INF Treaty in the Crossfire

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INF Treaty in the Crossfire

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Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

Lost among the most recent wave of anti-Russian hysteria were the very real US accusations of non-compliance with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty leveled at Russia. Specifically, the US accuses the Russian Federation of deploying or preparing to deploy prohibited land-based cruise missiles with a range of 500-5,000km, presumably land-based versions of the naval Kalibr or air-launched Kh-101 cruise missiles.

In response to the US allegations, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act provides some $58 million to study possible responses, including the re-deployment of land-based Tomahawks which were also eliminated by the INF Treaty, the development of a new conventional land-based cruise missile, the strengthening of NATO air defenses, and even a possible suspension of the Treaty. There is an ongoing discussion within the US of withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty which permits Russia and the US to perform observation flights over each other’s territory using specially modified aircraft. The relatively authoritative Foreign Policy journal went so far as to run an article claiming, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, that Russian Open Skies flights over the United States were used to collect transmissions from intelligence agents on the ground. Who, presumably, have no access to the Internet or any other modern communications device. Even the continuation of the START III treaty dealing with strategic nuclear armaments is being linked by some to the fate of the INF, although these linkages have been removed from the NDAA itself.

Making Reagan Alive Again

All in all, the Trump Administration is sticking to the strategy outlined earlier on the pages of SouthFront, namely attempting to repeat the most recent successful US revival–the Reagan Era which, since it incidentally coincided with the decline and ultimate collapse of USSR, has acquired mythical status in the United States. Reagan’s approach consisted of stepped-up support for a variety of anti-Soviet movements around the world, accusations of arms control treaty cheating, efforts to interfere with the construction of natural gas pipelines linking USSR and EEC, the deployment of “Euromissiles” such as the Pershing II and GLCM that the INF Treaty would ultimately ban, and a number of military operations around the world intended to show the US has overcome its Vietnam War malaise. The domestic components of the Reagan Era were tax cuts and deregulation which, coming on the heels of the stagflation of the 1970s, made eminent sense and were responsible for an upsurge in economic activity, though at the cost of rapidly mounting national debt. At the time, however, the combination of Reagan’s domestic and international successes was sufficient to win him a landslide victory in the 1984 election, the last landslide the US political system has witnessed and a feat Donald Trump would no doubt want to emulate.

At the same time, once economic rejuvenation and military rearmament were, Reagan’s officials showed signs of awareness their strategy was not a sustainable one due to mounting national debt and were quick to enter into negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev over the future of US-USSR relations and the future map of Europe. That the ultimate outcome was tragic for USSR had more to do with internal Soviet politics than with “American meddling.” But one cannot rule out the possibility at least a faction within the Trump Administration does not desire a similar future US-Russia rapprochement, one once again achieved from the “position of strength.” Though it doesn’t appear likely the US can achieve a similar advantage it once had over the Soviet Union in crisis.

The Return of Euromissiles?

The future of the INF Treaty will to a large degree depend on, and also demonstrate the degree to which the European Union is a powerful international actor capable of charting its own security and foreign policies. One of Reagan’s undoubted triumphs was his ability to secure the support of European governments, most notably that of Germany, to host the intermediate-range nuclear delivery vehicles INF would eventually eliminate, in the face of extensive public protest.

That success is unlikely to be repeated. Angela Merkel’s efforts notwithstanding, it is dawning on the German political class that blindly following in US footsteps is a recipe for disaster.  Nowhere has US foreign policy led to an outcome that anyone in Germany might find beneficial. Rather to the contrary: the flood of refugees has been quite disruptive of German and European politics. Secondly, German leaders are growing aware of the economic implications of Trump’s America First policies. The tax reform bill which seems destined for passage and which Donald Trump is guaranteed to sign has already raised concerns in the EU for its WTO-violating “double taxation” provisions that are aimed at encouraging major corporations to invest in the US at the expense of Europe. The awareness of the US aim to make Europe dependent on US energy supplies, which to this day is the main motive behind the US coups and attempted coups in Ukraine, Syria, and even Libya, informs German determination to keep North Stream 2 alive.

Germany also has the highest stake in the future of INF. The demise of INF would naturally mean the return of de-facto strategic US nuclear weapons to Germany and a Russian response that would place lots of nuclear cross-hairs all over Germany. The relatively restrained language of the NDAA may have been influenced by Germany’s unwillingness to endorse US accusations at a NATO meeting dedicated to discussing this issue. Therefore, for now at least, the US is unwilling to risk a major breach with Europe which, moreover, just recently launched the PESCO initiative whose aim appears to be as much about making Europe independent of US “security blanket” as it is about “containing Russia.”

Toward a New Security Framework

The oft-repeated accusation that Russia is somehow “destroying the post-Cold War order” fails to acknowledge that order was destroyed with the annihilation of Yugoslavia and the first rounds of NATO eastward expansion, all of which took place under the first US post-Cold War administration of Bill Clinton. These power shifts have undone many of the assumptions inherent in the 1980s-era arms control treaties such as the INF and the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE). The US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty by the George W. Bush administration also changed the strategic calculus in a way that is unfavorable to Russia.

Technology has not stood still, either. Cruise missiles have become smaller, more precise, and far more ubiquitous. While in the 1980s Tomahawks were carried in cumbersome 4-missile containers bolted to decks of warships, currently every US cruiser and destroyer boasts around 100 Tomahawk-capable Mk41 launch cells, with these ships paying regular “visits” to the Baltic and Black seas. Mk41 launchers are also part of the Aegis Ashore ABM installations in Poland and Romania, which also appears to be a fairly blatant violation of INF. The proliferation of sub-strategic air-launched cruise missiles like the JASSM and its equivalents also places the viability of the current arms control framework into question.

The best outcome that can be expected from the current US round of strategic destabilization is a new set of arms control conferences, this time of trilateral character, with Russia, EU, and US each having a seat at the table, in order to establish not only a new set of rules to govern behavior on the European continent, but also to codify the de-facto transition to a multipolar world order.

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  • as

    European sleepwalking into MAD to preserve USA global hegemony.

  • Rob

    On 18th December, 2017, the US vetoes the Palestinians resolution unilaterally against all Muslims and non Muslims communities. Trump have decided to give Muslims holly land and Aqsa mosque to the Zionist extremists Israel. which is laterally a big stroke to Palestinian sovereignty and to all Muslims communities in the world.

    This was the land of Palestinians before entering of Israeli refugees. Now how much land left with Palestinians 90%? NO, 80%? No, only 10% land left with Palestinians and in this 10% land Israeli still keep continue new settlements. So it means that nobody is safe in this world. Now all world communities need to become united against radical Zionist extremists and racists Trump and Israel and help Palestinians to kick out all Israel from Palestine. These two evils cannot deceive the world anymore.

    • You can call me Al

      Regards Palestine, I was shocked at the extent of the land grab, as seen below.

      https://dailystormer.red/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2c0ee9f4f58a2d9232f737498250c8e3.png

      • Rob

        The Muslim leaders cannot protect their nations because with whom they are fighting from them they are buying weapons. The Muslims enemies are America, France and UK. Muslim should stop purchasing weapons from them and should buy from other friendly countries with whom they are not fighting.

  • Joe

    Step by step one can see US is preparing for a war in Europe where Russians and Europe will destroy each other as well as in China.

    US spared

    • PZIVJ

      It’s called MAD for a reason, the US will not be spared.
      Time to work out differences on the INF and SALT III treaties again, for the good of all.

    • as

      US won’t be spared. What basis you think they’re safe from nuclear options ?

  • The Sand Castle INF Treaty
    ANDREI MARTYANOV • DECEMBER 13, 2017 • 2,200 WORDS • 82 COMMENTS

    Scott Ritter decries the de facto death of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, also known as the INF Treaty, in his excellent piece in The American Conservative. But by now, anyone with even a rudimentary background in international politics and military affairs knows very well that most arms limitations treaties with the United States are not worth the paper on which they were written. It is specifically in this field, arms limitations, where the United States serves as Exhibit A of a treaty un-worthy party. The INF Treaty was hailed as a milestone in arms limitations in the late 1980s. Even a Tony and Pulitzer nominated play A Walk in the Woods by Lee Blessing described the circumstances leading to the signing of this treaty. But that is the end of any connection with the strategic reality about the first major Soviet-American nuclear arms reduction treaty of the Gorbachev period.

    http://www.unz.com/article/the-sand-castle-inf-treaty/

    • as

      US missiles and air defense system remains inferior to the one Russia fields while the Chinese are rapidly catching up via digital control technology they invested.
      Anyway the INF intended to preserve some defensive capability of the European country against the Soviet since the US lacked in those Intermediate to longer ranged missiles and the treaty assured that their European vassals won’t be immediately incinerated without making substantial damage to the Soviet that they risks to be attacked afterwards. Now with deployments of missiles complexes both declared and undeclared into once the outermost front of Soviet and substantial reduction in what was the Soviet Union landmass the russia as the targets the preemptive plans gain more confidence than it ever was amongst their military planners. That leave the Chinese and their containment programs haven’t even begun in earnest and for the preemptive plans to work they’d need to take out both at the same time. Maybe that’s why the Chinese try to incorporated the nine dash line islets into their territories and rapidly militarizing them. It sends the message that their containment won’t work as well as the US co conspirator country south to their east were kept in check.