Missile matters: Russia’s violation of 1987 agreement does not bode well

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

Russia’s secret deployment of a new cruise missile in violation of a 1987 agreement with the United States calls into question the whole value of making deals with President Vladimir Putin, particularly if they involve selling off pieces of America’s relationship with its European allies.

Again, as previous presidents, including Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, have shown, there is value to the United States in arriving at agreements with the then-Soviet Union, and now Russia, particularly if they involve weaponry. Not only do such agreements reduce the risk of the two nuclear powers destroying the human race, they save money on development and defense. They also permit scientists on both sides to devote their energies and intellects to more constructive activities than improving our mutually destructive capacities.

In that spirit, the United States, under Reagan, and the Soviet Union, led then by Mikhail Gorbachev, signed in 1987 an accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, banning land-based intermediate-range missiles. Based on it, both nations subsequently destroyed thousands of weapons. Nonetheless, Russia started testing a new cruise missile in 2008 and has since deployed at least two battalions of them, in Russia. America has named the new weapon the SSC-8 and has developed responses to an attack by it.

Before any other deals that President Donald J. Trump might seek to arrive at with the Russians, it is almost certainly useful to clear this problem off the table, perhaps as part of a new mutual weapons-reduction agreement. If the United States and Russia are at the dawn of a new period of cooperation, as Trump suggests, a good beginning would be to see to observation of the 1987 treaty, re-eliminating a class of missiles aimed at each other in Europe and elsewhere.

The following editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Feb. 22: Send comments to editorial@therepublic.com.