Historically US and the Soviet Union have shared enmity since the end of World War II. During Cold War while the relations remained strained between both States, numerous initiatives were negotiated and implemented to ensure that the friction did not escalate – eventually crossing the nuclear threshold.While said initiatives remained effective in preventing any major altercation between the two global powers, they failed to prevent them from engaging in proxy wars and fomenting existing regional conflicts to undermine each other’s respective interests. This approach continues to date – with Syria being the primary battleground. Moreover, US and Russia continue to be at loggerheads on a number of issues including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections, and use of chemical weapons on British soil which was blamed on Russia. The most important issue recently however is the debate on the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and its compliance by both US and Russia. Ronald Reagan and Mikael Gorbachev signed this landmark treaty in 1987 which banned all US and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles that fell within the range of 500-5500 kilometers. These ranges were focused on because of Soviet SS-20 and American Pershing-II mobile ground-launched ballistic missiles which could reach their targets within six minutes – not giving enough time to the adversary to respond or find cover. Within three years of the treaty coming into force in 1988, both states successfully destroyed a total of 2,692 intermediate-range missiles.The US formally accused Russia of INF violation in 2014, after having raised the issue in US Congress in 2011. Then, U.S. argued that the cruise missile version SSC-8 Iskander-K is in violation of the INF Treaty because its estimated range – though unspecified – is beyond 500 km. Russia is also accused of having tested its RS-26 Rubezh missile – otherwise claimed to be long-range ICBM – at distances that violated INF guidelines. In return, Russia censures the U.S. of violating the INF Treaty because of its development of target missiles (the Hera) with a range of 1000 kilometers, armed drones which could be flown at ranges restricted under INF, and MK-41 missile launching systems installed in Romania and Poland as part of the American European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense system.President Trump had been quite vocal about his disdain for arms control arrangements – New START being at the receiving end of his brunt. The U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton further augmented President Trump’s hardline on said issues. Hence, Russian violations, China’s cache of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, coupled with such hardline positions provided President Trump with an excuse to announce U.S. withdrawal from the Treaty. Moreover, he threatened to develop intermediate missiles and expand the nuclear arsenal until ‘other States come to their senses.’ US withdrawal from the INF Treaty will provide impetus to the Trump Administration to renounce continuation of the New START Treaty, which is due to expire in 2021In a so-called attempt to coerce Russia back into compliance, USD 25 million have already been allocated in the U.S. for the research and development of a new road-mobile, ground-launched cruise missile earlier this year – as part of the 2019 defense spending bill. Ironically, this non-compliant weapon system was proposed in “Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty Preservation Act of 2017.” The US officials hold that the R&D for such a missile will be halted if Russia falls back to verifiable compliance of INF guidelines. However, technically speaking, there is no need for the US to go for a new and costly INF Treaty-noncompliant missile. Primarily because it already possesses air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian assets which the US may seek to target using the ground-launched missiles prohibited under the INF Treaty.Furthermore, if the US remains bound by the INF Treaty limits, its credibility vis-à-vis China and an expanding Russian intermediate-range arsenal may be seen to be deteriorating over time. Theoretically, this is a valid argument. However, practically, the U.S. already has sufficient capability to dominate the escalation ladder and counter its adversaries effectively. For instance, the American Prompt Global Strike program is designed to eliminate any target, anywhere in the world within 60 minutes, through the use of conventional capabilities. This capability may be used as a preemptive tool. US policy-makers and academia may urge the Trump Administration to engage China in a possible discourse on negotiating a trilateral INF Treaty between US, Russia and China. However, considering that intermediate-range ballistic missiles constitute approximately 95 percent of the People’s Liberation Army missile force, China is unlikely to forswear these weapons – leading to there being no arms control measure at all. Moreover, universalizing the INF Treaty is implausible, considering the geopolitical realities of other nuclear armed states are different than those of the U.S. and Russia.US withdrawal from the INF Treaty will provide impetus to the Trump Administration to renounce continuation of the New START Treaty, which is due to expire in 2021. Moreover, withdrawal from such restrictive initiatives – as presumed by the Trump Administration – will contribute to the US agenda of modernization of its nuclear triad, as spelt out in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Such developments will greatly affect strategic stability between Russia and the US Prospective arms race between both will impinge significantly on the security of US allies in Europe and will also increase challenges for the US extended deterrence commitments – further pushing the European allies away. Moreover, US and Russian actions like these would embolden other states to take the global arms control mechanisms for granted. These actions by the world’s leading powers would provide impetus to States getting into agreements when it suits them and getting out when it serves their interests – disregarding the overall damage done to the international norms necessary for global peace and security.Nonetheless, the U.S. withdrawal from INF Treaty could act as the last straw leading to the breakdown of international arms control framework and will be one step backward when it comes to strengthening global nuclear non-proliferation regime. The U.S. is gradually slipping from its mantle of world leader by undoing the very international norms, it helped build.The writer is a freelance columnistPublished in Daily Times, November 8th 2018.