Mikhail Gorbachev & George P Shultz: 'Abandoning nuclear treaty is a threat to our very existence'
More than 30 years have passed since the day the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union, meeting in Geneva, adopted a joint statement declaring that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought". It was more than just rhetoric. Less than a year later, in Reykjavik, Iceland, they agreed on the parameters of future treaties on the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear forces, or INF, and the radical reduction of strategic nuclear arms. A year after that, in 1987, the first of these treaties was signed in Washington. The elimination of the entire class of nuclear missiles opened the way to a process of real nuclear disarmament.
The INF Treaty and subsequent treaties reducing strategic nuclear arms established an innovative system of verification, inspections, data exchange and mutual consultations.
Reykjavik was a historic milestone also because the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union agreed that the ultimate goal of the process of nuclear arms reduction should be the elimination of all nuclear weapons. As of now, the strategic nuclear forces of the two sides have been reduced to a fraction of what they were then.
There is a now a danger that the gains achieved in the process of ending the Cold War could be wiped out. Abandoning the INF Treaty would be a step toward a new arms race, undermining strategic stability and increasing the threat of miscalculation or technical failure leading to an immensely destructive war.
The answer to the problems that have come up is not to abandon the INF Treaty, but to preserve and fix it.
We are calling for the creation of an informal forum of US and Russian experts to address the changes in the security landscape that have occurred over the past decades - including missile defences, precision conventional weapons, space systems, cyberthreats and the nuclear weapons of other countries.
We were both at Reykjavik and participated in the negotiations before and after that led to the first agreements. We understand that nuclear weapons raise difficult issues. But we are convinced the United States and Russia must resume progress on a path toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. The alternative, which is unacceptable, is the continuing threat of those weapons to our very existence. (© Washington Post)
Mikhail Gorbachev is a former president of the Soviet Union. George P Shultz is a former US secretary of state