Since the beginning of 2014, Russia has been a constant agitator in the news. And the end of July was no exception when news broke that Russia had violated an international arms agreement, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Now this is not the first time, but it has certainly sparked some of the greatest criticism in light of their other actions in the past year.
This news has arms control critics calling for abandonment of arms restrictions on our part as well as stopping the aggressor. However, this is one of the last things we should do.
Arms control treaties were created because our past leaders understood the inherent danger in tit-for-tat arms buildup, a practice they termed, “mutually assured destruction.” They understood that unless restrictions were put in place for both sides, the problems would not be solved; rather, they would spiral out of control until both sides were destroyed. This is still an ever-present danger that these arms control critics have chosen to forget.
Russia’s violation of an arms treaty should not be an argument against arms control and treaties, but rather an argument for imposing consequences for the violator. The US should not and cannot unilaterally go on the offensive every time a party violates a treaty. Diplomacy rather than force needs to continue to drive US actions, particularly where Russia is concerned.
In the past six months, Putin has proven that he has no qualms when it comes to over-stepping boundaries, but the last thing we need to do is give him validation for further action against arms trade treaties.
An article published in Defense One takes this position as well. The author Joe Cirincione rightfully points out that Ronald Reagan, hero of the Republican Party and of many arms control and treaty critics, championed for arms control and signed the INF Treaty, which is “one of the most successful treaties in history.” Even when the Soviet Union previously violated this agreement, he understood that the answer was not to abandon the treaty, but rather to bring Russia back into the agreement to restore the status quo.
This is the same stance we must assume if we are to keep Russia and ourselves in check with the critically important goals of an intact treaty.