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Statement from Ernest J. Moniz and Sam Nunn, Co-Chairs of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, On Termination of the INF Treaty

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The U.S. withdrawal from the
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty takes effect today, bringing to
an end a 30-year ban on a class of weapons that both the United States and the
Soviet Union recognized at the time were particularly dangerous and
destabilizing.  These banned, land-based
shorter- and intermediate-range nuclear-capable missiles posed a hair-trigger
threat to NATO and to Russia by reducing decision and warning time for leaders,
due to their short time of flight to their intended targets.   

The
end of the INF Treaty today means a key guardrail erected to move us away from the
era of Cold War nuclear rivalry has come down, and the risks of nuclear blunder
are rising. As a result, the United States, our allies and Russia will be less
secure, and the world less safe. The costs of an accelerating nuclear arms race
are unacceptably high. As the two countries with the vast majority of the
world’s nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia have a responsibility to
reduce nuclear risks.

There
is a more positive path forward. Presidents Trump and Putin should direct their
governments to intensify dialogue on strategic stability focused on reducing nuclear
dangers and premised on the fundamental truth that a nuclear war cannot be won
and should never be fought. To prevent a nuclear arms race and reduce the
possibility of blundering or escalating into a nuclear conflict, the presidents
should:

  • Continue to implement the 2010 New START
    Treaty and act now to extend it through 2026. Both sides are complying with New
    START and benefit mutually from its limits, verification and predictability—all
    the more so in the absence of the INF Treaty. Without New START, there will be
    no limits on nuclear forces, and no verification procedures which will likely
    result in “worst case assumptions” by both Russia and the United States.
  • Agree on core nuclear principles vital to
    mutual security and begin to discuss additional measures and agreements to
    address new kinds and classes of nuclear weapons and other capabilities that
    affect strategic stability. Building on the foundation of an extended New START
    Treaty and reinvigorated strategic stability talks, the United States and
    Russia should simultaneously begin negotiations on additional constraints on
    nuclear competition and measures to enhance strategic stability. This should
    include new kinds of strategic nuclear systems, non-strategic nuclear weapons, space,
    cyber and other non-nuclear capabilities with strategic effect.
  • In consultation with our European allies,
    agree on mutual restraints to preclude a new arms race in the Euro-Atlantic in
    the wake of the INF Treaty’s demise. In particular, Russia and the United
    States should be reducing, not expanding, the number of nuclear weapons and
    nuclear-capable delivery vehicles deployed in and near Europe, whether on land,
    at sea, or in the air. Priority should be given to measures that would give
    leaders more warning and decision time, particularly in this new cyber age
    where the risks of miscalculation and blunder are increasing.
     

The
end of the INF Treaty is symptomatic of the accelerating breakdown in dialogue and
agreements between the United States and Russia on issues of existential
importance. Both governments must take concrete steps to reverse this dangerous
decline and decisively confront the problems that threaten our mutual security.
Congress and our allies must support this strategic reengagement with Russia as
a necessary step to avoid crises and reduce nuclear risks that are no longer
“unthinkable.”  

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