John Woodworth, a former U.S. ambassador and deputy negotiator for the INF Treaty, wrote in an analysis for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Friday that “the central lesson of the INF negotiations was that an agreement as significant as the INF Treaty is not possible without strong political leadership.”

“It might have been possible to salvage the treaty if political will had existed to hammer out solutions to outstanding issues,” Woodworth continued. “Instead, we are at the cusp of a new arms race in Europe and Asia. Perhaps it was only a moment in time, but the INF Treaty pointed toward what can be done to achieve a safer and more secure world. It would be regrettable to lose sight of these ambitions.”

Physicist David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), said in a statement Friday that “withdrawing from this landmark treaty is shortsighted and will ultimately undermine the security of the United States and its allies. The president’s decision will increase tensions between the United States and Russia and open the door to a competition in conventionally armed missiles that will undermine stability.”

“To claim the United States is justified in pulling out of the treaty because of Russian violations does not take the full picture into account,” Wright added. “What apparently underlies this decision is the administration’s aversion to negotiated agreements that in any way constrain U.S. weapons systems.”

Outlining what a world without the treaty could look like, The Associated Press reported Friday:

Both UCS’s Wright and the Nuclear Crisis Group’s Wolfsthal expressed concern about the future of the last remaining nuclear control agreement with Russia: the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Under that agreement—which expires on Feb. 5, 2021 unless it is extended by Trump and Putin—the U.S. and Russia can only have 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons each.

“If President Trump pulls out of that treaty as well or allows it to lapse, it will be the first time since 1972 that the two countries will be operating without any mutual constraints on their nuclear forces,” Wright pointed out.

“Russia remains in full compliance, and the U.S. military and intelligence communities fully support extending the agreement,” Wolfsthal explained. “Regardless, it now looks like Trump and [National Security Adviser John] Bolton are prepared to either let the deal expire, or to move to terminate it before the end of Trump’s first term. Congress must make sure this does not happen, and the international community, especially U.S. allies who understand New START is essential to their own security, must also start to make their voices more clearly heard.”

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