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US dumps nuclear treaty [shorter version]

A launching unit for US ground-based cruise missiles. Photo US Department of Defense.

It’s a sign of the importance of Brexit that the otherwise headline-grabbing news coming out of Washington and Moscow has been sidelined. The US’s dangerous decision to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which at another time might have brought millions out on the streets, has slipped under the radar.

The signing of the INF in 1987 by the US and the Soviet Union banned the deployment of land-based ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres and led to the removal of nearly 3,000 nuclear missiles from European and Soviet soil.

But in further evidence that the collapse of the Soviet Union has accentuated the threat to peace, US withdrawal from the treaty predictably forced Russia’s hand to follow suit – it has now “suspended” the treaty for six months. Such moves would have been unthinkable during the so-called Cold War, when the Soviet Union was the arch bogeyman. 

Now that capitalism rules on both sides of what used to be called the Iron Curtain, we are back to where we were before socialism – not NATO – kept the peace in Europe. And there is much talk that the US’s target is more China than it is Russia. As the US’s biggest trading “partner”, China has naturally become perceived by the White House as its main trade threat. 

No doubt the armaments firms in the US will make a fortune out of the development of expensive weapons systems – US withdrawal from the INF treaty could spark a new and lucrative nuclear arms race.

• A longer version of this article is on the web as US dumps nuclear treaty