Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

National Security Adviser John Bolton

President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton is reportedly seeking to ditch a Cold War-era treaty with Russia focusing on nuclear arms control. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

'Bolton Gonna Bolton': Trump's National Security Adviser Pushing to Ditch Nuclear Arms Treaty With Russia

Critics warn that "withdrawal would be stupid and reckless."

Jessica Corbett

President Donald Trump's notorious warmonger of a national security adviser, John Bolton, reportedly "is pushing for the U.S. to withdraw from a Cold War-era arms control treaty with Russia," a move that critics denounced as a "stupid and reckless" mistake that would fuel nuclear weapons production, alienate allies, and increase the threat of conflict.

"Withdrawing from INF treaty would be a boon to Moscow and (further) alienate allies. Russia's violation of the treaty merits a strong response. But withdrawal would be stupid and reckless."
—Kingston Reif, Arms Control Association

Despite resistance within the administration and from key allies abroad, Bolton wants the United States to bail on the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) on the grounds that Russia is violating the agreement, sources briefed on the effort told the Guardian.

While experts warn that "walking out on the INF is premature before any detailed negotiations between U.S. and Russian specialists on resolving the row over compliance," according to the Guardian, Bolton and Tim Morrison, another hardliner he's brought to the Trump White House, "have taken the lead on arms control issues away from the State Department" and are pushing for the withdrawal.

As the newspaper outlined:

Former U.S. officials say Bolton is blocking talks on extending the 2010 New Start treaty with Russia limiting deployed strategic nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. The treaty is due to expire in 2021 and Moscow has signaled its interest in an extension, but Bolton is opposing the resumption of a strategic stability dialogue to discuss the future of arms control between the two countries.

The U.S. has briefed its European allies this week about the proposal, sounding out reactions. The briefing alarmed U.K. officials who see the INF as an important arms control pillar. The treaty marked the end of a dangerous nuclear standoff in 1980s Europe pitting U.S. Pershing and cruise missiles against the Soviet Union's SS-20 medium-range missiles.

The U.S. alleges Russia is now violating the treaty with the development and deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile, known as the 9M729. Moscow insists the missile does not violate the range restrictions in the INF and alleges in return that a U.S. missile defense system deployed in eastern Europe against a potential Iranian threat can be adapted to fire medium-range offensive missiles at Russia.

Ian Kearns, a board member of the European Leadership Network, called the Guardian report "a really important piece" that "shows how John Bolton, Trump's disaster of a national security adviser, is trying to destroy nuclear stability between the U.S. and Russia."

While serving in the Reagan and both Bush administrations—including as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations—Bolton fostered a reputation as, in the words of Juan Cole, "a war criminal with terrorist ties" as well as an opponent of arms control treaties. Mere rumors of his appointment by Trump led to warnings of "a civilization-threatening disaster," which have only persisted since he joined the current administration, as he has repeatedly attacked global cooperation in favor of U.S. dominance.

"Bolton gonna Bolton," remarked Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association. "Withdrawing from INF treaty would be a boon to Moscow and (further) alienate allies. Russia's violation of the treaty merits a strong response. But withdrawal would be stupid and reckless."

"The Russian violation of INF is serious, but U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would be a terrible mistake and yet another indication to our allies that we don't care about their security."
—Alexandra Bell, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, explained to the Guardian that withdrawing from the treaty would "open the door for Russia to expand its small and relatively insubstantial ground-launched missile arsenal."

"The Russian violation must be taken seriously, but the Trump [administration] has not exhausted all diplomatic options to compel Russia to return to compliance," tweeted the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. "Without the INF treaty, the new arms race would only get worse."

While noting that "there has been no formal Trump decision yet," Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of the American Scientists, also concluded, "Very little good will come of this, other than another round of nuclear escalation with Russia."

Alexandra Bell, a former senior arms control official at the State Department who is now at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, observed, "You should be able to get somewhere with the Russians, but Bolton doesn't seem interested."

Emphasizing on Twitter that a withdrawal would be a "terrible mistake and yet another indication to our allies that we don't care about their security," Bell challenged Trump, a self-proclaimed "master negotiator," to fix rather than ditch the treaty:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Senators Set to Leave Town for 10-Day Recess Without Action on Gun Violence Crisis

"How many more children, mothers, and fathers need to be murdered in cold blood before the Senate has the guts to ban assault weapons and take on the NRA?" asked Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·


Scientists to BlackRock Vice Chairman: New Fossil Fuel Development 'Incompatible' With 1.5°C

"The only responsible course of action is to do everything in our power to stop fossil fuel expansion and further emissions."

Jessica Corbett ·


Goldman Prize Awarded to Activists Who Showed Nature's 'Amazing Capability to Regenerate'

"While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity."

Julia Conley ·


Faith Leaders Call for Federal Election Monitors in Georgia to Protect Black Voters

"It is imperative that our election this November is monitored to preserve ballot integrity and ensure ballot security."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Inaction Is Bought': Here Are the Receipts on NRA's Purchase of GOP

"The issue is money in politics," said Nina Turner after the nation's latest mass killing of students and teachers. Right-wing lawmakers are "allowing children to die because of the gun lobby."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo