Gorbachev: My Plea to the Presidents of Russia and
the United States
Mikhail Gorbachev was
leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 to
This December will mark
the 30th anniversary of the signing of the
treaty between the
Soviet Union and United States on the elimination of
intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. This was
the start of the process of radically cutting back
nuclear arsenals, which was continued with the 1991 and 2010 strategic
arms reduction treaties and the agreements reducing
tactical nuclear weapons.
scale of the process launched in 1987 is evidenced
by the fact that, as Russia and the United States reported to
Treaty Review Conference in
2015, 80 percent of the nuclear weapons accumulated
during the Cold War have been decommissioned and
destroyed. Another important fact is that, despite
the recent serious deterioration in bilateral
relations, both sides have been complying with the
strategic weapons agreements.
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,
however, is now in
jeopardy. It has
proved to be the most vulnerable link in the system
of limiting and reducing weapons of mass
destruction. There have been calls on both sides for
scrapping the agreement.
So what is happening, what is the
problem, and what needs to be done?
Both sides have raised issues of
compliance, accusing the other of violating or
circumventing the treaty’s key provisions. From the
sidelines, lacking fuller information, it is
difficult to evaluate those accusations. But one
thing is clear: The problem has a political as well
as a technical aspect. It is up to the political
leaders to take action.
Therefore I am making an appeal to
the presidents of Russia and the United States.
Relations between the two nations are
in a severe crisis. A way out must be sought, and
there is one well-tested means available for
accomplishing this: a dialogue based on mutual
It will not be easy to cut through
the logjam of issues on both sides. But neither was
our dialogue easy three decades ago. It had its
critics and detractors, who tried to derail it.
In the final analysis, it was the
political will of the two nations’ leaders that
proved decisive. And that is what’s needed now. This
is what our two countries’ citizens and people
everywhere expect from the presidents of Russia and
the United States.
upon Russia and the United States to prepare and
hold a full-scale summit on the entire range of
issues. It is far from normal that the presidents of
major nuclear powers meet merely “on
the margins” of
international gatherings. I hope that the process of
preparing a proper summit is in the works even now.
I believe that the summit meeting
should focus on the problems of reducing nuclear
weapons and strengthening strategic stability. For
should the system of nuclear arms control collapse,
as may well happen if the INF Treaty is scrapped,
the consequences, both direct and indirect, will be
The closer that nuclear weapons are
deployed to borders, the more dangerous they are:
There is less time for a decision and greater risk
of catastrophic error. And what will happen to the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if the nuclear arms
race begins anew? I am afraid it will be ruined.
If, however, the INF Treaty is saved,
it will send a powerful signal to the world that the
two biggest nuclear powers are aware of their
responsibility and take their obligations seriously.
Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief, and
relations between Russia and the United States will
finally get off the ground again.
I am confident that preparing a joint
presidential statement on the two nations’
commitment to the INF Treaty is a realistic goal.
Simultaneously, the technical issues could be
resolved; for this purpose, the joint control
commission under the INF Treaty could resume its
work. I am convinced that, with an impetus from the
two presidents, the generals and diplomats would be
able to reach agreement.
We are living in a troubled world. It
is particularly disturbing that relations between
the major nuclear powers, Russia and the United
States, have become a serious source of tensions and
a hostage to domestic politics. It is time to return
to sanity. I am sure that even inveterate opponents
of normalizing U.S.-Russian relations will not dare
object to the two presidents. These critics have no
arguments on their side, for the very fact that the
INF Treaty has been in effect for 30 years proves
that it serves the security interests of our two
countries and of the world.
In any undertaking, it is important
to take the first step. In 1987, the first step in
the difficult but vitally important process of
ridding the world of nuclear weapons was the INF
Treaty. Today, we face a dual challenge of
preventing the collapse of the system of nuclear
agreements and reversing the downward spiral in
U.S.-Russian relations. It is time to take the first
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