INF Suspension: Who benefits?

On 2 February, the United States is planning on suspending it’s participation in the only treaty it has ever signed that actually ended an entire type of nuclear weapon- the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. It is worth asking who benefits from this decision.

Not the citizens of Europe.

Europe already hosts the majority of the world’s nuclear weapons, between the US bombs scattered across five countries, the French, the British, and of course the Russian bombs. With this suspension, there is a chance that more nuclear bombs could be coming to Europe, bringing us back to the worst parts of the last century, when thousands upon thousands of nuclear bombs littered the continent.

Follow the money

Those that benefit from this US plan to no longer abide by the INF are the companies that will make new nuclear weapons. If you look at the companies that are involved in new nuclear weapon production- Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon (to name a few), they are no doubt eager for new contracts to build weapons that were previously not permitted under the INF treaty.

For example, Boeing along with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, have been under contract to conduct studies in support of the Air Force Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) missile plans since 2013.[1] Though there have been repeated warnings about whether or not those new weapons would risk arms control and nuclear weapon risk reduction efforts. Remember, Lockheed Martin paid $4.7 million in fines a few years ago because it had used money it already got for nuclear weapon related activities to lobby for new contracts.[2]

New bombs are coming anyway

While the INF suspension by the US does open the door to some new types of nuclear missiles to maybe come to Europe, it’s also important to remember that there are already plans for new bombs to arrive.

Starting in Spring 2020, new bombs will begin arriving to Belgium, Germany, Italy, Turkey and even here in the Netherlands. These new bombs are designed with new capabilities, including guided tail kits, making them more appealing to military planners, and increasing the chance they will be used.

What about the Dutch?

There is long-standing opposition to nuclear weapons in Dutch culture.  Partly as a result of the embedding in the 1980s of a national anti-nuclear consciousness.  Also from ongoing education and information activities conducted, by, for example the Dutch Red Cross.  The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stefan Blok recognises this and refers to it in letters to Parliament. At the same time, the Minister fails to take bold actions in line with what the people want.

This past week, the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs published recommendations for the Dutch government in dealing with nuclear weapons. The advice was full of contradictions and inconsistencies, and sadly, rooted in historical somewhat outdated and MAD thinking. The main recommendation is for the Dutch Government to go to the United Nations and try to establish a commission to discuss options for nuclear disarmament. In a scathing op-ed one of the advisory council members himself called this outdated and a failure of imagination.

The advice also recommended that the Dutch make sure to retain it’s role as a possible user of nuclear by making sure that the new fighter jets ordered from Lockheed Martin are capable of dropping nuclear bombs (dual-capable).

Not unlike the suggestion around fighter jets, this keeps the Dutch in a bit of a dual position themselves-  both calling for more disarmament at the same time as planning activities (and hardware purchases) that are the opposite. This type of cognitive dissonance cannot be maintained indefinitely. Instead of delegitimising nuclear weapons, it delegitimises the Dutch voice in calling for disarmament, and that puts everyone at risk.

What next?

What’s really needed is to put some weight behind the claims of opposition to nuclear weapon development, what’s needed is to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons, the only global agreement offering a clear, unequivocal pathway to the end of the nuclear weapons era. What’s needed is to relegate nuclear weapons to the dustbin of history, not nuclear weapon treaties.




[1] InsideDefense, “Long-Range Standoff Missile Development Pushed Back By Three Years”, InsideDefense, 5 March 2014;
Malenic, M., “Industry expects LRSO RfP in months”, IHS Jane’s 360, 16 March 2016.

[2] Patrick M. Malone (2016) Nuclear weapon firms pay to settle illegal lobbying cases, USA Today. Available at: (Accessed: 1 February 2019).