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Mourning the INF Treaty

The United States Is Not Better for Withdrawing

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signing the INF treaty at the White House, December 1987 REUTERS

On February 1, the Trump administration made official what had been in the offing for some time: the United States will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Signed in 1987, the treaty banned the United States and Russia from developing or deploying any ground-launched missiles that could travel between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, or about 300 to 3,400 miles. Washington claims—correctly—that Russia is building and testing systems prohibited by the treaty, including a new cruise missile that the United States claims can travel at prohibited ranges. The Russians have responded by announcing their own plans to withdraw and develop new weapons. 

The INF Treaty was one of the few arms control agreements that became an institution in its own right. The first treaty to eliminate an entire class of nuclear delivery systems, it was the foundation for denuclearizing most of Europe. Today, Russia is violating the agreement, and the Trump administration is

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