Termination of INF Treaty: Implications for Ukraine and beyond
On August 2, the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles was terminated.
Many are speaking of the start of a new arms race between the United States and Russia. However, there will be no arms race, as Russia is not being regarded by Washington as a player in international relations on an equal footing with the U.S., China, and the European Union.
There are currently three centers of power in the world: the United States, China, and the European Union. The EU is mainly positioned in the economic sphere, while the United States and China are the two superpowers that are today shaping up new rules and the format relations.
In fact, the INF Treaty was not about Russia. It regulated the relationship between the Soviet Union, which has long ceased to exist, and the United States of America
The INF Treaty wasn't concluded between Russia and the U.S. It was inked by the Soviet Union and the U.S., actually. The Soviet Union was a state that is in no way comparable to the present-day Russian Federation. Attempts to equate Russia to the Soviet Union are a huge mistake on the part of the international community and Ukraine. Ukraine, like many other countries, was also part of the Soviet Union. And it was our country that has proven to be a very responsible country that, having gained independence, gave up on its nuclear potential in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, the U.S., UK, China, and France. That is, Ukraine back in the day took a step forward and made a major contribution to the stabilization of relations after the Cold War.
At this time, an "arms race" between Russia and the United States is in no way imminent. However, Ukraine, which still remains in the information space that Moscow imposes on it, is considering termination of the INF Treaty precisely in this context.
In fact, the INF Treaty wasn't about Russia. It regulated the relationship between the Soviet Union, which has long ceased to exist, and the United States of America. Over the last 30 years, much has changed, first of all, the role of China, which did not participate in the deal, and therefore produced hundreds of missiles beyond the INF Treaty, and thus jeopardized the security of the United States.
The United States has decided to advance to a new level and invited all countries with nuclear weapons and intermediate- and short-range nuclear weapons capabilities to conclude and sign a new treaty. It is in this context that we should perceive the termination of the INF Treaty, instead of listening to the Russians yelling that a new "arms race" is starting in Europe.
In the face of our war with Russia, it would be better for Ukraine if there were no such Treaty in place so that we could safely begin the development and production of medium and short range missiles, which could be a tool for deterring Russian aggression
Now we are talking about the United States, China and other countries, including India, Russia, Pakistan, and many other countries that may have nuclear weapons and that are now beyond the old INF Treaty signed by the United States and the USSR back in the 1980s. By the way, Europe is not being discussed here at all. It will actually not be affected too much by these processes. However hard the Russians try to pose as the USSR, Russia remains a backward regional player.
From Ukraine's perspective, this process is a positive one. Our country was part of the USSR and after its collapse, we fulfilled our obligations under this Treaty. And we were not being restricted – we voluntarily agreed to restrictions on the production of missiles with a range over 500 km.
So, amid the ongoing war with Russia, it would be better for us if no such treaty was in place so that we could safely begin the development and production of medium- and short-range missiles, which could become a tool to deter Russian aggression, and, therefore, create such conditions under which the Russians would beware Ukraine. After all, now Moscow is convinced that there is no threat coming from Ukraine. And this unties Russia's hands, for example, in the actions we observed last November near the Kerch Strait.
Europeans cannot ban Ukraine from moving in this direction. There are no mechanisms in place to allow Europe doing this.
Although many suggest that the Budapest Memorandum is just a document imposing no real obligations, I would disagree
Had the Europeans been allies of Ukraine, had they been fighting alongside Ukraine against the Russians, they would have had at least a moral allied right to coordinate with us. But as Europe doesn't fight side by side with Ukraine, we have to independently repel Russian aggression and we have the right to self-defense. After all, UN documents and other international instruments state that an independent nation has the right to defend its sovereignty and state integrity.
Now Russia has violated Ukraine's sovereignty and state integrity. By the way, with these actions, Russia has also violated the Budapest Memorandum. Although many suggest that the Budapest Memorandum is just a document imposing no real obligations, I would disagree.
The Budapest Memo is a UN document. Whatever it may be called, a memorandum or otherwise, it does have signatures on it of the U.S. president, the UK prime minister, not to mention the Russian president. Later, France joined the Memo. But it's not about the persons holding positions of president of the United States and UK prime minister, it's about these very positions. They are responsible for the implementation of the Memorandum. Therefore, not only are they unable to ban Ukraine from creating such a missile shield, they must also assist us in doing so. I emphasize that this is not about renewing Ukraine's nuclear arsenal – it's about intermediate-range and short-range missiles with conventional warheads.
Following the termination of the INF Treaty, voices in Germany also started discussing a new arms race and expressed fears that NATO would now begin to strengthen its presence in Eastern Europe, including deploying relevant missiles in European countries. However, it should be borne in mind that the German political elite plays a really obstructive role in this regard because they believe and openly say that in the context of global competition and a new format of relations between the U.S., China, and the EU, it's Russia which thanks to their resources could be the tool that would help Europeans, including the Germans, compete effectively with the U.S. and China. In other words, they believe that Germany could use Russia's resources to remain a global power in economic and security terms.
From the Germans' perspective, Ukraine is a "gray zone" that should remain such, and thus, as a buffer for Europe, not to allow the Russian barbarians moving further across Europe, as well as to balance the situation in Central Europe and be a deterrent against Russia. But if Ukraine becomes a member of NATO or the EU, Russia will get extremely annoyed and then Europe will not be able to use Russia for its own purposes.
That is, a completely selfish approach is seen here on the part of the Germans, based on their national interests: to exploit Ukraine to then exploit Russia.
However, Ukraine has its own national interests and we should not listen to the Germans. But in order for us to act on our own, we urgently need to launch the economy and then, both on its basis, as well as on the basis of an effective society, an effective state and a nation, to just prevail. If we remain a corrupt, backward and poor country which citizens prefer to flee elsewhere seeking better life, we can't talk of any national interests that could lead us to becoming a regional leader. We will just remain a "gray zone", which will be used to the benefit of the Russians, Germans, or anyone else.
Mykhailo Samus is a deputy chief for international issues at the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies