WASHINGTON — The day the United States said it could leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by early February, hawkish think-tankers and former government officials shared weapons shopping lists for the post-treaty world — which in one case included in-theater nuclear missiles.
The defense hawks spoke on a panel hosted by the Air Force Association at the Capitol Hill Club just down the street from Congress. One, Rick Fisher, called for deploying nuclear-armed missiles to quell possible Chinese aggression.
The Trump administration in October cited China’s lack of participation in the INF Treaty as one reason the U.S. should abandon the bilateral arms deal struck with the then-Soviet Union in 1987. The accord forbids Russia and the United States from developing and deploying missiles with a range of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or roughly 330 miles to 3,300 miles.
“There is a real requirement that the United States build up the inter-range ballistic and cruise missiles, perhaps with nuclear warheads,” said Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Alexandria, Va.
If the U.S. ceases complying with the INF Treaty, it should develop ground-launched missiles in the range prohibited by the pact and “be offering them to all of our major defense treaty allies … South Korea, Japan, Australia,” Fisher said. “I will even include the Philippines in that.”
However, another panelist scoffed at the idea that any country would ever permit U.S. ground-based missiles on its territory. “Ain’t gonna happen,” said consultant Frank Miller, a government veteran who served as special assistant to President George W. Bush and as a senior arms-control staffer on his National Security Council.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would cease complying with the INF Treaty in 60 days, unless Moscow ditches an INF-violating missile the U.S. says it developed and deployed over the last 10 years.
Russia is “in material breach of the treaty,” Pompeo said during a press conference after Tuesday’s meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.
In a statement, NATO foreign ministers said “Russia is in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty” and “that the situation whereby the United States and other parties fully abide by the Treaty and Russia does not, is not sustainable.”