The INF Treaty’s definitive collapse: dawn of a new nuclear arms race?


Today, 2 August 2019, the governments of the US and Russia have missed a troubling deadline: the end of the six-month notice period that began when both countries announced their withdrawal from the INF Treaty earlier this year.

2017 Nobel Peace Laureate ICAN – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – deplores the irresponsible destruction of the INF Treaty and calls on the United States and Russia to:

  • → Uphold international law, including international humanitarian law;
  • → Undertake urgent talks to restore compliance and fully implement the INF Treaty;
  • → Make deeper cuts in their arsenals;

and pave the way for nuclear-free security by joining the UN’s multilateral Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which was negotiated and adopted by over two-thirds of the UN General Assembly in 2017.

ICAN also calls on the leaders of all responsible nations to step up to end nuclear weapons, by joining the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) without delay. This Treaty, adopted in 2017, prohibits nuclear weapons altogether, including all related activities,, and provides all nations with a clear path to end nuclear weapons. To date, the Treaty has 70 signatories and 24 of the 50 States Parties required for its entry into force. Countries that are serious about their commitment to nuclear disarmament should join the TPNW as soon as possible.



What is the INF Treaty and what is changed by its collapse?

 The 1987 INF Treaty was the first agreement between Russia and the US that eliminated entire categories of nuclear weapons. For over 30 years, both sides agreed to the elimination of all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometre. At the height of the Cold War, the INF Treaty banned and eliminated over 2,600 of the most destabilising class of intermediate-range missiles, thereby pulling the world back from the brink of nuclear war and kick-starting further deep cuts in the two largest nuclear arsenals.

The collapse follows months of public disagreements between the two states about the allegations that Russia was violating the INF Treaty, and against the backdrop of a new nuclear arms race. When the US presented its intended withdrawal from the INF Treaty on 1 February 2019, President Vladimir Putin responded in kind by announcing Russia was suspending its observance of the Treaty, and in June 2019 both houses of Russian parliament voted to support this move.

With the collapse of the INF Treaty, the US and Russia are now free to build and deploy this category of weapons, which would fall in line with their seeming determination to kick-start a new nuclear arms race. The US alone is projected to spend $1.2 trillion in the coming 30 years to maintain and modernize its existing arsenal, and there have been indications that nuclear weapons producing companies are preparing to build nuclear weapons capable of striking within the 500 to 5500 km range.The collapse of the INF Treaty is a significant loss that puts the world – and Europe in particular – at increased risk.


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