America Ditching INF Nuclear Weapon Treaty Could Spark Global Chaos, Mikhail Gorbachev Warns

Former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that by withdrawing from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the U.S. risks unleashing a dangerous new arms race and international chaos.

Gorbachev, 88, was the Soviet leader who inked the 1987 accord with U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The treaty banned ground-launch nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges from 310 miles to 3,417 miles, removing roughly 2,700 such weapons from the front lines of the Cold War.

The U.S. has accused Russia of developing weapons that contravene the agreement, specifically the SSC-8/9M729 cruise missile. U.S. officials believe the 9M729 has a range of between 310 and 620 miles, making it a breach of the agreement.

Earlier this year,U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said the weapon—which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads—represented a "potent and direct threat to Europe and Asia."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Friday that the U.S. has now withdrawn from the INF, after Russia missed an August 2 deadline to return to compliance. Russia has dismissed the U.S. allegations and has also suspended its involvement in the treaty.

For Gorbachev, President Donald Trump's White House is flirting with disaster in its tough stance on the INF. "The termination of the treaty will hardly be beneficial for the international community, this move undermines security not only in Europe, but in the whole world," he told Interfax.

"There still were some hopes pinned on our partners, that, unfortunately, did not materialize," he added. "I think, now we all can see that a blow has been dealt to strategic security… This US move will cause uncertainty and chaotic development of international politics."

The INF Treaty could be the first of two key anti-nuclear proliferation agreements to collapse, as the U.S. has also signaled it may withdraw from the 2011 New START agreement.

National Security Advisor John Bolton said Tuesday that the "flawed" treaty is unlikely to be extended beyond 2021, when it expires. Though Trump has said he wishes to make a deal with Russia that would include "some kind of arms control," he has—as with several other proposed deals to address complex diplomatic issues—been light on the details.

Gorbachev said all parties involved should now "focus on the preservation of the last pillar of the global strategic security," the continuation of which has been made "uncertain" by U.S. policy.

Russia, INF treaty, Russia, nuclear
This file photo shows Russian Defense Ministry officials displaying the 9M729 cruise missile at the military Patriot Park outside Moscow, Russia on January 23, 2019. VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty