PICTURED: The 2K12 “Kub” (Russian: 2К12 “Куб”; English: cube) mobile surface-to-air missile system is a Soviet low to medium-level air defence system. Photo Credit, Andrey Korchagin.
August 2nd, 2019. Concluded in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that prohibited land-based medium range ballistic missiles from being stationed in Europe and Asia is no longer in action upon the world stage.
The United States withdrew from the INF effective immediately citing alleged failure by the Russian government to comply with the treaty.
“The facts are clear. The Russian Federation is producing and fielding an offensive capability that was prohibited by the INF Treaty.” said the Department of Defense In a statement.
“As stated by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today, NATO’s position is united and clear: Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty. The United States is not”.
Throughout the Trump administration, the United States has laid the groundwork it might be fair to say, for certain plans to commence at a moment in time when the treaty might not be in place. According to the same statement:
“In light of Russia’s noncompliance, the Department of Defense commenced Treaty-compliant research and development activities beginning in 2017. The department’s initial research and development efforts focused on mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems. Because the United States scrupulously complied with its obligations to the INF Treaty, these programs are in the early stages. Now that we have withdrawn, the Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles as a prudent response to Russia’s actions…”
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters he does not believe the end of this treaty will result in a new arms race, even though the statement seems to indicate that there will be movements towards equipping the United States arsenal with such weapons as have been banned for 32 years; perhaps to catch up to Russia.
Further still, merely a day after the United States’ official withdrawal, Esper told reporters “yes, I would like to,” when asked if he wanted to deploy medium-range missiles in Asia now that the United States is free to do so.
“I would prefer months … But these things tend to take longer than you expect,” he added.
Both NATO and the United States point at Russian violations of the treaty as reason for its eventual death. This came from the development in 2017 that Russia’s 9M729 missile had violated the INF agreement because the weapon was believed to be considered “medium-range” – a capacity of striking a target between 500 to 5500 kilometres away.
Moscow has repeatedly denied claims of a treaty violation, claiming the new projectile has a maximum range of 480 kilometers — within INF parameters.
A New Cold War
“Now, Donald Trump and warmongering politicians in Washington have failed us. They continue to escalate tensions with other nuclear-armed countries like Russia and China and North Korea, starting a new Cold War, pushing us closer and closer to the brink of nuclear catastrophe,” said 2020 Presidential Candidate, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D – H.I.) in the July 31st presidential debates.
This was two days before the release of the Department of Defense statement announcing the US had formally withdrawn, and three days before Esper announced that their was not much risk of a new arms race, but that he wanted to get medium-range missiles in Asia within a few months. Amidst other closing statements regarding Medicare-for-All, higher wages, Green New Deals, and immigration reform, the timing of Mrs. Gabbard’s concern for a nuclear catastrophe is very interesting all considered.
The other chapter in the story is that since China was never a party to the INF, they’ve been filling their own arsenal with ground-based medium-range missiles – the sort the US has had on ice for three decades – and that this is a larger reason for the United States abandoning the treaty.
“Eighty percent of their inventory is intermediate-range systems. So that should not surprise that we would want to have a like capability,” Esper said on Saturday when asked about China.
He finished the questions by saying that any new treaties should include other nuclear powers, and expand the varieties of weapons controlled therin.