Washington’s denunciation of INF Treaty destroys global security system and poses real threats
8 September 2019. PenzaNews. Russia will start producing the missiles previously forbidden by terms of the INF Treaty, from which Washington officially withdrew on August 2, but Moscow will not be the first to deploy them, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) on September 5.
“We said outright that we would not deploy anything after the Americans tested such a missile. We will make such missiles, of course, but we will not deploy them in the regions where no ground-based missile systems of this class of US manufacture have emerged,” Russian leader said.
“If US missiles are deployed in Japan or South Korea, we understand that this will be done to counterbalance potential threats from North Korea, but it will create certain considerable problems for us. Most probably these missile systems will be able to reach targets on a vast area in Russia, including the Far East,” the head of state explained.
Earlier, at a press conference in Helsinki on August 21, Vladimir Putin drew attention to the fact that the US test of the ground version of the Tomahawk missile that can be launched from installations already deployed in Romania and planned for deployment in Poland, poses new threats to Russia, and they will not go unanswered.
“It only requires a change of software. I am not sure that our American friends will even inform their European partners about the software they use in these systems. For us this means a new threat appearing that we must respond to,” he said.
On August 23, at a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council in Kremlin, the president of the country stressed that the use of the MK-41 universal launcher during the US test fully confirms the validity of the claims that Russia set forth to the United States during the agreement’s validity period.
“The fact that stands out is that the testing of a missile with the characteristics prohibited under this Treaty took place only 16 days after the Washington’s denunciation of the Treaty. Clearly, the test was not an improvisation but another link in the chain of long-planned measures that were taken in the past. This only proves the validity of our concerns that were expressed earlier. Even in prior years, we were aware that the United States had long been developing the weapons banned by the INF Treaty. We repeatedly informed our partners about that. But instead of rectifying this unacceptable situation and getting back to observing the Treaty, the Americans orchestrated a propaganda campaign claiming that Russia is in breach. As we all see now, the only purpose of that campaign was to provide cover for Washington’s own actions in violation of the Treaty and its initial plan to withdraw,” Vladimir Putin said.
Speaking to MGIMO students on September 2, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia invited NATO members to join a “voluntary moratorium” on the deployment of intermediate and shorter-range missiles, but had not yet received a positive response.
“Let me remind you that, despite the US has destructed the INF treaty we made a very important political gesture. President Putin said the treaty no longer exists, but we will take tit-for-tat measures: if the United States begins to develop such weapons, we reserve the right to do the same. If they test it, we will gain the same right [...] And if the United States refrains from deploying it in Europe or in Asia, then we will not take the same steps. This is a serious offer. In fact, this is a moratorium, a voluntary moratorium, which we have already voiced for NATO members, inviting them to collectively join it. They have not yet responded with consent,” Foreign Minister said.
Commenting on the difficult situation in the field of global security, Greg Thielmann, Board Member of the Arms Control Association and former office director in the State Department's intelligence bureau, INR, who was specializing in political-military and intelligence issues, said that both countries have made a serious mistake in withdrawing from the treaty.
He said that he shared the official position of the White House on alleged Russia’s violations of the treaty, but at the same time believed that the United States was insufficiently diligent in pursuing a resolution of compliance issues.
“Since 2014, when both sides accused each other of treaty violations, there have been only two meetings – in 2016 and 2017 – of the Special Verification Commission, the mechanism designated by the treaty for addressing compliance concerns. Neither side ever proposed reciprocal visits and inspections of the systems whose capabilities were in question – Russia’s 9M729 cruise missile and the US Mark 41 Aegis Ashore missile defense launchers in Romania,” Greg Thielmann said.
According to him, the fate of the Russian-American New START treaty also remains unclear.
“Since it entered into force in 2011, New START has helped stabilize the US-Russian strategic relationship, and avoid significant amounts of unnecessary defense spending. If the treaty is allowed to expire without a replacement, the result will almost inevitably be a new, unconstrained nuclear arms race with each side overestimating the capabilities and malign motives of the other. This prospect appears likely if President Trump is reelected in 2020,” the analyst explained.
However, if any of the Democratic candidates win in 2020, it should be possible to quickly utilize the 5-year extension option built into the treaty, assuming that Russia cooperates, he said.
“Negotiating the inclusion of new weapons types and lowering the existing limits would be facilitated by New START extension,” Greg Thielmann stressed.
Answering the question about possibility of concluding a multilateral agreement on nuclear arms control, the expert expressed the opinion that this is premature.
“It will be necessary for the United States and Russia, with 90% of the world’s total nuclear weapons, to achieve further bilateral reductions before third-countries can be persuaded to join in numerical limits. But existing international agreements, like the Outer-Space Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty have already made progress in multilateral nuclear arms control, pointing the path to more extensive progress on nuclear disarmament in coming years,” the expert said.
Meanwhile, Petr Topychkanov, Senior Researcher in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said that it was difficult to justify the end of the treaty in the situation, when in fact this document didn’t significantly affect the security interests of nether US or Russia.
“Unlike the US–Soviet juxtaposition in the Cold war, today’s disagreements between two sides don’t mean the high risk of armed conflict. […]So, the question about why now the United States and Russia need intermediate nuclear forces remains unanswered for me. I didn't see any convincing arguments in favor of the US or Russian withdrawal because of third parties, such as China. The existing nuclear capabilities of Russia and the United States allow then to have reliable deterrence relations with each other or third parties,” the analyst said.
Speaking about the possible US exit from New START, he called this prospect unfortunate, stressing that it will affect the transparency and predictability of the United States and Russia for each other.
“The lack of these two features will give the ground to more significant suspicions that will fuel the arms competition between two nuclear-weapon states, if not to say the arms race. It will also attract the fire of criticism from the countries, supporting the nuclear disarmament goal. On the legal front, it will weaken the nuclear nonproliferation regime and strengthen the regime that will arise around the new TPNW,” Petr Topychkanov explained.
At the same time, he added that he would avoid assessing the prospects for maintaining the New START.
“The only point is clear. If the political will to save the New START prevails in both Moscow and Washington, there are no significant obstacles for expanding or re-negotiating this document,” SIPRI expert said.
Commenting on the possible creation of a comprehensive agreement that could be signed by other nuclear powers, the expert said that this possibility doesn’t look real.
“At the current stage, the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty and the risk of the New START survival make this possibility even more unreal. First, because after killing the last nuclear arms control agreements, both the United States and Russia will affect their reputation as reliable partners for negotiating future arms control mechanisms. Second, the INF Treaty end and a shadow of death over the New START provoke the crisis of the nuclear disarmament and arms control agendas among the nuclear-armed states. When two leading nuclear-weapon states fail to preserve these treaties, it will be harder to engage other possessors of nuclear weapons into multilateral arms control frameworks,” Petr Topychkanov said.
In turn, Frank von Hippel, American physicist from Princeton University, who served the Assistant Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, expressed confidence that in order to reduce their nuclear potential, Moscow and Washington should have a clear idea of further intentions of China in this field.
“I do think that, at some point, it will be important for China to at least agree to a ceiling to its nuclear forces in order for Russia and the US to continue to reduce,” Frank von Hippel explained.
Asked about the justifiability of Donald Trump’s decision to denounce the INF Treaty, the expert emphasized that he did not consider the withdrawal from the agreement a correct response, even though in his opinion, Russia may have violated the INF Treaty.
Frank von Hippel also expressed concern about the future of New START, while adding that there was still a chance to maintain the agreement.
“New START expires just after the next US president comes into office. If that president is not Donald Trump, perhaps the US and Russia could extend it for another five years to give time for negotiating a successor agreement,” a former White House adviser said.
Commenting on recent US cruise missile tests, Patrick Sensburg, German MP from the CDU/CSU fraction, said that these cruise missiles “have been indeed banned under the INF Treaty.”
“The agreement prohibited both sides from producing, testing and owning ground-based ballistic missiles and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Sea-based missiles of this range were allowed, however. That’s how it can be explained why the US could test a missile so soon after the end of the contract. It might be very similar to the sea-based missiles,” the politician suggested.
From his point of view, security situation is becoming more unpredictable.
“It is unclear whether President Trump plans to replace the INF or to renew another major treaty, called New START, which drove American and Russian nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in nearly 60 years. The decision of suspending has the potential to incite a new arms race — not only with Russia, but also with China. The world could be left without any limits on the nuclear arsenals of nuclear states for the first time since 1972,” Patrick Sensburg said.
Given this circumstance, he pointed out the importance of the participation of third countries in further nuclear arms control agreements.
“I would consider an agreement between US, Russia, China and the European Union as a major step forward in atomic dismantling. But I believe that achieving this is a great challenge, because the US do not agree on this issue yet. However, in this context, efforts should be made to reach out to other major nuclear states – for example, countries in the European Union or India. That would provide a much stronger basis for disarmament of nuclear weapons in the world,” the politician concluded.