Who needs an intermediate-range nuke treaty with Russia anyway, amirite?

Every time the media thinks they’ve found one outrage by the President to sink their teeth into he turns around and throws another knuckleball down the pipe. And to be honest, I don’t know if anybody saw this one coming. President Trump decided to announce this weekend that he was considering pulling us out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. He’s claiming that the Russians have violated the agreement already (and there are certainly suggestions that they have) and he wants both them and China to reset the arms race. Otherwise, he will order our own weapons gurus to develop competitive weaponry. (NY Post)

President Donald Trump says he will pull the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

Trump says Moscow has violated the agreement, but provided no details.

The 1987 pact helps protect the security of the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Far East. It prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.

Defense News has some good background on precisely how far back this debate goes. The Obama administration accused the Russians of violating the agreement but didn’t do much more than that. Last year, our Joint Chiefs made a more specific allegation, saying that the Russians’ testing of a ground-based cruise missile violated the agreement. Add to that the credible intelligence reports that Russia’s new hypersonic “waverider” missile will be ready to deploy by 2020 and you’ve got more than enough cause for concern.

What’s more difficult to figure out is whether Donald Trump is serious about this threat (he’s sending John Bolton overseas presently to discuss the matter) or if it’s a negotiating tactic. He’s pretty volatile in that regard and I’m positive that is by design. Our adversaries never know precisely when he’s just angling for position or getting ready to deliver a punch. (Of course, some could argue that the same goes for our allies.) Russia was never scared of Barack Obama, but they’re clearly being more cautious around Trump.

Going back to the days of cold war weapons escalation isn’t a desirable outcome, no matter how this plays out. The more advanced the technology becomes, the more we risk losing the one assurance which has kept the lid on a nuclear exchange for decades. We have long relied on the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Nobody wants to strike first if they know it will be a terminally pyrrhic victory. For example, the Russians probably have enough nukes to wipe out most of the population centers in the United States with a Time on Target attack. But they also know that in less than a day all of our boomers will surface and launch a flock of nukes that will darken the skies.

If the technology gets too good, one side or the other might start thinking that just maybe they could get away with it, still survive and win the war in one fell swoop. And that’s some dangerous thinking. Of course, we can’t afford to simply lay back and let the Russians develop whatever they want and do nothing in response. So all things considered, while I would hate to see us pulling out of the agreement, Russia may have left us no choice. Let’s wait and see if Trump can negotiate his way into a winning hand first, though.