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Latest news | Defence Secretary must not cheerleader US nuclear treaty withdrawal

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Defence Secretary must not cheerleader US nuclear treaty withdrawal

SNP Defence Spokesperson, Stewart McDonald has called on the Defence Secretary to come before Parliament to clarify comments that suggests a shift in position over the UK’s role in adhering to a key international treaty with Russia.

In a letter to Gavin Williamson, the SNP’s Defence spokesperson warned that just as no coherent case has been made by the US Government to depart from the treaty, there can be no case for the UK Government supporting their decision without any questions.

The full letter read:

Dear Secretary of State

The news that the government of the United States intends to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is of deep international concern. It is understood that US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, will confirm his government’s departure from the treaty during a visit to Moscow this week.

Although this action raises many questions, I am struck by the conflicting and somewhat inconsistent statement that you have made, which has been quoted in in many media outlets today. It does appear that you have stated your backing for the US decision to leave the treaty, whilst at the same time calling on Russia to come back into compliance with the treaty.

Whilst you are correct to identify – as was done under the Obama administration – that the Russian Government has broken its obligations under the treaty, the desire of the US Government to leave the treaty marks a dangerous course to be on – a course that cannot be seen to be in the UK, NATO or the international community’s interests.

Which is why I am concerned at your apparent support for this move, and a somewhat lukewarm support for, and defence of, the treaty itself.

The Trump administration announced an integrated strategy aimed at achieving Russian compliance just under one year ago. If this strategy is deemed to have failed, then it is vital that the US Government state publicly what efforts it has undertaken to achieve compliance and outline sufficiently and convincingly why it now feels departure is the only option. It plainly has not done so. Indeed it would be fair to conclude that, although the complaints are not new, the sudden desire to depart seems more like dangerously capricious electioneering, which is partly why the UK Government’s response must be sober and cool headed.

It is precisely because no clear and convincing case has been made for US departure from the treaty, that there can be no case for the UK government supporting their departure. Indeed it is hard to envisage a scenario where the Russian Government will observe the limits and obligations of the treaty whilst the United States departs from it, apparently with British Government support.

It is also fair to say that there appears to have been no effort on your part to help ensure that the signatories comply with the treaty’sobligations. Indeed this weekend’s remarks on your visit to New York are the first you have made as Defence Secretary on the INF treaty.

The signing of this treaty marked a major point in the winding down of the cold war. It cannot be the case that such a major diplomatic milestone is to be cast aside by our ally in such a manner, and certainly not with the UK Government’s support. This would undermine UK efforts to strengthen the rules based order that we all wish to see maintained in these challenging times.

As this issue is of such profound importance to international orderand peace, it would be right and proper for you to make an oral statement to the House of Commons following defence questions. This will allow you to set out what efforts you have undertaken to protect the integrity of the treaty, what strategy you intend to pursue should the US Government follow through on its intention to leave the treaty and allow parliament its proper function to scrutinise these important developments. I hope you will agree to do so.


Stewart McDonald MP

SNP Spokesperson for Defence

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Tags: defence

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