U.S. To Pull Out Of International Arms Control Agreement

Oct 21, 2018
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

President Trump says he's planning to pull out of an international arms control agreement. As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, it's a treaty signed by President Reagan designed to reduce the dangers of nuclear war.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: The idea of apocalyptic nuclear war isn't something people think about these days. But back in the 1980s, it was a real concern. The U.S. and Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other, and they were building more.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE DAY AFTER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Roger, copy. This is not an exercise.

BRUMFIEL: The 1983 film "The Day After" dramatized how things might end - a massive nuclear attack killing millions. President Ronald Reagan was no softy. But he wanted to eliminate the danger nuclear weapons posed. As a first step, he and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev negotiated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RONALD REAGAN: Once implemented, it will bring about the elimination of an entire class of American and Soviet nuclear missiles.

BRUMFIEL: The treaty banned missiles that both sides had deployed around Europe, missiles that could have quickly started a dangerous, nuclear war. The INF treaty has remained in force ever since. But in recent years, Russia has started work on new missiles that America says violate the treaty. Yesterday, President Trump said he'd had enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons. And we're not allowed to. We're the ones that have stayed in the agreement. And we've honored the agreement. But Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we're going to terminate the agreement. We're going to pull out.

BRUMFIEL: The Trump administration is expected to notify the Russians of the decision this week. Arms control experts say the move is a rash one. The U.S. doesn't need its own missiles of this kind, they say. And the withdrawal will leave just one final nuclear arms control treaty in place. Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.