THOUGH its death throes have been going on for six months, and possibly many more years before that, the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between the USA and Russia officially passed away yesterday.

It was signed almost 32 years ago by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and was a real game changer as both the US and USSR agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals and eliminate an entire category of missiles and launchers, those with a range of 300 to 600 miles – short to medium range – and those within the intermediate range, i.e. 600 miles to 3400 miles.

The really significant change was that from the signing date on December 8, 1987, both sides agreed to on-site inspections by the other. The world breathed a huge sigh of relief as most experts had predicted that all out thermonuclear war and the probable end of the world would be triggered by a war started by, or because of, these missiles.


THERE was a second arms limitation treaty signed almost four years later by President George HW Bush and Gorbachev. The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) came into force in December, 1991, and committed the two powers to limited themselves to have no more than 6000 nuclear warheads on no more than 1600 inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers.

Start ran out in 2009 and the following year President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev of the Russian Federation signed what became known as New Start which further reduced the strategic arsenals of both nations.

The problem is that New Start is due to expire in 2021, and if Donald Trump wins the Presidential election next year, both he and Vladimir Putin will still be in power when New Start stops. No one seriously expects either man to propose a new Start, not least as both have comprehensively trashed the INF.


BOTH INF and Start were effective, if you count reducing the amount of nuclear weapons to the point where they could still destroy the planet effective.

The INF treaty in particular worked well. Inside three years, some 2700 missiles were destroyed and both sides observed the ban on deploying new missiles in the short-to-medium and intermediate range of that type.

There is no doubt INF reduced the threat of nuclear war, and continued to do so even after Reagan and Gorbachev’s time.

Start also cut its nuclear arsenals massively and after New Start both nations had reduced their overall arsenals to less than a quarter of what they once had – still enough to annihilate the planet, but credit for the effort.


LET’S just say they reduced the tension. It’s hard to describe what it was like in the period from the mid-1950s to the late 1980s when the Cold War was at its iciest. The threat of nuclear war – either by provocation or accident – was ever-present and never more so than during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when both the USSR and US had their large bombers on standby, loaded with nuclear bombs ready to be dropped.

Anyone who doubts the Cold War fear of atomic war need only watch the 1960s films Dr Strangelove and Failsafe, and the great “unseen” BBC documentary The War Game to learn what the world’s population feared.

Both treaties reduced the number of missiles, and arguably the INF treaty allowed Gorbachev the economic and political power to push through his ideas that, deliberately or not, ended the Communist regimes of the Eastern Bloc.


UNLESS there are new treaties in place soon, or unless the rest of the world gangs up on the nuclear powers and forces them to disarm – that’s not going to happen – there will a new nuclear arms race, just as Putin and his oligarchs, and Trump and his military-industrial complex, want.

The end of the INF in particular was trailed by Putin as long ago as 2002 when the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He confirmed last year that the end of that treaty had influenced his thinking on ending the INF Treaty, though it was Trump who announced in February that the US was pulling out of the INF treaty, accusing Putin of developing new missiles that breached the treaty’s rules.

So if the US is right and Putin does have new missiles, then the new arms race has already begun, with the Pentagon announcing last night that the US will develop its own missiles.

The complicating factor is that the other nuclear powers China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and France are not going to stand idly by and watch the big two get a lead in the race. Other countries such as North Korea and perhaps Iran are also not going to miss out on the excuse to develop their own missiles – the end of INF and probably New Start is a gift to Kim Jong-Un.

As for the UK? Well we’ve got Trident, so that’s all right then.


PROBABLY not for two reasons – the MoD can’t afford it and anyway, we can always borrow

the US’s missiles if deemed necessary. We already borrow Trident, after all.


NEVER let it be forgotten that nuclear bombs were dropped as long ago as 1945 when the USA used them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.