Asking Nicely Will Not Make Russia Comply with the INF Treaty

Since 2014, the Russian Federation has been in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Despite four years of patience and asking nicely, the Kremlin doubled-down on its aggressive development of dangerous new nuclear delivery systems. Just in March, Putin unveiled several new nuclear weapons featuring simulated displays of strikes on the United States homeland. These provocative acts and renewed Russian aggression demonstrate we are in a new Cold War where we cannot be handicapped by agreements Putin does not honor.

That is why I support the President's decision to terminate the INF Treaty. Why should we continue to play by the rules when Putin is cheating? We must be prepared to counter and outmatch Russia's missile build-up. The Treaty as it stands only limits America's ability to compete. It is more destabilizing when only one-party complies because there is no longer a transparent balance of forces.

Let's set aside that the Chinese have absolutely no such limitations on intermediated range nuclear forces, given that there is no U.S.-Chinese version of this treaty. Indeed, China has free rein on intermediate range nuclear missile development, while the U.S. is limited by the INF treaty.

Consistently Putin has violated treaty after treaty and undermined whatever goodwill was created by the conclusion of the Cold War. Putin aspires to rebuild the might of the Soviet and Tsarist Empires. He is working to re-divide the world between East and West. Much like Hitler's attempt to rearm and undo the humiliation that Germany had suffered in the First World War, Putin today is rearming the Red Army and attempting to undo the humiliation Russia experienced with the collapse of the Soviet Union. American political, economic, and military strength--along with the persistent rise of democracy among the former Soviet republics--have always stood in the way of Putin's grand ambitions. As have the treaties that his predecessors signed with the United States, which Putin sees as a major source of the Soviet demise

Due to our failure to confront the Kremlin, the Russian military has a four-year head-start in the development and fielding of intermediate-range missiles. However, now that we are free from the self-imposed constraints of the dead INF Treaty, American innovation can be unleashed. The re-energized Arsenal of Democracy, which has deterred many great conflicts in the modern era, can remind the Kremlin why it was in their interests to sign the INF Treaty in the first place. This will also provide new urgency to renewing the New START Treaty that is set to expire in 2021.

Putin must learn the lessons of his predecessors: that competing with America on an industrial and technological playing field is a fool's errand. Allowing Russia to violate the INF Treaty with impunity was a dangerous mistake. But now that we can compete, Russia will find more incentive to return to the negotiating table and seek a new treaty. Peace through strength is not just a catchy saying, but a well-practiced strategy to maintain peace and order in the world. After all, it was this strategy implemented by President Reagan that prompted Moscow to sign the INF Treaty in 1987 in the first place. We must do this again. In this dangerous new era of great power rivalry, we cannot rely on Russian goodwill, but rather American strength.

And that's just the way it is.


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