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Opinion Sorry, but we absolutely had to leave the INF Treaty

President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Michhail Gorbachev sign the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House Dec. 8, 1987. (Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Regarding Victoria Nuland’s Feb. 13 Wednesday Opinion column, “What Reagan would advise on arms control”:

The Trump administration abandoned the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty because Russia refused to destroy its treaty-breaking 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile. Ms. Nuland advocated a renewed diplomatic effort that would allow Russia to redeploy the 9M729s east of the Ural Mountains, where they could threaten China but not Europe. There are two obvious problems.

Moscow and Beijing have essentially established a cooperative security partnership based on their common perception of us as the enemy. Why would Russia deploy missile systems against China? China’s large medium- and intermediate-range missile force is targeted against Taiwan, not Russia. Also, the 9M729 is a missile launched from a transport vehicle that can move anywhere. How would Ms. Nuland prevent the 9M729s from rolling westward whenever Moscow decided to do so?

Ms. Nuland asserted that without INF limitations, Russia’s use of lower-yield, medium-range nuclear weapons is “a virtual certainty in any high-stakes conflict in Europe,” with the United States unable to respond. But the United States has similar systems not included in the INF treaty to deter and, if necessary, counter Moscow’s use of nonstrategic nuclear weapons against our NATO allies.

Our withdrawal from the INF Treaty, while lamentable, is justified because of Russia’s illegal deployment of the 9M729 cruise missile. Let us hope that our current policymakers are focused on realistic responses instead of indulging in diplomatic fantasies.

Edward Grimes, Springfield

The writer is a retired Defense Department military analyst.