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Truman Doctrine comes back again

Writer: Winton Dong  | Editor: Jane Chen  | From:  | Updated: 2018-10-29

Historians often use the Truman Doctrine to date the start of the Cold War, a confrontational state of geopolitical tension between two of the primary World War II victors: the United States, its capitalist allies and the Soviet Union, its socialist bloc from 1947 to 1991.

The doctrine is an American policy with the clear purpose of countering Soviet geopolitical expansion. It was announced to Congress by then-U.S. President Harry Truman on March 12, 1947, when he pledged to offer US$400 million in financial aid to contain alleged threats to Greece and Turkey by revolutionary socialists. The doctrine became the foundation of American foreign policy and led, in 1949, to the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance that is still in effect today.

When the Cold War entered its final stage in 1987, the United States and the Soviet Union (and later its successor state, the Russian Federation) reached an arms control agreement and signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) that year. The treaty eliminated all ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, with ranges of 500-1,000 km (short-ranged) and 1,000-5,000 km (intermediate-ranged). The treaty does not cover sea and air-based missile systems. By May 1991, 2,692 missiles had been destroyed by the two superpowers, thus putting an end to the dangerous U.S.-Soviet nuclear confrontation in Europe.

However, on Oct. 20, 2018, citing Russian noncompliance in limiting strategic weapons by installing SSC-8 land-based cruise missiles, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the United States would pull out of the treaty. Such a move has astonished the world because it will dismantle an important cornerstone of post-Cold War nuclear security and balance. It also sends a strong signal that the Truman Doctrine, or the Cold War Mentality, is coming back to life and prevailing in the United States.

Trump’s withdrawing announcement came as his security adviser John Bolton was heading to Russia to hold talks with senior Russia leaders. Some observers thus speculated that Trump’s purpose is merely to woo votes in the coming midterm elections and gain an advantage when bargaining with Russia on important issues, since the scope of a U.S. president’s power to withdraw from Senate-approved treaties without congressional approval has been called into question.

Russia warned against a new nuclear arms race but also said it was open to having talks on how to preserve the existing treaty. For many years, the United States and Russia have been accusing each other of violating the decades-long arms control agreement. Moscow argued that the American decisions to establish bases capable of launching Tomahawk missiles in Poland and Romania were violations of the pact.

Frankly speaking, the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty will put Russia in a more disadvantageous position. With the help of such missiles based in Eastern Europe and the Far East, the U.S. can easily target any place in Russia, but Russian missiles with similar ranges cannot reach the homeland of the United States at all. Nevertheless, such a U.S. upper hand is achieved and based on the sacrifice of its European allies since many U.S. NATO allies in Europe will soon find themselves again exposed to a direct nuclear threat from Russia.

It is also reported that the U.S. intention to counter China is another reason for the withdrawal. Should Trump really pull the U.S. out of the treaty, it will then very possibly install short and intermediate-range missiles in the Territory of Guam and some Asian countries, bringing great menace to China’s national security.

“The INF is a bilateral treaty between the United States and Soviet Union. China is not a signatory of the treaty, so it is unreasonable and groundless for the U.S. to withdraw from the pact unilaterally with China as an excuse,” said Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)