The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was a landmark agreement signed between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987, aimed at eliminating all intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, as well as their launchers. The treaty helped reduce Cold War tensions and prevent a potential nuclear arms race in Europe, but it was scrapped in 2019 by the Trump administration, citing Russian violations.
Now, the United States is considering a new nuclear arms control agreement with Russia. The Biden administration has said that it is open to negotiations, but has yet to outline its specific goals or conditions for such a deal.
The question on everyone`s mind is whether such an agreement is feasible, given the deteriorating relationship between the two countries. Russia has already signaled its reluctance to engage in talks on arms control, given the recent tensions between the two countries over issues ranging from election interference to cyberattacks to human rights abuses.
One of the main challenges facing negotiators is the changing nature of the nuclear threat landscape. Intermediate-range weapons were seen as a significant threat during the Cold War, as they could be deployed quickly and easily, putting European countries within range. However, today`s nuclear threat comes from a different source: long-range missiles, which have a much longer flight time and can be detected and intercepted by advanced defense systems.
Another obstacle to an agreement is the issue of verification. The INF Treaty included detailed verification provisions, which allowed for on-site inspections to ensure compliance. However, the Trump administration`s withdrawal from the treaty left no such mechanism in place, making it difficult to enforce any new agreement.
Despite these challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for a new nuclear arms control agreement. Both the United States and Russia have an interest in reducing the risks of nuclear war, and both have signaled a willingness to engage in talks. Moreover, with the Biden administration`s renewed focus on diplomacy and multilateralism, there may be opportunities to engage other countries and build a broader international consensus on reducing nuclear risks.
Ultimately, the fate of any new arms control agreement with Russia will depend on the political will and commitment of both countries to engage in good faith negotiations. It will also require a willingness to compromise on both sides, as well as a willingness to address the changing nature of the nuclear threat landscape. Only time will tell whether such an agreement is possible, but the stakes could not be higher for the future of international security.