Russia will present the expected withdrawal of the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Elimination Treaty (INF) as a step forcing a military response from Moscow. Even if the Russian Federation were to violate the INF by deploying new cruise missiles with a range greater than 500 km, the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty creates opportunity to blur responsibility. In the event of divided opinions within NATO, Russia’s position in arms control might be stronger vis-à-vis Europe and, indirectly, the United States. Moreover, Russia will continue expansion of its arsenal of ground-launched missiles.
The U.S. ambassador to NATO has, when one thinks about it, just one job. No matter who holds the job, the U.S. ambassador to NATO has many priorities, as one would expect for a role that involves dealing with dozens of countries and trying to get them to agree on a coherent defense policy. But one would think that not provoking a nuclear war with Russia would be at the very top of the ambassador’s list of priorities. This seems like a no-brainer, but it helps to focus on the simple things. The United States has a special obligation to be the “adult in the room” and to keep the alliance focused on constructive responses to collective threats.
This graphic shows the number of nuclear warheads owned by each country known to have nuclear weapons. For more on trends in nuclear arms control, see Oliver Thränert’s recent addition to the CSS Analyses in Security Policy series here. For more CSS charts, maps and graphics on proliferation, click here.