6th November 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS II: INTERNATIONAL
Q1. What do you understand by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty? Do you agree that in today’s scenario such bilateral nuclear arms treaties are losing significance?
- Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the U.S. is quitting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a bilateral agreement with Russia signed in 1987.
- Under the INF Treaty, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. agreed to eliminate within three years all ground-launched-missiles of 500-5,500 km range and not to develop, produce or deploy these in future. The U.S. destroyed 846 Pershing IIs and Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCMs); and the U.S.S.R., 1,846 missiles (SS-4s, SS-5s and SS-20s), along with its support facilities.
- The INF Treaty was widely welcomed, especially in Europe because these missiles were deployed in Europe and the treaty was signed on December 8, 1987 in Washington by U.S. By the early 1980s, the U.S.S.R. had accumulated nearly 40,000 nuclear weapons, exceeding the U.S. arsenal. In Europe, Russia replaced single warhead SS-4s and SS-5s with more accurate 3-warhead SS-20 missiles, heightening concerns. To reassure its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) allies about its nuclear umbrella, the U.S. began deploying Pershing IIs and GLCMs in the U.K., Belgium, Italy and West Germany, setting off a new arms race.
- Growing rhetoric made the Europeans nervous. Realisation dawned that any nuclear conflict on European soil would only lead to more European casualties, catalysing a movement for ‘no-deployments’ in Europe. In the 1980s, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. began three sets of parallel negotiations — on strategic weapons leading to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), on intermediate-range weapons leading to the INF, and the Nuclear and Space Talks to address Soviet concerns about Reagan’s newly launched ‘space wars’ programme (Strategic Defense Initiative).
- Since 2008, the U.S. has voiced suspicions that with the Novator 9M729 missile tests, Russia was in breach; in 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama formally accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty. However, he refrained from withdrawal on account of European concerns. On the other hand, Russia alleges that the U.S. launchers for its missile defence interceptors deployed in Poland and Romania are dual capable and can be quickly reconfigured to launch Tomahawk missiles, constituting a violation. China has always had a number of Chinese missiles in the 500-5,500 km range but its modernisation plans, which include the commissioning of the DF-26, today raise the U.S.’s concerns.
- The U.S.’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) reflects a harsher assessment of the security environment faced by the U.S. and envisages a more expansive role for nuclear weapons than in the past. Russia is blamed for seeking the break-up of NATO and a re-ordering of ‘European and Middle East security and economic structures in its favour’. China is identified for the first time as a strategic competitor seeking regional hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region in the near-term and ‘displacement of the U.S. to achieve global pre-eminence in the future’. A 30-year modernisation plan with a price tag of $1.2 trillion with new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCMs) and low-yield warheads is detailed in the NPR. Russia has unveiled plans to develop a new nuclear torpedo and nuclear-powered cruise missile.
- The key difference with today’s return of major power rivalry is that it is no longer a bi-polar world, and nuclear arms control is no longer governed by a single binary equation. There are multiple nuclear equations — S.-Russia, U.S.-China, U.S.-North Korea, India-Pakistan, India-China, but none is standalone. Therefore, neither nuclear stability nor strategic stability in today’s world can be ensured by the U.S. and Russia alone and this requires us to think afresh.
- The INF Treaty is not the first casualty of unravelling nuclear arms control. In December 2001, the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with the U.S.S.R. which limited deployment of ABM systems thereby ensuring mutual vulnerability, a key ingredient of deterrence stability in the bipolar era. The next casualty is likely to be the New START agreement between the U.S. and Russia, which will lapse in 2021, unless renewed for a five-year period. This limits both countries to 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBMs) and heavy bombers and 1,550 warheads each.
- The political disconnect is also evident in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the most successful example of multilateral arms control. It has become a victim of its success. It can neither accommodate the four countries outside it (India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan) as all four possess nuclear weapons, nor can it register any progress on nuclear disarmament. It succeeded in delegitimising nuclear proliferation but not nuclear weapons. This is why NPT Review Conferences have become increasingly contentious.
- The most important achievement of nuclear arms control is that the taboo against use of nuclear weapons has held since 1945. Preserving the taboo is critical but this needs realisation that existing nuclear arms control has to be brought into line with today’s political realities.