The House of Commons Defence Committee is undertaking an inquiry examining the potential withdrawal of the US from the INF Treaty and its possible implications for UK defence. CND submitted the below evidence to the inquiry on the 8th January 2019.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) campaigns to rid the world of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and to create genuine security for future generations.

  1. Summary
    • The US announcement of their intention to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty with Russia is an extremely concerning development for global nuclear arms control.
    • The INF treaty marked the removal of US nuclear missiles from British soil. The destruction of this treaty raises serious concerns about British security.
    • We urge the British government to use all diplomatic means to encourage both sides to support the treaty and to resolve any disputes on violation of the treaty through negotiations.
  1. The INF is an essential component of global nuclear arms control
    • This vital bi-lateral nuclear treaty between the US and Russia has ensured the destruction of nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles. Tearing up the INF treaty will mark the end of the restraints on these weapons achieved in the 1980s.
    • The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilise on-site inspections for verification. This marked an important step in the eventual end of the Cold War.
    • US withdrawal from the treaty will mean its unilateral destruction. As withdrawal from the treaty would eliminate the restrictions on developing these missiles, this is likely to start a new arms race.
    • There have been several issues with the INF since its adoption, with the US citing violation concerns with the treaty. These allegations have placed the treaty under enormous pressure in the last few years, precipitated by worsening US-Russia relations.
    • We urge the US to deal with any concerns it may have over treaty compliance through diplomatic means and to uphold its commitments to the treaty. Reintroduction of on-site inspections for verification would be a productive step to rebuilding trust in the treaty.
  1. The withdrawal could reintroduce the threat of nuclear weapons in Europe
    • The treaty has a special role in ensuring greater European security, which remains necessary to this day. It was because of the INF treaty that US cruise and SS-20 missiles were removed from Britain, significantly reducing the likelihood of the UK or Europe being an arena for any US nuclear war.
    • Before the INF treaty was signed, the US based intermediate-range nuclear missiles in the UK and Europe. This was strategically advantageous to the US, as it meant the missiles were in range of Russia and therefore ready to attack, bringing the UK into far more danger.
    • Wide scale protests across the UK and Europe in the 1980s led to the creation of the INF treaty and the expulsion of these weapons from British soil. CND was instrumental in mobilising the public and leading marches and protests across the continent numbering into the hundreds of thousands of participants. This included the powerful Greenham Women’s Peace Camp, which lasted for 19 years.
    • With the destruction of the treaty, the possibility of these missiles being reintroduced in Europe would likely spark mass protests. It is clear that the possibility of new US missiles in Europe, such as those with a ‘low-yield’ capability proposed in the US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, would increase the likelihood of a nuclear confrontation, and generate significant opposition and unrest in Britain.
  1. The US withdrawal from the INF treaty will destabilise global security.
    • The US’ intended withdrawal from the INF is part of a wider pattern of rejecting essential nuclear treaties, furthering global instability. The US has already withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, imposing heavy economic sanctions against the country. These sanctions have made it less likely that Iran will adhere to the original disarmament objectives of the deal, increasing the threat of Iran becoming another nuclear weapons state.
    • Furthermore, the announcement of the US intention to withdraw from the INF also calls into question the likelihood of possible US-Russia cooperation in working to renew the New START treaty on its expiry in 2021. Signed in 2010, the New START treaty limits the number of nuclear warheads of Russia and the US to 1,550. This treaty is therefore fundamental for preventing a global arms race and ensuring nuclear de-escalation.
    • Given the commitment of all of the P5 nuclear weapons states to ‘modernise’ their nuclear arsenals (in contravention of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which requires them to engage in nuclear disarmament) and the  recent trend of the US to criticise and even dismiss international agreements, it is uncertain whether any progress on renewing the New START Treaty will be possible, especially if the INF is discarded.
    • These treaties are crucial to prevent a global arms race and ensure nuclear de-escalation and eventual disarmament.
    • The INF Treaty has been a vital arms limitation treaty, in actively reducing nuclear stockpiles it has been an important step towards nuclear disarmament. Whilst the geopolitical and technological situation is much different today than from the cold war era during which it was written, it remains essential to maintaining global stability.
  1. The UK should work towards furthering nuclear disarmament through a stronger engagement with existing disarmament and non-proliferation treaties.
    • While nuclear weapons exist, we are never safe from a military disagreement escalating into nuclear war.
    • The UK has already committed to nuclear disarmament in the form of other non-proliferation treaties, such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The UK government continues to state its commitment to multilateral nuclear disarmament, however, it needs to align its actions to its non-proliferation rhetoric.
    • The UK should strengthen existing treaties and support the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In 2017 The United Nations adopted a historic international treaty banning nuclear weapons, supported by 122 countries. The new treaty will make it illegal under international law to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, stockpile, transfer, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. It also makes it illegal to assist or encourage anyone to engage in these activities. The UK government refused to participate in the process, instead releasing a statement attacking the treaty.
    • Britain has an important role to play in this crisis. It should be encouraging a diplomatic solution and state in the strongest terms that allowing crucial nuclear arms control agreements such as the INF to be torn up, places the whole world in great danger.
  1. Recommendations for the UK government
    • Join European leaders in condemning the US withdrawal from the INF treaty. Call upon both sides to continue to support the treaty and to resolve any disputes on violation of the treaty through diplomatic means.This could include the reintroduction of on-site verification for treaty compliance.
    • Commit that the UK will not allow any US missiles to be stationed in Britain should the treaty collapse.
    • Use diplomatic routes to encourage the US to re-engage with important international treaties and agreements such as the INF and the Iran nuclear deal. International cooperation is essential to maintaining a stable and just world order, and the UK government should do all it can to ensure that the US and Russia are part of this process.
    • Become a global leader in nuclear arms control by delivering on previous commitments and signing up to the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Submitted by  Amy Keegan on behalf of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, January 2019