STRASBOURG – Members of the European Parliament are concerned by US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) treaty with Russia and called for a coordinated EU response as the short and medium range missiles would mostly affect Europe.
“The damage will arrive in Europe before to those who are breaking the treaty,” European Peoples Party Vice President Esteban González Pons from Spain told New Europe, who called for a joint EU statement on the matter.
At press conferences at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on February 12, New Europe asked the European Parliamentarians about the White House’s decision to walk away from the INF treaty.
S&P President Udo Bullmann said a withdrawal from the INF treaty is a major threat to the security of Europe. “My Group (the S&P) is very worried about the developments and, of course, we know that the last decades of peace in Europe were also due to the fact that we had a clear cut arrangement for short and medium range missiles and we have to do everything to keep developments under control. That is our appeal to Moscow, as well as towards Washington,” Bullmann said, adding that Europeans must be united so that the EU does not once again become “a battleground for single-minded strategies which do not respect our peoples’ hope for peace.”
German MEP Elmar Brok acknowledged that the INF withdrawal would affect Europe but reminded that INF is treaty between Russia and the US. “Both are free to do what they want. But I believe the Americans should have had better consultations with us instead of just saying ‘no’. To go out of the treaty is a very big mistake that is very welcomed by (Russian President) (Vladimir) Putin because, if there is no treaty, then there is no Russian obligation anymore. The Americans have given up too easily on the Russian’s obligations. Therefore, I believe, this decision to leave the treaty is a political mistake.”
For his part, ALDE President Guy Vernofstadt from Belgium said his group is also worried due to the fact that they are concerned about the prospect of “putting nuclear missiles in Europe. All of this was avoided by the INF treaty. So what we see is a return back into the past with this decision,” Vernofstadt said.
Vernofstadt also said the EU should have a clear position on this issue and reiterated his belief that “the rule of unanimity in these cases of foreign affairs has to be abolished as fast as possible, otherwise we will never be able to take any position in these talks and everything will be decided above our head by the Americans and Russians.”
Greens/EFA co-Presidents Philippe Lamberts from Belgium and Ska Keller from Germany also expressed their dismay at the situation. “The US withdrawal from the INF treaty following alleged breaches to the INF treaty by Russia are things that are posing major concerns for us,” Lamberts said. He went on to reiterate that his group’s opposition to nuclear weapons and called for arms control and nuclear disarmament. “This is a step on the opposite direction which we cannot possibly condone…we are gravely concerned that the sabre-rattling that we see from both Russia and the United States is not helping.”
Keller pointed out that there is already an anti-nuclear initiative on the table. In 2017, the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
“We call on the European Union member states to finally ratify this treaty because it’s a bit ridiculous when the governments say, ‘Oh my god, what are we going to do and it’s so bad,’ and they refuse this treaty that we already have on the table and calls for a ban on all nuclear arms,” Keller said.