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Washington’s withdrawal from INF Treaty without alternative project to undermine world stability

23:06 | 23.12.2018 | Analytic

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23 December 2018. PenzaNews. The international community continues to actively monitor the situation around the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after the US stated their intent to withdraw from the agreement if Russia “will not return to compliance with its terms and conditions” within 60 days.

Washington’s withdrawal from INF Treaty without alternative project to undermine world stability

Photo: Mil.ru

According to Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, the US Embassy in Moscow delivered an official note to the Foreign Ministry on December, 4, but it reproduced “groundless accusations of alleged violations by Russia without any evidence to back these claims.”

“Let me emphasise that Russia has never received any materials, data or facts from anyone proving that Moscow was in breach of this treaty or failed to comply in good faith with its provisions. We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the INF Treaty as one of the cornerstones of strategic stability and international security,” she said at the briefing on December, 5.

Analyzing difficult situation, Thomas Graham, Lecturer in Russian and European Studies at European Studies Council, MacMillan Center, Yale University, said that Russia and the United States, despite mutual accusations of violating the INF Treaty, have the opportunity to ensure the opposite.

“Experts agree that there are technical solutions that would enable each country to determine that the other side is now in compliance with the treaty. The issue is whether there is sufficient political will and desire in Moscow and Washington to save the treaty. Or whether each for its own reasons would rather be free of the limitations imposed by the INF Treaty,” Thomas Graham told PenzaNews.

From his point of view, today the question of strategic stability is no longer one that can be decided solely between the United States and Russia, as was the case during the Cold War.

“The strategic landscape has changed radically since the INF Treaty was signed in 1987. While the United States and Russia remain by a wide margin the preeminent nuclear powers, the nuclear equation is becoming increasingly multipolar as other countries, particularly China, expand their nuclear arsenals. In addition, several countries, including China, India, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan, have intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their arsenals, which are not subject to the limitations of the INF Treaty,” the analyst explained.

According to him, in these circumstances the treaty needs to be multilateral.

“Achieving that would require arduous negotiation, and there is no guarantee of success. Nevertheless, even if the INF Treaty no longer makes sense, there is a reason to try to save it for the moment. Saving it would restore a modicum of trust between the United States and Russia, trust that would help the two countries to develop a way to move beyond the INF Treaty toward a new structure of arms control appropriate for today’s world,” Thomas Graham said.

In his opinion, Russia and the US are the best countries to develop such a concept adequate to the challenges of today.

“Instead of casting blame at one another for undermining strategic stability, the two countries would be better served by starting discussions aimed at jointly developing a new concept of strategic stability and then persuading other countries to adopt it. That would provide the basis for a new structure of arms control appropriate for the world we now live in. The question is how to start such discussions given the deepening antagonism between the two countries. To that question, there is no easy answer. I wish that the United States and Russia would show enough statesmanship to put an end to the deterioration in bilateral relations,” the analyst added.

In turn, Patrick Sensburg, German MP from the CDU/CSU fraction, reminded that for years the US has voiced concerns about Russia’s alleged non-compliance with the INF Treaty.

“For this reason I would like Russia to rebut our concerns with the aim of leading the discussion to be more transparent. In fact, we need to build better trust between our governments,” the politician said.

At the same time, in his opinion, the existing contract should not be terminated without an alternative project prepared in advance.

“Important treaties with the aim of disarming such as the INF should not be prematurely terminated unilaterally without any alternative – even if we are in doubt whether one side sticks to the contract or not. Together, we must work to ensure more international trust and security and we should get further then the already agreed rules and not beyond,” Patrick Sensburg said.

According to him, the world community should do everything possible to keep the agreement in action.

“We should do everything we can to maintain within the contract. The INF treaty is seen as an anchor for peace in Europe and the world. Nevertheless, the treaty needs a modernization, for example, not only involving Russia and the United States, but also countries like China,” the German MP said.

Meanwhile, Steven Pifer from Center for International Security and Cooperation, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University, and former United States Ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2000), ex-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, suggested that in the near future the INF Treaty will lose its power.

“Unfortunately, I fear that we are seeing the end of the INF Treaty, which will have a negative impact on European and global security,” the expert stressed.

In his opinion, the major problem is that Russia “has deployed the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile” [SSC-8 according to Western classification; the US consider it to be a medium-range missile, prohibited by the INF Treaty; Russia is sure that the rocket is not subject to the agreement, since it was not developed or tested for such a range].

“The White House does not seem interested in preserving in treaty, and some in Pentagon would like to develop a US ground-launched intermediate-range missile. In these circumstances, no one seems to be pressing a strategy to maintain the treaty and its limits,” Steven Pifer explained.

However, breaking the agreement will bring negative consequences for both countries, he said.

“With the treaty’s demise, Russia will be free to deploy its ground-launched intermediate-range missiles. At some point, the United States and NATO will decide on military countermeasures to ensure that Russia does not gain any meaningful advantage from its deployments. The end result is likely to be less stability, less security and greater military expenses for both sides,” former US ambassador said and added that it’s important to remember why the INF Treaty was concluded in the first place.

Pal Steigan, Norwegian politician, publisher, writer, independent entrepreneur in the field of culture and information technology, shared the view that the contract would be terminated.

“With the one-sided attack on the INF Treaty by the Trump-administration I think it is beyond salvation. A treaty between two parties cannot be saved by only one of them,” the politician stressed.

In his opinion, the US has given Russia the clear signal that it will not abide by the treaty.

“Russia will have to take that into account. I cannot see any reason or even wisdom in it for them to uphold the politics of the treaty. So then you have a new arms race. But in fact there is a new arms race already. The US are positioning new theatre nuclear weapons and has launched The Nuclear Posture Review [document published by the US Department of Defense] which spells it out load that the US opens for field use of tactical nuclear weapons. And China and Russia have answered in kind presenting their new weapons,” Pal Steigan said.

According to him, the main obstacle to mutual understanding between the two countries are the American elites.

“The outline of an understanding between Trump and Putin in Helsinki would have been a good place to start. But Trump is not allowed to walk along that path by his own deep state. The Helsinki meeting opened up for disarmament and new treaties, but the deep state and the military industrial complex cannot accept that,” the politician said.

“We have been balancing on the brink of nuclear war since September 2013. It is a very dangerous situation and nuclear war could be triggered by a series of international events. And the Western politicians are sleepwalking into it,” Pal Steigan added.

In turn, Matthew Bunn, a nuclear-security expert and a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, suggested that it is possible, but difficult to rescue the treaty.

“Russia could, for example, say: “We don't think our 9M729 missile is a problem, but as a gesture of good will, we will dismantle the limited number of these missiles that exist, if you will add something to the Mk. 41 launcher that makes it clear it cannot fire cruise missiles,” the analyst suggested one of the scenarios.

In his opinion, the INF Treaty is still a very important document.

“Although many things have changed, saving the INF Treaty would serve both US and Russian security better than abandoning it. If the United States withdraws, then US allies in Europe and Asia face unlimited threats from Russian INF-range missiles, […] and Russia might face a short-time-of-flight threat to its nuclear command and control systems, as the US Pershing II missiles posed before they were dismantled, making any nuclear crisis more dangerous,” Matthew Bunn said.

In his opinion, the United States and Russia have to get back to talking to each other seriously about each of their concerns, and trying to find ways to build confidence and reduce the threats that each side sees as most dangerous.

“Russian President Putin and US President Trump should agree again that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and direct their experts to work seriously to reduce the nuclear dangers the two sides’ arsenals pose,” the analyst said.

“The United States and Russia should also get military-to-military contacts and nuclear scientist-to-nuclear-scientist cooperation going again. It is a danger to both our countries and to the world that the world’s largest nuclear complexes are proceeding in total isolation from each other,” the expert concluded.

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