WASHINGTON, D.C. – Archbishop Timothy Broglio, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference international justice and peace committee, has expressed his unease at the United States’ decision to withdraw from a Reagan-era nuclear arms treaty.
In a statement released by the USCCB on February 5, Broglio, who is Archbishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services of the United States, highlighted the important function the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty has played in regulating the spread of nuclear arms in recent decades.
“I regret to learn of the U.S. government’s intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty that has served for over thirty years to reduce nuclear arsenals between the U.S. and Russia significantly,” Broglio said in the statement.
“Coupled with the news of the Russian reaction to this decision I am concerned for the potential of a new arms race created by these decisions,” he continued, and asked that Catholics and others around the world “join in prayer for renewed, earnest dialogue” between world leaders.
“May efforts on the part of all of us foster hope and encourage the aspiration of all peoples to live in peace and security,” said Broglio.
The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 between the Soviet Union and the United States. It banned land-based missiles that had a range between 310 and 3,400 miles, and resulted in thousands of missiles being destroyed.
President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the United States would be pulling out of the treaty. The administration has argued that the geopolitical landscape has changed dramatically since the treaty was signed, and that Russia had long since ceased to abide by the treaty’s terms.
“We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other,” Trump said in a statement announcing the change.
The U.S. formally suspended the INF Treaty on Sunday, and will officially leave in six months.
Trump said that the United States would “move forward with developing our own military response options,” and would work alongside NATO and other countries to “deny Russia any military advantage from its unlawful conduct.”
According to the U.S. government, Russia has been in violation of this treaty since at least 2014, including working to build an intermediate-range missile. This violation was identified five years ago.
With Russia’s non-compliance, the administration argues, the U.S. is the only country in the world prevented from developing these missile systems.
China, which is not part of the INF Treaty, possesses intermediate-range missiles that would be able to strike U.S. territories and military bases in the Pacific Ocean, seen by military strategists as a significant tactical advantage.
Dominican Father Thomas Petri, vice president and academic dean at the Dominican House of Studies, told CNA that the teachings of the Church recognize the “duties of governments to protect their citizens from unjust aggressors,” which means that war can happen “when necessary.”
Petri said that the magisterial documents of Vatican Council II urged against the creation of weapons stockpiles, and said that they were not an effective deterrent against wars.
“Essentially,” said Petri, “the Council Fathers thought every arms race is a trap.”
He also noted that “weapons of mass destruction—whether biological, chemical, or nuclear—are also immoral precisely because their destruction is not only grave and lasting but is also indiscriminate. Countries who possess these weapons have a serious responsibility before God and the world.”
Petri said that while the Church does not support the use of weapons of mass destruction, and “generally” is in favor of wide-scale disarmament, “it’s understood that the world lacks any super-authority to enforce such disarmament on countries and, increasingly, terroristic organizations.”
“So the Church leaves the negotiation of deterrence, disarmament, and weapons production in the hands of those whose vocation it is to oversee the common good: namely, government leaders,” he added.
Petri told CNA that we should “understand that disarmament and weapons management is a real concern, especially when there are countries and malefactors with ill intent that must be considered.”
“We continue to pray for the peace that only Christ can give, which is far more satisfying and enduring than simply the absence of war.”