A new nuclear arms race? The INF treaty explained

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What is the INF treaty - and why does it matter?

This morning, we woke up to the news that Donald Trump is pulling the US out of the INF treaty. So what?

Read our explainer to find out why it’s actually a big deal.

What is it?

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF for short) was signed in Washington in 1987 between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the USSR. The treaty put an end to an arms race in which both the US and the USSR had deployed nuclear missiles all across Europe.

The INF outlawed all missiles with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (short-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (intermediate-range), and by May 1991, 2,692 such missiles were eliminated.

Why does Donald Trump want the US to pull out?

In October last year, Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the treaty on the grounds that Russia is not complying with it. The Trump administration claims that Russia is developing a new Cruise missile, which violates the treaty.


What happens next?

Today Trump confirmed that the US will be leaving the treaty. The US will suspending its compliance on Saturday, and will serve formal notice that it will withdraw altogether in six months.

If Russia does not destroy its new missiles within that six-month window, the US will start to develop its own intermediate-range missiles. This is likely to lead to a dangerous nuclear arms race.

Use CND’s tool to call on the foreign secretary to save the treaty.


Trump's finger on the nuclear button: Report from London CND 2019 conference

Photo: Henry Kenyon

Photo: Henry Kenyon

Last Saturday, CND supporters from across London gathered for our annual conference - this year taking the theme ‘Trump’s finger on the Nuclear Button.’

We were honoured to be joined by Ambassador Husam Zumlot, head of the Palestinian mission in Washington until President Trump closed it down. The Ambassador gave fascinating insights into the challenges facing those who seek a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and what the Trump administration’s policies mean for the region. We also heard from Catherine West on the UK Parliament’s response to the Trump administration, and from Ann Feltham from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade on the importance of ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

After the first session we crossed the Atlantic, with a video interview with Medea Benjamin from Code Pink USA, a women-led organisation opposing war and militarism. She told us about the varied tactics Code Pink uses - from traditional protest marches to inventive publicity stunts and educational programmes - and said she hoped to work more closely with the UK peace movement in the months and years ahead.

You can watch the video interview  here

You can watch the video interview here

Our second plenary featured Dr Rebecca Johnson from the Acronym Institute, London CND Chair Carol Turner, and Rae Street, Vice-Chair of CND UK. The guests discussed the trashing of international treaties - such as Trump’s intention to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, first signed in 1987 between the US and Russia. We heard about the importance of international agreements like the in building towards a nuclear-free world.

SOAS CND chair Nobu Ono speaking at the conference. Photo: Henry Kenyon

SOAS CND chair Nobu Ono speaking at the conference. Photo: Henry Kenyon

In the final plenary - ‘Think Global, Act Local’ - our speakers tackled the challenge of how to take concrete action as campaigners and communities to build this world. Sara Medi Jones, acting CND General Secretary, spoke about CND’s current campaigns; Nobu Ono told us about the work he’s been doing running SOAS CND, and the challenges and opportunities in youth and student activism. Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley left us with a message of hope: that we are living through times of intense change, in which the old political order is breaking apart - and we have the opportunity to build something new.

London CND vice-chair Hannah Kemp-Welch chairs the final panel of the day. Photo: Henry Kenyon

London CND vice-chair Hannah Kemp-Welch chairs the final panel of the day. Photo: Henry Kenyon

You can see all the photos from the conference here.





Women against Trump: video interview with Code Pink's Medea Benjamin

At our annual conference on the 12th January, titled ‘Trump’s Finger on the Nuclear Button’, we were lucky enough to carry out a video interview with Medea Benjamin from Code Pink USA, a women-led anti-war organisation. Watch it here!



Trump Is Giving Palestinians a Choice. We’ll Choose Dignity.

By Husam Zomlot

This piece first published in the New York Times, Sept. 25, 2018

RAMALLAH, West Bank — My family and I moved to Washington in April 2017, just a few months after President Trump took office. I’d been sent as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s general delegation to the United States — effectively the Palestinian ambassador in Washington.

At the time, the new administration said it wanted to forge a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. This seemed like a long shot given Mr. Trump’s positions and his close association with some of Israel’s most extreme American supporters. Still, we Palestinians wanted to give this effort a chance.

One of my first tasks was preparing for a visit in May by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. My team and I began to meet with officials at the White House, the State Department and Congress. We also held encouraging meetings with universities, churches, think tanks and the news media, in which I saw how American opinions are changing on the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence.

At the same time, my family began to get used to our new home. My son, Saeed, then 6, and my 5- year-old daughter, Alma, began school. My wife, Suzan, who trained as a biomedical scientist, took time off as our children adjusted to their new life and I started my demanding job. In no time, we all made many wonderful American friends. It was a hopeful new beginning.

A few months later, things changed radically. Although our relationships with the American people — including the American Jewish communities — were growing, political ties with the Trump administration deteriorated. In December, President Trump announced the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his intention to move the American Embassy in Israel there. By that point, it had become clear that the White House was fully embracing the right- wing Israeli agenda.

The situation has gotten even worse since. In May, the United States officially moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, at which point I was recalled by Mr. Abbas to the occupied West Bank, where I remain. More recently, the Trump administration has taken even more pointless and vindictive steps toward the Palestinian people. In August, the White House decided to defund the United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees. The effort to punish the Palestinians continues. The administration appears intent on cutting off all aid, even to hospitals.

I haven’t been spared this vindictiveness. This month, the administration ordered the closing of the Palestinian mission in Washington, my office. And it has announced that it plans to revoke my family’s visas by Oct. 10.

We are in the middle of a political and diplomatic crisis. I resent, of course, the toll this is taking on my family. But as a diplomat, I can see the upside. This situation presents three strategic opportunities.

First, it frees the Palestinians from the shackles of a failed 27-year-old, American-led peace process, unleashing more of our energy to work with the international community. At our invitation, dozens of countries will attend a meeting in New York this week to discuss restarting international peace efforts.

Second, it provides an opportunity to correct the American-Palestinian bilateral relationship. In 1987, Congress designated the P.L.O. as a terrorist organization. This law, among others, contributed to the United States’ failure as a mediator. Despite the American-sponsored Madrid peace conference in 1991, the signing of the Oslo accords at the White House in 1993, the numerous bilateral agreements and generous American aid program, this label was never removed. We know this process drags on — Nelson Mandela was officially classified as a terrorist by the United States until 2008 — but it’s time to do so. Our diplomatic mission in Washington must be reopened only once this law is repealed.

Third, this crisis will help redirect Palestinian attention away from just high-level American officials and toward an equally, if not more, important investment: long-term engagement directly with the American people. American public opinion, especially among young people, is shifting toward supporting peace and Palestinian rights.

My family left the United States a few days ago. While as a father I am dismayed that my children had to change schools three times in one year, as an ambassador I feel a sense of national fulfillment. The Trump administration has given us a choice: Either we lose our rights or we lose our relationship with this administration. We took the choice that any dignified people would have taken.

Peace is never about extortion, coercion or blackmail. It is about vision, leadership, trust and investment. The Trump administration lacks all of those. In seeking liberation from the Israeli occupation, which steals our land and denies us our most basic human rights, we are demanding no more than what Americans would demand for themselves: freedom, liberty and equality.

I’m not sure when I will be back in the United States. I’ll miss all of the great people I met there. But even in my short time there, it was clear that there is much hope for peace and justice. I am confident the United States will one day restore commitment to the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. I hope that day will come soon.

Husam Zomlot (@hzomlot) is the strategic affairs adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas.


Join London CND for our 2019 conference!

We’re really excited to announce the details of this year’s London CND conference - with the theme ‘Trump’s finger on the nuclear button.’

We’ll be exploring themes of global conflict, nuclear escalation and grassroots resistance, with speakers including Catherine West MP, Ambassador Husam Zomlot, and Medea Benjamin from Code Pink USA.

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Tickets are free, and you can book yours here.

We look forward to seeing you!




East London CND Peace Network Launch: Report

Tower Hamlets CND, which will be celebrating its 60th anniversary next year, held a meeting at Whitechapel Library on 8th November.  The main focus was to discuss the aim of reaching out to other organisations* with similar aims, both inside and outside the borough, with a view to the reciprocal dissemination of information about campaigns, events and matters of general interest.

This forum was described as a ‘Network for Peace’ with the primary strands being social justice, sustainability and peace.

The Chair of THCND, Phil Sedler, explained that he had contacted several organisations about the meeting and that some had expressed interest in the project, whilst not being in a position to send a representative to this initial brainstorming.

It was emphasised that this focus for other groups within the borough would have an informal structure which it was agreed is preferable to many, in particular the young.  Carol Turner from London CND and Georgia Elander, staff member, hope to enthuse people to participate and will lend administrative support until the end of February, by which time the group should have found its feet.  

The importance of social media was highlighted, and LCND are offering to organise and run a workshop on using technology, including how to set up a Facebook page, using Twitter, advertising events, etc.

The Chair explained that some thought had been given to data protection issues and it was important that each organisation be approached by one of their own members - a cascade of information was a useful analogy.  

Having discussed various ways of organising the coalition, two immediate aims were identified:

  1. Individuals within groups need to be contacted, so any personal contacts would be helpful

  2. It was agreed that a social before Christmas would provide an opportunity for further sharing of ideas and insights


GE will send out the initial email inviting organisations to join and a second with details of the social.

THCND’s next meeting will be on 10th January 2019 at Kingsley Hall and the AGM will be on Thursday 2nd March.


Report by Kate Cryan, London CND member

Parliament motion on US withdrawal from INF Treaty

Early Day Motion  1744 – put forward by Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP and supported Caroline Lucas, Jonathan Edwards, Peter Bottomley, Kelvin Hopkins, and Emma Dent Coad – has already attracted support from Scottish Nationalist,  Plaid Cymru, LibDem, Conservative, and Democratic Unionist MPs. The full text reads:


‘That this House is deeply concerned by the announcement on 20 October 2018 by the US President of the decision to withdraw the US from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF); notes that withdrawal from the INF will serve to undermine international attempts to curb nuclear proliferation; further notes that this move will destabilise global and specifically, European security; commends those countries, including France and Germany, who have released statements criticising the move; and calls on the Government to use its influence on Washington to urge the US to deal with any concerns it may have over treaty compliance through diplomatic means and to uphold its commitments to the treaty.’


Trump trashes INF Treaty, UK follows suit

‘…on the negotiating table in Geneva is a Soviet proposal to reduce by half the respective nuclear arms of the USSR and the USA, which would be an important step towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.’

Mikhail Gorbachev, 15 January 1986


The road to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the USA and the Soviet Union began with a Soviet statement, quoted above. The world was sceptical that an effective arms control agreement between these two would ever be reached. Almost two years later, on 8 December 1987, US President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty; itt was ratified by the US Senate in May 1988.

The Treaty banned the US and USSR (later the Russian Federation) from possessing ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres. Nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles were destroyed as a result. In consequence, cruise missiles and SS20s were removed from Britain and Europe.

A decade later, on 20 October 2018, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw. Twenty four hours later, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced Britain stood ‘absolutely resolute’ with Trump.

London Region CND Chair Carol Turner said: ‘Overturning the treaty reintroduces the threat of nuclear war in Europe, and elsewhere – at a time when relations between the Russia and the US, and Britain too, are deteriorating.  

‘US withdrawal requires Congressional approval. We’ll see if Trump will get it. Meanwhile, it’s the job of us all to let Gavin Williamson know how irresponsible he is to threaten Britain with the frightening possibility of nuclear confrontation on our doorstep once more.’


What you can do:

  • Invite a London CND speaker to your next meeting

  • Write to your local MP and let them know your views

  • Urge your MP to support Early Day Motion – visit the CND UK website here

Young activists meet London CND's vice-presidents at Parliamentary reception

On Monday, Parliament’s Jubilee Room was filled with enthusiastic young activists from London universities, come to hear from our vice-presidents about getting involved with London CND.

We were kindly hosted by Catherine West MP, who spoke alongside Jenny Jones and Bruce Kent about their support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

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The event was attended by students from universities including University College London, University of the Arts London and Pearsons Business College, as well as Catherine West’s alma mater, the School of Oriental and African Studies. It was a great opportunity for students to meet other activists, and find out about starting their own university CND societies with the support of London CND.

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Before the drinks reception, a small group of students was given a private tour of the House of Lords by Jenny Jones, Baroness of Moulsecoomb, who is another of London CND’s vice-presidents.

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You can see more photos from the event on our facebook page.