20 October 2018   Leave a comment

The media is reporting that President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, is pushing for a US withdrawal from the the 1987 intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty (INF).  The treaty prevented a dangerous arms race in Europe which threatened to destabilize nuclear deterrence by introducing smaller weapons with reduced flight time.  The fear was that by introducing weapons with more “limited” destructive power and which reduced the time necessary to make strategic decisions, the introduction of these intermediate-range missiles made nuclear war more likely.  The New York Times describes the role of the INF:

“The weapons ban — signed in Washington in December 1987 by both men — resulted in the destruction of 2,692 missiles. Washington demolished 846, and Moscow 1,846.

“The American side destroyed missiles it had sent to Western Europe in response to the SS-20, including Pershing II ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles. The low-flying weapons hug the ground to avoid enemy radars and air defenses.”

The threat to leave the treaty is based upon a fear that the Russians have already broken the treaty by introducing a ground-launched cruise missile, known as the 9M729.  The plan to leave the INF reflects the changing US view of nuclear deterrence and the role of nuclear weapons in its foreign policy which was spelled out in the Nuclear Posture Review which was published in February 2018. 



The Pew Research Center has published some interesting results from a poll it conducted on how the global publics view the role of China in world affairs.  One of the more interesting findings is that a commitment to human rights is inversely correlated to unfavorable perceptions of increased Chinese participation in global affairs.  Nevertheless, there is little disagreement over the fact that China has become a much more important actor in the international system.   The US is indicating that it is considering sending one of its naval vessels through the Taiwan Strait, a move that the Chinese would regard as an intrusion in its  internal affairs.  There is a growing movement in Taiwan toward independence; the Chinese regard Taiwan as a rebel province. 



Richard Haas has written a short article on the crisis in US-Saudi Arabian relations following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  He draws a very important distinction between support for Saudi Arabia and support for Crown Prince Salman.  That distinction may, in fact, make very little difference, but it is a distinction that must be recognized before any additional steps are taken.  It seems unlikely, however, that neither Prince Salman or US President Trump will acknowledge that difference for a number of reasons that are matters of state concern.  Personal diplomacy is a very risky business. 

Posted October 20, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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