The Nuclear Ultimatum


Sara Forsey, Staff Writer

Since the creation of nuclear weapons, many nations have been scared of an outbreak of nuclear war between countries. To prevent such a destructive war from happening, countries have implemented various treaties that would keep countries from using nuclear weapons. These treaties include the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Both of these treaties try to regulate the use of nuclear weapons and the progress of nuclear technology. The countries that have signed onto these treaties have kept their promises for over 50 years, but it seems that these treaties will soon come to an end.

There are two main treaties that the United States has taken part in that involve nuclear technology. The first treaty is the Non-Proliferation Treaty or the NPT, which was negotiated between 1965-1968 by the National Committee of Disarmament. The purpose of the treaty was to obtain peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to achieve nuclear disarmament. There were only five countries that had signed onto the treaty in the 1960s, and these countries were known as the five nuclear weapon countries. The definition of a nuclear weapon country is that a country had nuclear technology before January first of 1965. Therefore, this definition only pertains to the United States, Russia, England, France, and China. Although today, we have many more countries that have signed onto the Non-Proliferation Treaty, making a total of 161 countries that have signed the treaty. Even though the five nuclear weapon states are the only ones considered to be harbouring nuclear weapons, there have been many more countries that have admitted to concealing nuclear weapon technology such as India, Pakistan, and North Korea. There are also countries, such as Israel, that have not admitted to having nuclear weapons but are presumed to have the technology. Even though the treaty has helped to create peace between nations it has also created fear. Countries that do not have nuclear weapons feel unsafe while countries that do have nuclear weapons are trying to make sure they have the most advanced nuclear technology.

The second treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, or INF, was a treaty between the Soviet Union and the United States, pertaining to the use of nuclear weapons. Both countries signed the treaty in 1987, by President Ronald Reagan and general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It pertained to the elimination of intermediate-range and short-range missiles. The countries signed onto this treaty as they have had conflict with each other in the past and were both afraid that the other would use nuclear weapons on their country. The treaty eliminates any further creation or use of nuclear or conventional missiles which were in the range of 310-620 miles for short-range missiles and 620-3420 miles for intermediate-range missiles. With neither country creating new nuclear weapons, both countries were put at ease until now.  

Russia had broken their agreement as early as 2008 and have repeatedly denied the existence of new missiles or stated that the missiles were range complaint with the treaty agreements. The Obama administration had hoped to resolve the situation by not publicly accusing them of violating the INF treaty. There have been five confidential talks between arms experts that have been held since 2014, but Russia had continued to deny disobeying the treaty. It was not until December 4th, 2018, that NATO foreign ministers released a statement confirming Russia’s violations of the Nuclear Forces Treaty. There has been a development of a ground-launched cruise missile named 9M729 which created a material breach of the treaty between the two countries. On December 4th, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, stated that Russia had 60 days to become compliant with the international agreement of nuclear weapons. If Russia does not come back to terms with the agreement, the United States will also cease obeying the treaty, resulting in the demise of the INF treaty.

There are many potential effects that could happen if Russia does or does not comply with the INF treaty. If Russia does comply, the United States would be able to offer an ultimatum that restores the Trump administration’s diplomatic leverage over Moscow, but this outcome could also cause a strained relationship between the United States and Russia. If Russia doesn’t comply, relations between the United States and Russia would be completely compromised, and neither of the countries would know what the other is doing in regard to nuclear weapon technology. This result could ultimately create a nuclear arms race and a potential nuclear war between the two countries.



Deutsche Welle. “Russia’s Controversial 9M729 Missile System: A Not-so-Secret Secret | DW | 05.12.2018.” DW.COM,

“Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty).” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State,

History of the NPT 1975-1995 – Reaching Critical Will.