Vol. 53, No. 2

In this edition

In this edition of The Ripon Forum, we take a look at our international institutions and treaties and examine why they remain important to the United States and our interests around the world.

A Lesson in Good Governance from the Hoosier State

Over the past decade, Indiana has consistently enacted honestly balanced budgets each biennium, while cutting taxes and reducing state debt.

“We Can’t Fight for Freedom Alone.”

NATO has been a force for peace in Europe and has shared the burden of war in the Middle East. America should want to strengthen this voice, not weaken it.

The U.S. Must Stay Vigilant in Venezuela

Despite ruthless oppression, Venezuela’s opposition movement continues to grow. The U.S. must support this movement as it seeks a democratic transition.

We are Safer with the INF Treaty

According to the late Indiana Senator, the decision to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is short-sighted and not in America’s long-term interest.

Promoting Stability Through Economic Growth

A conversation with former Reagan Cabinet Secretary Ann McLaughlin Korologos about the work of the Middle East Investment Initiative in a critical region of the world.

The New USMCA: Prospects for Passage & the Keys to the Debate

There could be enough votes to pass the new United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. But based on historical trends, passage is not guaranteed.

A View from the Heartland on the Importance of Trade

Farmers may not like the tariffs that China is imposing on our commodities, but they also don’t like China dragging out the process for approving registrations for years at a time.

Time to Hit “Reset” on Transatlantic Trade

If the U.S. and EU can resurrect at least the spirit of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, it could inject new purpose into the transatlantic partnership.

China’s New Silk Road

At a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese do not have piped running water in their homes, the Chinese government is lavishing loans on countries far away.

Ripon Profile of Brad Wenstrup

The Ohio Congressman discusses his background prior to coming to Washington and what he sees as the most critical issues for his constituents.

We are Safer with the INF Treaty

I was one of the original co-chairs of the Arms Control Observer Group, put together by President Reagan in the 1980s to ensure unity of purpose between the executive and legislative branches on arms control with the Soviets. I was a floor manager for every arms control treaty that came before the Senate from the INF Treaty in 1987 to the New Start Treaty in 2010.

In conjunction with the Nunn-Lugar program, I witnessed the safeguarding or dismantlement of just about every type of weapon of mass destruction imaginable in the former Soviet Union, from Typhoon submarines and SS-18s, to Backfire bombers, millions of VX-filled artillery shells, and laboratories housing anthrax and plague.

I mention this history to make a point: Our relationship with Russia and our mutual interest in constraining the threat from weapons of mass destruction is a long game, not a short one. That being said, there can be no breaks in our determination each day to prevent disaster. I fear that President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the INF treaty is short-sighted and not in our long-term national interest.

I fear that President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the INF treaty is short-sighted and not in our long-term national interest.

Let me explain why. First, the Russians are in violation of the INF Treaty. But Russian violations are not a new phenomenon. A major feature of every arms control debate since 1987 was discussion of actual or potential Russian violations. Every President has dealt with this. I believe it is easier to expose, counter, and reverse those violations with the INF Treaty than without it.

Second, arms control is not just about limits on weapons. Much of the value of agreements comes from verification provisions. There is safety in transparency.

Our strategic relationship with Russia was never better than when Russian and American technicians were working together on Nunn-Lugar projects to circumscribe the decaying Russian arsenal under provisions of active arms treaties. We knew a lot about each other, and we were talking every day. The worst thing we can do is undercut verification procedures that give us a window on Russian activities and capabilities.

Third, effective arms control is less about negotiating brilliance than it is about the accumulation of leverage. Withdrawing from the INF Treaty does nothing to bolster our leverage. It foolishly plays into the hands of Russian propagandists by focusing global attention on our rejection of the treaty instead of on Russian violations.

It complicates relations with allies. And it signals to the Iranians, North Koreans, and others who would pursue a nuclear arsenal that we are devaluing our own historic legacy as the guarantor of legal frameworks designed to prevent nuclear proliferation.

Finally, regardless of near-term decisions on the INF Treaty, drifting towards unrestrained arms competition would be an incredibly hazardous outcome. This does not mean that the United States cannot modernize elements of its nuclear deterrent. But allowing verification procedures to expire and basing our security on the hope of winning an expensive arms race would be the height of irresponsibility.

Allowing verification procedures to expire and basing our security on the hope of winning an expensive arms race would be the height of irresponsibility.

This isn’t 1981. We live in an increasingly multipolar world that features cyberwarfare, suicidal terrorism, additional nuclear states, and increased avenues to nuclear proliferation. We also had a sobering budget deficit of $779 billion in 2018.

The bottom line is that jettisoning treaties that provide a legal framework for exposing Russian violations achieves nothing. We should be pursuing a consistent strategy that strengthens the Western alliance, makes sensible defense investments, and builds leverage that could put the arms control process back on track.

To do that we need much more consistency of purpose. The successful launching of an era of arms control by Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush was achieved largely because those Presidents projected a consistent foreign policy that undergirded international law, stood up to dictators, commanded respect, and united the free world. The United States returning to that posture would be a major setback for Russian oligarchs and would strengthen U.S. ability to press a new strategic dialogue based on mutual interest.

Senator Lugar is president of The Lugar Center in Washington, D.C. He served for 36 years as a Republican U.S. Senator from Indiana.