Genocidal Weaponry in a Time of Trump
The US-Russia suspension of the INF treaty is another indicator of a world in crisis that has to be changed
Another week, another threat to world peace. Following Trump’s decision to try to appoint a new president in Venezuela, now we have his promise to scrap the INF treaty which limited the acquisition of nuclear missiles by the US and Russia. This move will immediately bring greater dangers to Europe, will help to trigger another nuclear arms race and will do nothing to solve the growing dangers facing the world.
The INF treaty was a product of the Cold War, and was part of the process of détente between the two superpowers. It was agreed during the 1980s by US president Ronald Reagan and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, and resulted in the scrapping of thousands of missiles on both sides.
The treaty was agreed against a background of mass protests across Europe which began nearly 40 years ago and which resulted in mass demonstrations on the streets of London, the movement of women around the Greenham Common airbase, where they launched a peace camp, and the rebirth of CND as a major force in politics.
The movement was galvanised by the decision of Reagan and the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to site Cruise missiles at Greenham as part of military plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in Cold War conflict with Russia. Cruise missiles were sold as allowing the West to pursue a ‘limited’ nuclear war, rather than the total destruction with which nuclear weapons were usually associated. They were ‘first strike’ weapons - in other words, the US and UK would be prepared to use them in an attack rather than for deterrent means, as had previously been claimed.
This prospect of ‘limited nuclear war’ in Europe terrified millions of people. It raised the prospect of a third European war in less than a century – one which was certain to be even more deadly than the last. So the movement grew across the continent and eventually led to some form of détente, including the INF treaty.
Trump claims that he is scrapping the treaty now because Russia is developing new missiles which contravene it. Nato – the western military alliance which has developed a much more interventionist stance in the post-Cold War world – has backed Trump.
With recent anti-Russian rhetoric at a post-Cold War high, this is an extremely dangerous development. It will lead to both sides increasing their stocks of nuclear weapons, and may well see a return to deployment of US nuclear missiles here in Britain. The US will certainly deploy them in a number of the east European states which border Russia, intensifying possible future conflicts.
While there is much talk of the Russian threat, many analysts suggest the real target here is China. This major military power is not subject to the treaty, so has no constraint on developing its own nuclear missiles. Trump sees the US as being tied to restricting its weaponry, while China – its real economic and military rival – is not. Hence the abandonment of the treaty and the ratcheting up of the wider nuclear threat.
Trump is a bit like a playground bully who picks on one of his weaker adversaries because he does not dare take on his stronger ones. The rhetoric over Russia cannot hide the fact that the US fears China more than any other power and is determined to counter its military influence.