Trump Ditching Our Nuclear Treaty with Russia Betrays Reagan's Legacy—and Endangers The World | Opinion

This 08 December,1987 photo shows US President Ronald Reagan (L) with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during welcoming ceremonies at the White House on the first day of their disarmament summit. JEROME DELAY/AFP/Getty Images

The decision of President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to withdraw the U.S. from the INF Treaty with Russia endangers our national security. Plain and simple. Along with the Trump administration's plans to develop new low-yield nuclear weapons, we are risking an arms race with Russia and others - a staggering, utterly unnecessary revival of an existential danger the world thought it had put to sleep a generation ago.

The 1987 INF Treaty with Russia, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, disarmed medium and short range nuclear missiles. Citing alleged Russian violations of the treaty, Trump is taking the lazy way out and crashes out of the pact. But diplomacy has barely been given a chance. Exiting the agreement will not solve those concerns over violations.

Speaking ahead of Secretary Pompeo's announcement, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said: "If Donald Trump walks out of the INF Treaty, he will risk a new destabilizing and costly arms race and antagonize important allies. The administration should instead be working with European allies to pressure Russia back into compliance."

And the Arms Control Association says "Clearly, neither side has exhausted the diplomatic options that could resolve their concerns."

In response to Trump's INF plans, a group of senators including Wyden, Kamala Harris, Ed Markey, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jeff Merkley, Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown are sponsoring the The Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019.This legislation would stop funding for new nuclear missiles until specific requirements could be met by Trump, including enhanced diplomacy.

But Trump seems to know nothing better than to tear up agreements like the Iran deal which President Obama achieved to prevent nukes from proliferating in the Middle East. Trump would rather wreck deals rather than doing the hard work of extending or enhancing them. And it's not like he's even able to: despite the fanfare, he has had virtually zero success in reducing the nuclear danger, even failing to make progress on disarming North Korea's nuclear program.

And even with full control of the Senate, Trump has failed to achieve ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear test explosions. President Dwight Eisenhower, followed by President Kennedy, started the effort to end nuclear testing 60 years ago. It's time finish what Ike and JFK started and get the treaty into force.

That would require a lot more vigor on the part of Trump. For someone who claims to have mastered the art of the deal, Trump is not making any deals reducing the nuclear threat.

But his shortcomings as a negotiator is more than about his future rating among historians. His failure to address nuclear disarmament leaves us, the American public, and the world, at eminent risk of a dangerous and costly nuclear arms race.

What Trump should do is follow President Reagan and President Obama's goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons on a step by step basis. That means also continuing the START Treaty which Obama signed with Russia reducing strategic nuclear warheads and building on that success.

And if Republicans bristle at emulating Obama, let them remember that it was President Reagan who said "We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth."

Apart from quite literally increasing the risk of humanity blowing itself up long before climate change fries or drowns us, nukes are the most expensive weapons ever created, and they take precious resources from those suffering from poverty and disease.

The real problems of the globe, including hunger, disease, displacement and drought cannot be addressed by nuclear weapons. It is ridiculous to pour more money into nukes, taking precious resources away from these issues that dramatically impact global stability. All nuclear powers need to realize this.

The U.S. and Russia have to work together and take the lead on reducing nuclear weapons. There are currently around 15,000 nukes worldwide with the U.S. and Russia holding about 90 percent.

Nether Russia, the United States, China and other nuke states have anything to gain from these weapons. Expensive arms races means increased tensions and the risk of nuclear war.

Whatever his excuse for scrapping the INF treaty, Trump, with the backing of Congress, needs to get busy reducing nuclear weapons.We'll see if his reputation of being a deal maker is all talk, or will it lead to progress on eliminating nuclear weapons. The American people expect results.

William Lambers is the author of Nuclear Weapons, the Road to Peace and Ending World Hunger. His writings have been published by the New York Times, History News Network, HuffPost, Newsweek, The Hill and other news outlets.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​