What can we expect from the summit meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin?
That is the expectation that Biden is setting. There will be no grand pronouncements, no reset, maybe not even a perfunctory statement of agreement on a minor point. That is part of the reason that Biden plans to hold a press conference by himself. The other part, of course, is in contrast with Donald Trump’s disastrous showing at Helsinki.
But the meeting is necessary and important. Russia is a major country, with a nuclear arsenal equivalent to America’s. Russia is adjacent to our allies in Europe and supplies energy to many of them. It has a long land border across which untoward things can happen. Those are reason enough for the leaders to meet.
A commenter at Balloon Juice asked if I plan to write on the end of the INF Treaty. I hadn’t intended to – there’s an enormous amount of good commentary (Twitter threads here and here) on it – but as I thought about it, I have some thoughts beyond the standard commentary.
First, an overview of the situation.
The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty was concluded between the US and the USSR in 1987. Both countries had been emplacing missiles in Europe in such a way as to dangerously shorten the warning time for a nuclear attack on Europe or Moscow. The treaty banned a whole class of missiles and largely ended the nuclear terrors of the early 1980s. Read More
The 1950s and the 1980s were decades of nuclear fear. The arms race of the 1950s culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, after which institutions and procedures were put in place to cut back some of the causes of that fear. The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty put nuclear tests underground, which made them more difficult and expensive and began to slow down the arms race. Better communications between American and Soviet leaders were developed. Treaties to limit the numbers of nuclear weapons followed. Read More
Russia has been violating the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but the United States won’t say exactly what the violation is. The INF Treaty prohibits intermediate-range missiles with nuclear warheads. Back in the 1980s, both the US and Russia had such missiles aimed at each other in Europe. The problem with missiles like this is that there is no warning time whatsoever, and thus a heavy motive to strike the other party first. James Action suggests a strategy for getting the treaty back on track. Top photo from here: Soviet inspectors and their American escorts standing among dismantled Pershing II missiles in Colorado as other missile components are destroyed nearby under the INF Treaty, January 1989. Read More