The death of the INF Treaty has lessons for arms control

By Dr. Amy J. Nelson

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The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty’s demise is well-documented: the United States formally withdrew from the treaty in August after Russia violated the treaty by developing, testing, and ultimately deploying intermediate-range missiles expressly prohibited by the treaty, and after the United States’ own attempts at persuading Russia to come back into compliance failed. Despite the treaty’s failure, there is much to be learned from its undoing, as well as from the current state of arms control.

It would benefit future leaders and arms control experts to keep three lessons in mind. Thanks in part to the INF’s collapse, and in part to the experience of watching treaties weather and age in the decades after their implementation, we now know that: we should expect weapons technology to continually change—be it by gradual evolution (as in the case of the INF Treaty) or transformative innovation; treaties are likely to be violated in the course of their lifetime and, as such, verification regimes must be designed and implemented in a manner that anticipates this and is useful in managing violations for the treaty’s entire lifespan; and agreements increasingly provide value—or security—as a function of the information they provide. The more access and information a treaty provides, the less likely states will be to withdraw. The INF Treaty lost this value when its verification provisions expired three years after entry into force. Equipped with these lessons, world leaders will be better prepared to think about how to bring the INF treaty—or some version of it—back.  READ MORE>>>