【明報專訊】LAST week US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed with the Soviet Union in 1987 on the grounds that Russia had repeatedly violated the treaty and that China, which has not signed the treaty, was able to enjoy a lot of advantages in the sense that it could conduct research on intermediate-range missiles and deploy a lot of them with free rein. Though Europe has expressed grave misgivings about the US's withdrawal, Russia's reactions have not been as strong as expected. John Bolton, the National Security Advisor of the US, has even forged a consensus over a new summit between Trump and Vladimir Putin next month in Paris.
The INF, which bans the development of land-based regular missiles and nuclear missiles that have a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres, is regarded as the cornerstone of the security of Europe. For that reason, some European countries are strongly dissatisfied with the US's withdrawal from the treaty. Heiko Maas, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, has said that the INF has to do with core European interests, and Germany will try its best to save the treaty. As the interests of many sides are at stake, the future of the treaty will be dependent on the manoeuvre of all sides.
One of the reasons why Trump wanted to withdraw from the INF was that as the mid-term elections were drawing near, he was hoping that such an action could counter the long-standing allegation of collusion with Russia. The second reason was to maintain a unipolar military dominance and curb the military might of China and Russia so as to weaken them. This would also be advantageous to the US's Military-Industrial Complex (MIC).
Last week John Bolton visited Russia, explaining to the Russian side why the US was considering the withdrawal from the INF. That Russia did not strongly condemn the move shows that it had been prepared for that. Contrary to expectation, the two sides reached a consensus that both presidents would conduct a summit in Paris on the 11th of November on the sidelines of the commemoration of the centenary of the end of the First World War. That will be the second summit between Trump and Putin, the first being the one held in Helsinki, Norway in July. The two countries have also agreed to maintain communication and cooperation between their military forces on the issue of Syria. Negotiations on fighting terrorism at the level of deputy secretaries and business interactions have been scheduled for the end of this year and next year respectively. No wonder that Bolton has praised the dialogue with Russia as "constructive".
In the new rivalry between China, the US and Russia, China and the US have become the principal adversaries. The meetings between Donald Trump and Putin in Paris next month, between Xi Jinping and Putin at the APEC summit and between Xi and Trump at the G20 summit will see scene after scene of alliances forged and countered in the midst of geopolitical considerations. Though the momentum is with the US at the moment, it is not getting everything it wants, as Europe and Japan have their own calculations as well. As the disagreements between the US and Russia cannot be alleviated fundamentally, there is a practical need for cooperation between China and Russia. The strategic pipe dream of the US driving a wedge between China and Russia or even working with Russia to counter China is likely to remain a pipe dream.
《中程導彈條約》（Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty，INF）禁止研發部署射程在500至5500公里的陸基常規導彈和核導彈，被視為歐洲安全的基石，因此歐洲國家對美國有意退出該條約強烈不滿。德國外長馬斯表示，INF關係到歐洲核心利益，德國將盡最大努力維持條約。由於涉及多方利益，條約何去何從，還須視乎各方博弈結果。
ground : a good or true reason for saying, doing or believing sth
pipe dream : an idea or plan that is impossible or very unlikely to happen
drive a wedge : to make the relationship between two people or groups worse