The news on January 31 that the United States is suspending the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (I.N.F.), followed by Russia the next day, is an ominous signal that the world is edging closer to new militarist confrontations. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada calls for global pressure to reverse this slide towards catastrophe.
From the 1960s until a decade ago, the US and the Soviet Union (or the Russian federation) reached more than a dozen treaties limiting nuclear testing, nuclear weapons, activities in outer space and missile defense. The two powers reduced their combined total of warheads from roughly 63,000 in 1986 to about 8,100 today. The I.N.F. is a landmark treaty, the first nuclear agreement to outlaw an entire class of weapons. Its abrogation sets a dangerous precedent for scrapping other international arms control agreements which have tried to make the world a safer place over the past century. This latest development has its origins in the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in 2001, and subsequent moves by the US and NATO to build missile defense systems closer to Russia’s borders. These imperialist pressures have forced Russia in turn to improve its own defence capabilities, which the Trump administration hypocritically uses to justify suspending the INF treaty.
At the same time, the US Department of Energy has begun production of a new low-yield nuclear weapon that is about one-third as powerful as the bomb used on Hiroshima. Called “small enough to use”, these bombs could be ready for deployment by the end of the year, blurring the lines between regular and nuclear bombs, and ushering in a new age of nuclear instability. Agreements that have restrained the most dangerous weapons on the planet are being scrapped, while new technologies — including cyberweapons that could attack nuclear command and control systems — are advancing quickly.
Other nuclear-armed powers are also expanding their arsenals, and there are few channels of communication between adversaries — particularly the United States and Russia, which maintain more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. The likelihood of a nuclear accident or blunder seems to be growing. As a report issued in February 2018 by the director of US National Intelligence stated, “the risk of interstate conflict, including among great powers, is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War.” But Donald Trump, and John Bolton, the national security adviser who opposes arms control, condemn any restraints on so-called American nuclear sovereignty.
The Communist Party of Canada calls for an end to this spiral towards nuclear destruction. The Canadian federal government should demand that the Trump administration accept Russia’s offer to start negotiations about arms control, the New Start agreement, which has required both sides to reduce deployed nuclear warheads from a maximum of 2,200 in 2010 to 1,550 this year, but which is set to expire in 2021. Another urgent need is US-Russia military-to-military talks focused on avoiding accidents and misperceptions which could lead to war. All nuclear states need to act responsibly to reverse the trend towards a dangerous new era of instability. The world today needs to tackle the looming crisis of global climate change – halting and reversing expansion of the nuclear arms race is essential to achieving progress towards human survival.
Special resolution of the Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, February 10th, 2019