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President Trump, flanked by national security advisor John Bolton. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Secretary of State Pompeo announced on Feb 1. that the United States will suspend its obligations under — and withdraw from — the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. That treaty banned U.S. and Russian land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, but Russia has violated violated the agreement by deploying the 9M729 intermediate-range cruise missile.

Why it matters: Although Washington asserted that its goal was to bring Russia back into compliance, it did not develop a serious political and military strategy to do so. There is now little chance now of saving the treaty, whose demise will weaken U.S. and allied security and free Russia to deploy intermediate-range missiles.

Between the lines: U.S. military officials thus far do not see the 9M729 as a game-changer. Ongoing Russian missile deployments, however, could lead NATO to consider countermeasures. The Pentagon has begun developing an intermediate-range missile, though NATO likely would be unable reach consensus on deploying it in Europe.

What to watch: Attention will now turn to the remaining U.S.–Russian nuclear arms control agreement: the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. New START expires by its terms in two years but can be extended by up to five years.

  • Extension would cap Russian strategic forces until 2026, without inhibiting U.S. modernization plans, which are designed to fit within New START’s limits. It would also continue the flow of valuable information on Russian strategic forces that the U.S. military gets from the treaty’s verification measures.
  • The Russians are complying with New START, and they have expressed interest in its extension. That should be a no-brainer, but Bolton disdains arms control and President Trump has criticized the treaty as "one-sided." U.S. agreement to extension is not a given.

The bottom line: If New START lapses in 2021, no treaties will constrain U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, a break from some 50 years of nuclear arms control between Washington and Moscow. That world invariably will be less stable, less predictable and less secure.

Steven Pifer is a William J. Perry fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation.

Go deeper

Cuomo asks New York AG and chief judge to choose "independent" investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A special counselor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement Sunday asking the state's attorney general and chief judge to jointly pick an "independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation" to investigate claims of sexual harassment against the governor. The AG's office subsequently turned down the offer, saying it wants to conduct its own probe.

The state of play: The statement is an about-face from Cuomo, who had previously selected a former judge close to a top aide to lead the investigation, the New York Times reported, a move that was widely criticized.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.