MOSCOW – The last president of the Soviet Union appealed to the United States and Russia to resume nuclear arms talks, warning in an article published in a Russian newspaper on Wednesday of the dangers of not doing so after President Donald Trump confirmed his country was leaving a key Cold War-era treaty.
Mikhail Gorbachev (leader of the USSR 1990-1991) detailed his opinion after the US’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) he had co-signed in 1987 with then US president Ronald Reagan.
“I regret the acute internal political situation that has developed in the US in recent years that has actually led to a breakdown in the dialogue between our countries,” Gorbachev said, adding it was time “to start a serious conversation.”
The agreement aimed to eliminate short-range missiles capable of striking up to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away and intermediate missiles up to 5,500 km. (3,420 mi).
Gorbachev expressed in his opinion piece his concern over “dangerous, destructive tendencies in world politics” and appealed to US members of Congress to solve the impasse.
“Nuclear war is unacceptable, there can be no winners,” he said. “The (INF) treaty was a first step, followed by others (such as) the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)” that had reduced the number of nuclear weapons in Russia and the US by more than 80 percent.”
The former Soviet president added this de-escalation process not only affected nuclear weapons but also the elimination of chemical weapons, while Eastern and Western European countries agreed on a radical reduction of armed forces and weapons.
This was “the peace dividend” that everyone, Europe especially, obtained with the end of the Cold War.
Gorbachev defended Russia’s current standpoint as “an unambiguous position in favor of preserving the treaty.”
The Nobel Peace Prize winner also noted “the US refused to ratify the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty” and due to this 2002 unilateral decision, the Treaty on the Restriction of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM) was terminated.
Therefore, of the three pillars of global strategic stability: the ABM, INF, and START treaties, only one of them remains, but even the fate of the 2010 START Treaty, signed by presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama remains unclear.
The former secretary-general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee (1985-1991) considered the INF Treaty’s collapse as “especially dangerous against the background of a weakening fear of war.”
He suggested the US’s desire to obtain absolute military superiority was a factor.
However, Gorbachev warned this was “an illusory goal, an impossible hope. The hegemony of one country in the modern world is impossible.”
He said a result of the current destructive turn would bring something completely different: “the destabilization of the global strategic situation, a new arms race, increased chaos and unpredictability of world politics.”
The Russian politician added the US sought to reinforce its position by referring to the presence of medium-range missiles in other countries such as China, Iran, and North Korea.
But Gorbachev said Russia remained unconvinced on this argument as the US and Russia still account for over 90 percent of the global nuclear stockpile and that only “two superpowers” remain as the nuclear arsenals of other countries were 10-15 times smaller.
Gorbachev said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that his country had “no plans to immediately deploy new missile weapons” only meant “the US does not have these missiles yet.”
He said that US assurances “clearly did not convince the Europeans.”
He said Europe was understandably concerned because it remembered the missile crisis of the early 1980s when hundreds of missiles were deployed across Europe: Soviet SS-20’s and American Pershing and Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The former Soviet leader welcomed European efforts to save the INF Treaty as the European Union called on the US “to ponder the consequences of withdrawing from the treaty for its own security, the security of its allies and the whole world.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who was quoted as saying: “the termination of the INF Treaty would have numerous negative consequences,” traveled to Moscow and Washington, attempting to find a solution to the problem.
Gorbachev said the militarization of thinking led to the militarization of the behavior of states, to military campaigns in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and other countries.
“Their effects will be felt for a very long time,” he added, concluding that the “key to solving security problems is not in arms, but in politics.”