The end of World War II saw the start of another kind of war. For 40 years, two nuclear superpowers -- the United States and Russia, competed in what was known as the Cold War or the nuclear arms race.
In an effort to end this dangerous nuclear weapon competition, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
On February 1st, President Trump announced that the United States would be suspending the INF treaty as a result of Russia's violation of the treaty on numerous occasions. In a tit-for-tat, Russia withdrew from the treaty a day later, plunging the world again in uncertainty.
The INF Treaty
The INF Treaty, signed in 1987, called for a reduction of nuclear arms and forced Russia and the U.S to destroy any weapons with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, along with the equipment needed to build these nuclear arms.
By 1991, the treaty included Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Even though only five countries have been under the INF Treaty, many other European countries follow the guidelines, such as Germany, Hungary, and Poland. To maintain the treaty and ensure its success, on-site inspections -- both formal and on short notice, were kept in place.
During the Cold War, schools in the U.S would initiate drills to prepare for a nuclear bomb being dropped. After the INF Treaty was implemented, citizens no longer feared a nuclear attack. While both nations continued to maintain weapons, the legal treaty lowered the risk of intentional or accidental use.
Suspicions of Russia’s Treaty Violations
From 2013, concerns about Russia’s compliance with the treaty began to arise. These accusations were denied, but suspicions continued to build. The U.S also had concerns about China's growing power and that it was not part of the treaty.
With both countries on the verge of completely abandoning the treaty, dangerous nuclear weapons that were previously forbidden can now be created. This also emboldens other nuclear-armed nations like China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea which possess missiles capable of this range.
European countries have expressed concerns about the United States’ decision to pull from the treaty. They perceive Russia’s nuclear power as a threat and believe that the solution should be to reconsider the terms of the agreement, not to completely exit the treaty.
Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Vox