuclear war. The United States recently made claims that Russia intentionally breached the treaty by threatening the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with a land-based cruise missile. On the other side, Russia says that U.S. missile defenses also violate the INF.
If Russia is not following the treaty anymore, the better solution would be to come up with creative strategies to force them to comply. Granted, Trump has tried things like imposing sanctions and so far it hasn’t worked, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Like the old expression says, you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have great military minds in this country and I am sure they could devise other strategies that could be explored. With regard to Trump’s concerns about China setting its sights on weapons escalation, why not amend the INF treaty to include China?
Another aspect of this situation that I find disturbing is the manner in which President Trump defends his stance against the INF. I understand his frustration but his reasoning is illogical. The sentiment that if Russia can break the rules, then we should too, never mind the consequences, is foolish. These aren’t toys we are talking about, these are dangerous, life-taking implements of destruction.
Trump has stated: “We’ll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say let’s really 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.” Again, keep in mind China is not included in the INF treaty.
Reuters reported that a spokesman for the Kremlin named Dmitry Peskov has said that the termination of the INF would make the world “more dangerous.” He added: “It means that the United States is not disguising, but is openly starting to develop these systems in the future, and if these systems are being developed, then actions are necessary from other countries, in this case Russia, to restore balance in this sphere.”
Although Trump has not yet officially withdrawn from the INF, there is still reason for concern. It creates the very frightening possibility of another possible nuclear arms race like the one we had during the Cold War, only worse with other countries added to the mix. We need to focus very seriously as a country on squashing this issue. The international community must come together, particularly the United States and its allies, in a show of strength that demonstrates that nuclear armament for the purposes of intimidating and threating other countries will not be tolerated and that those who attempt to do so will be isolated from the rest of the world.
It may be hard to comprehend how such a global topic affects us here in Southeast Queens. I would argue that it is a teaching moment, especially for our youth. Do we want to support the message that the way to become powerful is through fear and threats of violence or do we want to advocate for the use of communication and the implementation of rules that are mutually beneficial to all parties? We should be building bridges and connecting with people of all cultures in a meaningful way.