Former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev the last Soviet leader, is urging Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump to meet face to face to resolve their differences as each side accuses the other of violating a Cold War-era arms-control treaty that Gorbachev believes is essential to maintaining peace between the two world powers.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a landmark arms control treaty signed in 1987 by Gorbachev and former US President Ronald Reagan, helped end the Cold War by requiring both countries to eliminate all nuclear ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.
But recently, both sides have called for the treaty to be scrapped as perceived encroachment by NATO “missile-defense” systems in South Korea and Europe has unnerved Putin, while Russia’s efforts to influence the US presidential election with a “sophisticated” propaganda campaign
In an essay that was published in a local newspaper, and re-published by the Washington Post, Gorbachev explains why preserving the treaty – which he sees as the most vulnerable link in the system of limiting and reducing weapons of mass destruction - is imperative to maintaining the Russia-US relationship.
In the essay, Gorbachev argues that the US-Russia relationship is “in a severe crisis” and only a dialogue based on “mutual respect” can help repair it – if only the two leaders could scrounge up the political will to make it happen.
So what is happening, what is the problem, and what needs to be done?
Both sides have raised issues of compliance, accusing the other of violating or circumventing the treaty’s key provisions. From the sidelines, lacking fuller information, it is difficult to evaluate those accusations. But one thing is clear:
The problem has a political as well as a technical aspect. It is up to the political leaders to take action.
Therefore I am making an appeal to the presidents of Russia and the United States.
Relations between the two nations are in a severe crisis. A way out must be sought, and there is one well-tested means available for accomplishing this: a dialogue based on mutual respect.
It will not be easy to cut through the logjam of issues on both sides. But neither was our dialogue easy three decades ago. It had its critics and detractors, who tried to derail it.
In the final analysis, it was the political will of the two nations’ leaders that proved decisive. And that is what’s needed now. This is what our two countries’ citizens and people everywhere expect from the presidents of Russia and the United States.
If Trump and Putin could agree to preserve the agreement, it would encourage the generals and diplomats responsible for implementing and monitoring the terms to fall in line, Gorbachev said.
I am confident that preparing a joint presidential statement on the two nations’ commitment to the INF Treaty is a realistic goal. Simultaneously, the technical issues could be resolved; for this purpose, the joint control commission under the INF Treaty could resume its work. I am convinced that, with an impetus from the two presidents, the generals and diplomats would be able to reach agreement.
We are living in a troubled world. It is particularly disturbing that relations between the major nuclear powers, Russia and the United States, have become a serious source of tensions and a hostage to domestic politics. It is time to return to sanity. I am sure that even inveterate opponents of normalizing U.S.-Russian relations will not dare object to the two presidents. These critics have no arguments on their side, for the very fact that the INF Treaty has been in effect for 30 years proves that it serves the security interests of our two countries and of the world.
Unfortunately, the INF isn’t the only important treaty in danger of collapse. As we reported last month, US officials are preparing restrictions for Russian military flights over American territory permitted by the 2002 Treaty on Open Skies after accusing the country of concealing movements of personnel and military equipment near its western enclave of Kaliningrad as Russia prepared to stage its “Zapad-2017” drills, its biggest display of military power since the end of the Cold War.
In another sign of mounting tensions, the US suspended joint military exercises with its Gulf allies after a historic Russia-Saudi Arabia summit.
Gorbachev led the Soviet Union from 1985 until its dissolution in 1991.