INF

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.





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