INF Treaty withdrawal is not a disaster, but improving U.S.-Russia relations is in America’s security interest

February 1, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC—With the Trump administration's decision to abandon the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, Defense Priorities Policy Director Benjamin H. Friedman issued the following statement:

“The U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is unfortunate but not the disaster many analysts make it out to be.

“The INF Treaty’s end will do little to alter the balance of power in Europe, and it will do even less to affect U.S. security. Europe’s GDP, military spending, and population advantages over Russia will keep it safe, not to mention U.S. backing.

“The INF Treaty emerged in the vastly different geopolitical circumstances of the late Cold War and had more to do with European security than America’s. The treaty had two virtues: reducing the missile threat to Europe, including U.S. forces deployed there, and helping the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the United States limit spending on missiles and missile defenses.

“Since the U.S. and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, it is in America’s security interest to improve U.S.-Russia relations and continue arms control efforts, especially by negotiating an extension to New START, an important arms control agreement which is set to expire in 2021.

“Exiting the INF Treaty does risk unleashing needless and expensive U.S. intermediate range missile deployments in Europe and Asia. Many U.S. defense analysts seem to believe that U.S. security requires mirroring Chinese or Russian weapons development. That ignores the vast differences in geography, circumstance, and security needs that make intermediate range missiles far less useful for the United States.

“If intermediate range missiles would help defend the U.S.’s European and Asian partners, those states should deploy them, not rely on the United States to do it for them. American companies can develop and sell missiles and associated surveillance systems to those states, as U.S. interests dictate. But letting partners take the lead in managing local threats is a cheaper and safer option for the United States.”