by David J. Bercuson
February 5, 2019
Rest in peace Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Agreement! This week the United States announced that it is giving six months notice of withdrawal from the agreement signed in 1987 by United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Virtually a day later, Russia announced that it too was withdrawing from the agreement. Thus a stalwart of the Cold War’s wind up is about to disappear and according to some analysts, Russia and the United States are about to embark on another arms race.
The agreement came about after a little over a decade of sabre rattling and showdown diplomacy between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. over the deployment of cruise missiles and short range ballistic missiles, which were largely a threat to Western Europe. It all began in March 1976 when the Soviets deployed the SS-20 intermediate range ballistic missile in its European satellite states which could carry three nuclear warheads up to 5,000 kilometres. The American response was to deploy its own ballistic and cruise missiles which made its European allies very unhappy.
Of course they wanted the American warheads stationed on their soil as a deterrent, but their overall aim was to cool things in Europe generally by eliminating the intermediate threat entirely.