The Possibility of US Withdrawal from the INF Treaty

It is no secret that the modern globalised world is increasingly dependent on the quality of states implementing international agreements that regulate relations between countries. This is of particular importance in fields such as human rights, the environment, and, of course, disarmament and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) prohibition.

On October 20 Donald Trump stated that the US decided to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and to start developing weapons prohibited under the treaty. This intention is one of the most dangerous mistakes made by Washington, which has pulled out of a number of international agreements and organisations, including the Anti-Ballistic Missiles (ABM) Treaty.

The termination of the INF Treaty is a most dangerous step that would produce an extremely negative effect on international security and strategic stability. This erroneous US decision may spur a new arms race in several regions of the world. In other words, the situation with the INF Treaty concerns the entire international community.

The United States bracing up to unravel the INF Treaty has launched a massive propaganda campaign claiming that its decision was provoked by Russia’s alleged violations of the said treaty.  It is not the first time when Washington tries to present itself like a victim of treaty violations by other signatories. However, the US constantly violate or drag their feet on the signing of fundamental international agreements. For example, the US ratified the Genocide Convention (1948) only 40 years after its signing. It has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The above is only a short list of how they joined and withdrew from international agreements; signed but not ratified; signed, ratified, but not complied with them; or modified agreements in their own way and taste. Below are a few more examples, however the list is by no means comprehensive.

The United States has repeatedly violated principles of the UN Charter. Take for example, Washington’s armed invasion of Grenada in 1983. UN General Assembly Resolution 37/8 described the US action as a gross violation of international law. Three years later, the US launched an assault on Libya. Another three years pass and the US invade Panama (1989). The UN General Assembly condemns both incursions as violations of international law.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) also denounced US violations of the UN Charter. It passed a well-known verdict on Nicaragua vs the US in 1986, stating directly that the United States had violated Nicaragua’s sovereignty and the norms on non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and non-use of force.

The irresponsible attitude towards the UN Charter on the part of the United States and its allies, reached new proportions in the form of bombing raids against Yugoslavia in 1999 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. [Colin Powel’s erroneous claim on Iraqi WMD]

In March 2011, the US spearheaded NATO’s intervention in Libya. As a result a formerly prosperous country descended into complete disintegration. An illegal interference in the form of illegitimate air strikes and arms supplies to nongovernmental armed groups spurred on the growth of radical sentiments in Syria, which eventually helped the emergence of a global community of militants and terrorists. America’s absolutely ill-conceived, short-sighted and illegal actions in Iraq as well as the region as a whole have in some way or another facilitated the emergence of the Islamic State. The bad consequences of US interference in Libya and Syria are beyond all proportions.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1970 and supported by practically all countries with the exception of Cuba, India, Pakistan and Israel. The treaty outlined a strategic goal, the renunciation of nuclear weapons. Other things aside, the NPT provided for nuclear states pledging not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers. The US claims that it abides with its NPT obligations but the worrisome situation linked to Washington’s failure to comply with some key provisions of the treaty is still there. The United States continues to engage NATO’s European non-nuclear countries in so-called joint nuclear missions. These “missions” include elements of nuclear planning and skill enhancement drills on how to use nuclear weapons, drills involving non-nuclear NATO countries’ carrier aircraft, air crews, air-field infrastructure and ground support services. All of this is a direct violation of NPT articles 1 and 2. In 2002, certain high-ranking US military officers went on record saying that they allowed the use of nuclear munitions against non-nuclear states or terrorists.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has been discussed over a period of four decades and signed in 1996. It bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments: underground, ground, water, air and outer space. The Treaty was signed by 44 countries possessing nuclear infrastructure. The US and China signed but failed to ratify the CTBT. For over twenty years, it was not possible to bring this crucial international treaty into effect. Given that the non-treaty countries take their cues from the United States in the matter of joining the CTBT, Washington’s stagnant stance is the main obstacle standing in the way of tuning the Treaty into a valid international legal instrument.

In 1972, the USA and the USSR signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT) that created a mutual assured destruction system. Neither the USSR, nor the USA could attack each other, for a response was sure to destroy the aggressor. Thus, a missile attack automatically became an act of suicide, with the so-called “strategic balance” being established between the two superpowers. This agreement was signed at Washington’s initiative. In 2001, US President George Bush declared that the Americans were unilaterally withdrawing from this agreement. The formal pretext for this step was that the United States wanted to secure itself against missile attacks from so-called “rogue countries” and terrorist groups. Since then, the US efforts to put in place an antimissile system have most adversely affected the international security system, aggravating relations not only in the Euro-Atlantic but also in the Asia Pacific region, emerging as one of the most serious obstacles to further stage-by-stage nuclear disarmament and creating dangerous prerequisites for a resumption of the nuclear armed race.

The next point is the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which prohibits the development, production, transportation, diffusion and use of chemical weapons, as all of us well know. Apart from this, it provides for the creation of a complex and total international surveillance system. The US played a key role in drafting and signing this agreement. However Washington has been doing its best to avoid international inspections rating them as likely to threaten their national security interests. We have been hearing this explanation from Washington for many years. Some other countries have followed in the footsteps of the US.

The next agreement, Biological Weapons Convention, was signed in 1972 and came into force in 1975. It banned the development, production, stockpiling and acquisition of biological agents that could be used as weapons and of biological weapons proper. The Convention included a special protocol that banned the use of even tiny quantities of deadly microorganisms or toxins for research purposes. The US was rather a reluctant participant in efforts to reach an agreement on the Convention, while some senior US officials were in principle against the signing of the protocol as it would likely damage the interests of US microbiological research companies. In July 2001, Washington declared that it would not abide by the protocol until it was amended.

The next document is the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty which extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The aim of the Convention was to reduce industrial atmospheric emissions causing the so-called “greenhouse effect” which in turn is believed to be the main cause of global climate change. The US signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1992. Nevertheless by 2001, the then US administration refused to comply with its provisions, saying that there was no unambiguous proof of the relationship between global warming processes and the amount of gaseous emissions. The Bush administration believed that implementing the Convention put the US industry in a quandary while not helping to fight the “greenhouse effect”. There is no sense to reiterate the information concerning the Paris Agreement. Everybody knows what has happened to it.

Furthermore the US and its allies have repeatedly circumvented the restrictive provisions of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) through the well-known NATO expansion. At the same time, they, in every possible way avoided the renewal of the regime of Conventional Arms Control (CAC) in Europe proposed by Russia in accordance with the new military and political realities on the continent. The most vivid confirmation of this is the US refusal to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (adapted CFE).

In August 2018, the United States froze cooperation with Russia under the Treaty on Open Skies. Practically, from the very moment of the signing of this document, Washington has been ignoring its requirements to work out special procedures for the aerial observation of its islands and territorial waters. For a long time a significant part of US territory was simply inaccessible for observation: a gross violation of the foundations of the Treaty. Only at the end of 2015 did Washington meet Russia’s requirements. However, the procedures for the Aleutian Islands still provide no possibility for the flight crews to rest there, which may adversely affect flight safety and significantly limit Russia’s ability to observe this part of US territory.

On August 31st, the US authorities demanded the suspension, within forty eight hours, of the work of the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco, the trade mission in Washington and its branch office in New York. Consequently, the Russian government owned buildings were seized. According to many experts of international law of diplomacy, the US actions with respect to Russian diplomatic property are illegal. They violate the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

At the October 3rd briefing, John Bolton, Adviser to the President of the United States on National Security, said the US was withdrawing from the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which allowed Convention violation disputes to be settled by the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague.

This is a far-from-complete list of examples of how the US treats international law and agreements. Washington, actually, has been treating these documents in a manipulative manner that serves US predominant interests.