Dec. 8 marked the 35th anniversary of the signing of the intermediate nuclear forces (INF) treaty. This landmark arms control event was the byproduct of years of hard-nose negotiations capped off by the political courage of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev who together signed the treaty and oversaw its ratification by their respective legislatures. The first inspectors went to work on July 1, 1988. I was fortunate to count myself among them. In August 2019, former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the INF treaty; Russia followed shortly thereafter, and this foundational arms control agreement was no more. The termination of the INF treaty is part and parcel of an overall trend which has seen arms control as an institution — and a concept — decline in the eyes of policy makers in both Washington and Moscow.
LaPlante is being poached directly from the military industry that is praising him, which he entered after serving in an acquisitions role under the Obama administration, where he was known for shepherding through major (and controversial) programs, such as the acquisition of the F‑35 fighter jet. By moving from government to industry, then back to government (should the Senate confirm him), all while the weapons industry cheers, LaPlante has spun through a well-trodden revolving door — a career trajectory that is entirely routine, but nonetheless scandalous. In a November 30 White House statement, President Biden praised LaPlante as a “seasoned national security leader with nearly four decades of experience in acquisition, technology, sustainment and the defense industrial base.”
Trump’s hostile and counterproductive acts have undermined the arms control regime that U.S. presidents have developed over the past seven decades. Every president from Eisenhower to Obama contributed to improving the verification and monitoring of strategic arms; reducing the numbers of strategic weapons; eliminating intermediate-range missiles, and/or trying to avoid accidental confrontation. During the presidential campaign in 2016, ten former nuclear control officers anticipated the worst and organized a letter stating that, if elected, Trump should not be given the nuclear codes. For the past two years, Trump has taken steps to thoroughly weaken the arms control regime. In 2018, Trump scuttled the Iran nuclear accord, which had brought a measure of predictability to the volatile Middle East. The Trump administration then scuttled the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which was responsible for the destruction of more missiles than any treaty in history. More recently, the Trump administration walked away from the Open Skies Treaty, which was negotiated by President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker in 1992, but has a history that dates to the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s. . .