I covered the signing of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in December 1987 at the Washington, DC summit meeting between US President Ronald Reagan and last Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. It was a good time to be alive and a good time to be covering diplomacy between the nuclear superpowers. There was a palpable sense of optimism that both sides were committed to scrapping thousands of thermonuclear weapons (which they did) and to reducing tensions in Europe. Within a few short years, Gorbachev was also to agree to the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet Union was peacefully dismantled by its member nations led by Russia shortly afterwards.
The negotiation and signing of the INF Treaty was an essential prerequisite to the end of the Cold War. It ushered in two generations of peace and stability in Europe. Following the statements of President Donald Trump since October 20, 2018, it is now dead on its feet. The president appears to be determined to withdraw from it. He appears to be totally under the influence of his third national security adviser John Bolton whose hatred for the INF as for all arms control agreements, like that of his fellow neocons has always surpassed understanding.
Nor will Democrats in the Senate make any attempt to defend, preserve or restore the INF. John Kerry, l the last senator to take major arms control agreements seriously presided with absolutely no public object over the US and European union supported toppling of a democratically elected and peaceful government in Ukraine by violent revolution in February 2014.
Kerry’s own deputy, then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of neocon clan chief Robert Kagan, literally handed out biscuits on the streets of Kiev to reassure violent revolutionaries subverting the democratic process that the Obama administration was with them. Neither Kerry nor his own chief President Barack Obama raised a finger to rein in behavior by a senior deputy that in any other administration in American history would have seen her summarily fired and banished from the serious discussion or conduct of public affairs for life.
Today, every Democratic senator on Capitol Hill is passionate in seeking to demonize Russia for imagined, paranoid fantasy crimes that would have made Joe McCarthy blush.
The current crop of Democratic senators in Congress, led by figures such as Ben Cardin of Maryland, on the contrary appear determined to provoke full-scale thermonuclear war with Russia. They have not only supported but insisted upon a new round of ferocious financial sanctions on Russia which have the clear aim of ruining the economy of the country and setting it up for the kind for revolutionary regime change that successive administrations have taken for granted is their divine right to carry out since Ronald Reagan entered the White House.
These are different days indeed from the Washington that celebrated the signing of the INF Treaty in 1987. In those far off days, US policymakers at least made a pretense of consulting their European “allies” and fellow NATO members they claimed to protect.
In Trump’s statements so far on scrapping the INF treaty, there has been no hint whatsoever that the Europeans were given any say by Washington in this decision that puts their very survival at risk: So much for the idea that NATO is a « partnership.”
The cautious mutual respect that Washington still to foster with Moscow in the 1980s – or at least occasionally claimed to – is now long gone. The idea that scrapping nuclear weapons and increasing trust and dialogue between the nuclear powers were good things is now regarded as risible, as much by neo-liberals as by neo-conservatives. All voices to the contrary are sneered at and mocked by cowards posing as fearless patriots. They do not take in any of those they target with their bully boy tactics. They will be the first to scream in terror when their own fantasies are fulfilled and the nuclear missiles fly. But by then it will be too late.