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As landmark INF treaty closes in on 30 years, will it survive? (Part III)

Ratcheting tensions between the US and Russia leave the future of the Cold War pact in doubt

Alex Christoforou

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(Oriental Review) – Part 3. Russia’s stance on the future of the INF Treaty

Russia feels that the current, inauspicious environment of noncompliance with the INF Treaty is cause for alarm, given Washington’s continued, systematic, and methodical chipping away at this system of global strategic stability.

The onset of that process began in 2002, when Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which ensured strategic stability through the creation of a strategic balance of offensive and defensive weapons.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly criticized the State Department reports, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, which, among other things, voiced grievances against Russia owing to the supposed breaches of its commitments under the INF Treaty.

Moscow has primarily taken issue with these documents because they have never offered any specific details to back up these claims, instead merely reiterating the main articles of the 1987 treaty and adding various unproven allegations.

There has never been any clarification of the substance of either the American complaints or the comments of US officials who refer to some sort of “classified intelligence.” For this reason the Russian Foreign Ministry has declared its willingness to help the American diplomats correct this omission, at one time reminding them that objectivity and accuracy should always be prioritized over creative writing.

Russia contends that the “information” that the US previously submitted to Moscow via diplomatic channels, which allegedly should have made it possible for the Russians to identify the missile in question, was in fact incomplete, fragmentary data that in no way clarified the basis for the American complaints. In Russian governmental and political circles, it is a matter of serious concern that representatives of a number of US agencies are using these “facts” as a pretext for trotting out yet another justification for potential “countermeasures” in response to Russian “violations” of the 1987 treaty.

Russia has often stated that the two types of Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles cited by the US as “violations” of the INF Treaty, namely the mobile, ground-based RS-12M or Topol-M (SS-25) missiles, as well as the new RS-26 ICBM also known as the Rubezh, have never been classified as intermediate- or short-range missiles, since their flying range exceeds the maximum ceiling of 5,500 km defined by the Gorbachev-Reagan agreement. For this reason, these two ICBMs are only subject to the terms of a treaty of a different format and content, namely New START, which was signed in 2010.

The mobile launcher for RS-26 Rubezh

The mobile launcher for RS-26 Rubezh

Likewise, the 1987 agreement is in no way applicable to the operational R-500 missile, nor does that missile have anything to do with that agreement, since its maximum firing range falls below the minimum of 500 km, as defined by that treaty.

Moreover, the Russians have long reminded Washington that it is in fact the US that is breaching its treaty commitments under quite a number of arms-control agreements.

As early as Jan. 4, 2001, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued its first statement noting that the US, in violation of the INF Treaty, has a history of manufacturing a new type of ground-based, medium-range ballistic target missiles, known as Hera, based on the second and third stages of the Minuteman II ICBMs. However, the US side has offered no satisfactory response to this charge yet.

A similar statement, but broader in scope, was made by the Russian Foreign Ministry nine years later. In August 2010, it announced that the US were systematically violating the main provisions of the INF Treaty by using target missiles to fine-tune components of their missile-defense systems that simulate not only ballistic missiles such as Hera, but also LRALTs (long-range air-launch target missiles) and MRTs (medium-range targets). The Russian diplomatic office pointed out that under the 1987 agreement, the launch of such missiles qualifies as a test of a “new type” of intermediate-range land-based missile, which is a violation of Article VI of that treaty.

During the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the United States armed forces have often stated that they have routinely used short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles (the American side defines medium-range as between 1,000 and 3,000 km, while intermediate-range is 3,000–5,500) as target missiles while conducting operational tests to assess the effectiveness of the interceptors that are part of the US global missile-defense system.

This has been confirmed by official statements made by every director of the Missile Defense Agency of the US Department of Defense since 2001 at hearings before various Senate and House committees. On an ongoing basis since 2001, i.e., since active testing began of missile-defense systems in the US, the Pentagon has conducted 92 tests of its “missile shield,” using a full array of short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles as targets for its intercept tests.

Similar tests will continue in the US in 2018, and, hence, so will their violations of the INF Treaty, since the same types of dummy missiles of this range will again be used as targets for interception.

Moscow has been reminding Washington that the MK 41 multi-mission launchersused at American missile-defense sites in Romania and Poland that are equipped with the Aegis Ashore command and control system will be used to launch intermediate-range, land-based cruise missiles – a direct violation of the INF Treaty. It is important to remember that similar launchers were positioned in Romania back in May of 2016 and more should be in place in Poland by December of 2018.

US combat drones, which can also be loaded into the MK 41 launchers, are another problem for the INF Treaty, as they meet the 1987 agreement’s definition of land-based cruise missiles. The United States has added drones (also known as “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or UAVs) such as the Predator, Raptor, Global Hawk, and others to its arsenal, which under the treaty are all classified as ground-based cruise missiles, regardless of the fact that they were produced and pressed into service after that agreement had been signed. Heavy UAVs of this type, which carry aircraft ordnance, clearly qualify as aerodynamic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km, which are prohibited by the INF Treaty.

As landmark INF nuclear treaty closes in 30 years, will it survive?

In the future it might well be possible to load “dual-capable” launchers of this type with the high-precision, hypersonic weaponry developed by the Pentagon for its Prompt Global Strike program.

The US has repeatedly provided official confirmation of the fact that it is using short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles as targets to test the effectiveness of its interceptor missile-defense systems.

The US claims that it takes too much time to reload the designated weapons and to change the computer programs required for their launch do not ring true, given the fact that similar types of US Navy sea-based launchers are loaded simultaneously with four types of missiles for various purposes, namely anti-surface, anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, and land attack missiles. No one has to specifically go in and change the electronic programming in order to fire them under combat conditions. That is already included for each missile.

Two central themes can be seen in the attempts of the US side to accuse Russia of “violating” the 1987 treaty: one is designed for a domestic audience, while the other is intended for external consumption.

The domestic motif consists of distracting attention from both the tests of the newest US ballistic missile defense systems as well as from the production of a new intermediate-range, land-based cruise missile.

Prior to the 2016 US presidential election, the Republican lawmakers’ second motif at home was their desire to pressure the Democratic Party by demanding that Barack Obama identify at any cost the ways in which Russia had violated the INF Treaty.

As landmark INF treaty closes in 30 years, will it survive? (Part II)

But once Donald Trump won the election, new faces stepped forward to play the part of the accusers: now the Democrats were the ones heaping abuse on the Republican administration of Donald Trump, claiming that it was not offering a robust response to Russia’s “violations” of the 1987 treaty.

The recurring themes in the foreign policy of the Republican and Democratic congressmen were evident in their attempts to use any means to prevent the Russian Federation from getting highly effective intercontinental missiles that could reliably prevail over any type of integrated American and transatlantic anti-missile system: both by employing a missile-defense system, in the form of sea- and land-based interceptors, that steady advances on the borders of Russia and other states, as well as by relying on the ground-based system that has long been deployed inside the continental US.

This can be seen in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act,, which has its sights squarely set on Russia’s RS-26 ICBM. And one way to get rid of it – which Washington is already using – is easily evident: first, Moscow is forced to believe that the US is prepared to produce a new ground-launched cruise missile, but then Washington is apparently willing to abandon that venture if the Russians will get rid of an already existing missile of an entirely different class. But the days when an obvious trick like that would have worked are long past.

It can also be presumed that the song and dance about Moscow’s alleged ongoing violations of the 1987 treaty is an attempt by the US to distract the global community from the problem of the Americans’ ongoing stockpiling of tactical nuclear weapons on the European continent, despite the fact that Russia already withdrew all its nuclear weapons of that class from three former Soviet republics (Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine) back in the mid-1990s.

The question then arises: why does President Donald Trump need such a clearly counterproductive brouhaha over these unproven Russian violations of the INF Treaty, not to mention the array of threats that no high-ranking American officials had ever before issued in such an openly provocative way? One gets the impression that they are advancing contrived accusations against Russia only to divert attention from the American violations listed above, creating a kind of “smokescreen.”

Clearly there is another, more dangerous implication, when viewed from a foreign-policy perspective.

Washington is looking for a chance to launch a first nuclear strike – without repercussions – against Russia, China, Iran, and other states with their own views about the future world order. The White House, as the American press has noted, is considering three options for its military response to Russia’s INF “violations”: developing defensive, i.e., anti-ballistic systems; launching a preemptive strike against any weapons that violate the treaty; and using “nuclear weapons to destroy military targets” on enemy territory.

At the same time, it must be remembered that US strategic nuclear forces are retaining their same offensive doctrine that allows for a first preemptive or preventative nuclear strike against a whole group of states, while unconstrainedly expanding the capability of their global missile-defense system.

It’s a safe bet that America’s threatening actions within the context of the implementation of the INF Treaty will prompt countermeasures from many states and will heighten the risk of conflicts. When one side makes flagrantly destabilizing moves without taking into account the other side’s security interests, it is natural to see some pushback. As a result, once the balance of power and the strategic equation are restored, it is at a more weaponized level and the balance that is achieved is more precarious. This means a higher risk of a revival of military confrontations such as were seen in Berlin and Cuba.

Russia is still happy to take a look at any tangible evidence that is giving the Americans reason to believe that Moscow has “violated” something under the 1987 treaty. But Moscow has no intention whatsoever of breaking this treaty, which for the last 30 years has been inhibiting the potentially dangerous proliferation of two classes of nuclear weapons within the arsenals of the world’s leading nuclear powers.

In light of the current situation, Russia has plans for discussions with the US on a whole range of substantive issues related to reducing armaments and limiting military interactions between Russia and the United States.

These “other substantive issues” include:

• the fact that since the summer of 2014 all three types of American strategic heavy bombers – the B-1B, B-52H, and B-2A – have been stationed in Europe and have taken part in various NATO military exercises

• the fact that the US is equipping its strategic delivery vehicles with conventionally-armed cruise missiles (four Ohio-class submarines have already been converted, giving each of them the capacity to carry up to 154 such missiles)

• the cache of American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and Asia that are being radically updated and furnished with more advanced delivery systems

• the potential deployment in Romania and Poland of not only US ground-based missile-defense systems in multi-mission launchers, but also interceptors, long-range cruise missiles, and long-range high-precision hypersonic weapons

• NATO’s significant advantage over Russia in terms of general-purpose forces, the positioning of new military bases and heavy weapons near Russia’s borders, and also the staging of large-scale military exercises of an offensive nature

• the prevention of any weaponization of space.

There are also other issues Moscow might bring up with Washington that are directly tied to the American attempts to avoid resolving a whole host of other arms-control problems. And that includes more than a dozen genuine grievances over US noncompliance with current treaties and agreements, in addition to those problems for which they make no effort to find solutions based on the principle of equality and equal security for all sides.

At the same time, Moscow is still prepared to hold an honest and substantive dialog with the Americans in order to allay any concerns over arms control, which would include any misgivings related to the INF Treaty.

As has been repeatedly pointed out at the highest levels of the Russian government, (in particular, during the Valdai International Discussion Forum in Sochi on Oct. 19, 2017), Moscow does not intend to initiate the termination of the current INF Treaty, but it will respond commensurately should the US move to do so.

Vladimir Putin Valdai Discussion Club 2017

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Ariel Cohen exposes Washington’s latest twist in anti-Russia strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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Even a Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate’

Too many reputations and other interests are vested in the legend for it to vanish from American politics anytime soon.

Stephen Cohen

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Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation:


Russiagate allegations that the Kremlin has a subversive hold over President Trump, and even put him in the White House, have poisoned American political life for almost three years. Among other afflictions, it has inspired an array of media malpractices, virtually criminalized anti–Cold War thinking about Russia, and distorted the priorities of the Democratic Party. And this leaves aside the woeful impact Russiagate has had in Moscow—on its policymakers’ perception of the US as a reliable partner on mutually vital strategic issues and on Russian democrats who once looked to the American political system as one to be emulated, a loss of “illusions” I previously reported.

Contrary to many expectations, even if the Mueller report, said to be impending, finds, as did a Senate committee recently, “no direct evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Russiagate allegations are unlikely to dissipate in the near future and certainly not before the 2020 presidential election.

There are several reasons this is so, foremost among them the following:

  1. The story of a “Kremlin puppet” in the White House is so fabulous and unprecedented it is certain to become a tenacious political legend, as have others in American history despite the absence of any supporting evidence.
  2. The careers of many previously semi-obscure Democratic members of Congress have been greatly enhanced—if that is the right word—by their aggressive promotion of Russiagate. (Think, for example, of the ubiquitous media coverage and cable-television appearances awarded to Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Maxine Walters, and to Senators Mark Warner and Richard Blumenthal.) If Mueller fails to report “collusion” of real political substance, these and other Russiagate zealots, as well as their supporters in the media, will need to reinterpret run-of-the-mill (and bipartisan) financial corruption and mundane “contacts with Russia” as somehow treasonous. (The financial-corruption convictions of Paul Manafort, Mueller’s single “big win” to date, did not charge “collusion” and had to do mainly with Ukraine, not Russia.) Having done so already, there is every reason to think Democrats will politicize these charges again, if only for the sake of their own careers. Witness, for example, the scores of summonses promised by Jerrold Nadler, the new Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
  3. Still worse, the top Democratic congressional leadership evidently has concluded that promoting the new Cold War, of which Russiagate has become an integral part, is a winning issue in 2020. How else to explain Nancy Pelosi’s proposal—subsequently endorsed by the equally unstatesmanlike Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and adopted—to invite the secretary general of NATO, a not-very-distinguished Norwegian politician named Jens Stoltenberg, to address a joint session of Congress? The honor was once bestowed on figures such as Winston Churchill and at the very least leaders of actual countries. Trump has reasonably questioned NATO’s mission and costs nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union disappeared, as did many Washington think tanks and pundits back in the 1990s. But for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, there can be no such discussion, only valorization of NATO, even though the military alliance’s eastward expansion has brought the West to the brink of war with nuclear Russia. Anything Trump suggests must be opposed, regardless of the cost to US national security. Will the Democrats go to the country in 2020 as the party of investigations, subpoenas, Russophobia, and escalating cold war—and win?

Readers of my new book War With Russia?, which argues that there are no facts to support the foundational political allegations of Russiagate, may wonder how, then, Russiagate can continue to be such a major factor in our politics. As someone has recently pointed out, the Democrats and their media are now operating on the Liberty Valance principle: When the facts are murky or nonexistent, “print the legend.”

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Patriarch Bartholomew slaps down effort to solve Ukrainian Church crisis

Seraphim Hanisch

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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has a problem.

In October last year, by his order, two schismatic churches and their leaders were “rehabilitated” and the schismatic churches were combined and relaunched as a new national church, ostensibly for the people of Ukraine.

However, everything about this action was wrong.

The Patriarch attempted to reinterpret Church history and assumed the power to take over the situation in Ukraine, when Orthodox Christian ecclesiology says that no bishop (even a Patriarch) is permitted to impose his will outside his own See. Ukraine was not the territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, nor has it been for hundreds of years.

The people he lifted into power – Filaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich, both were formerly out of communion with canonical Orthodoxy, and Filaret is notable for having a terrible record with his priests, a common-law wife (forbidden for a bishop) and most notably, Filaret was also anathematized by the Russian Church for his actions.

Thirdly, the new church has yet to go on record with any statement at all about how its formation serves the will of God. This is because it cannot do so. The Orthodox Church in Ukraine exists as an ultranationalist thumb in the eye of Russia, even to the point some people in the new community said “now we have our own God. We don’t need the Russian God.”

This is a very bad sentiment because in the Orthodox Church there is only one God, and he does not pick between nations because of national identity.

To date, none of the other fourteen universally recognized Local Orthodox Churches has accepted the new Church and none of the local Churches are in communion with the OCU (Orthodox Church in Ukraine). Everyone who has said anything at all about this matter has rejected communion with schismatics, though a few monasteries on Athos did allow services with these people.

In essence, at this time the Patriarch has a new church on his back that no one wants but him. His statements that the other local Churches, namely Russia, will have no choice but to accept the OCU have not been proven right so far.

In fact, the pressure is running in the opposite direction.

Patriarch John X of Antioch, the oldest Christian Church in continuous existence, received a letter from Patriarch Bartholomew in response to the request by many leaders of local Churches to hold a pan-Orthodox discussion to resolve the dispute in Ukraine. According to the Union of Orthodox Journalists, the letter amounted to a slap in the face, borne of Patriarch Bartholomew’s own petulance, arrogance, and pettiness (We have added emphasis):

In a letter to the Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Patriarch John X, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople declared that “he has good reasons” to refrain from a general Orthodox meeting on the Ukrainian church issue, reports the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Bartholomew called the discussion of the religious situation in Ukraine “useless” and reminded the Primate of the Antiochian Church of his refusal to participate in the Crete Council of 2016, which Constantinople had been prepar[ing] for a long time.

“After the four Orthodox Churches, from a church and theological point of view without a reason, refused to be present at the Ecumenical Sacred Council, for which there are no excuses, and your ancient Church was one of them, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has good reasons to refrain from such a meeting at the pan-Orthodox a level that will be useless since it will only lead to the agreement that the participants will disagree with each other,” wrote the Patriarch of Constantinople.

According to him, the autocephalous nature of the OCU became a reward for the Church of Ukraine, and the Phanar returned “to the fold of the canonical Church” the members of the UOC KP and the UAOC who were “unfairly” outside it. At the same time, Patriarch Bartholomew assures that he returned the schismatics to the bosom of Orthodoxy exclusively “following church traditions and canons.”

In other words, the Patriarch appears to be digging in. This situation is entirely wrong according to Church canons. The Patriarch is acting as though he has jurisdiction over all other Orthodox Churches, which is a position remarkably similar to that perceived by the Bishop of Rome prior to the Great Schism of 1054 which split the Roman Catholic Church apart from the other ancient Orthodox Patriarchates.

The result of that split was a slow disintegration of Christian integrity in the Roman Church, the eventual development of Protestantism and the present result of a severely degraded form of Christianity in the West, where the law of God is not considered at all, and one can essentially believe or act however they want and find a “church” that will back them up, or they will start their own.

The current actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch have caused concerns, even fears, of a new split in the Orthodox Church, and with the present geopolitical climate being strongly anti-Russian, there is a lot of thought that the United States is influencing and encouraging the split in order to isolate both Russia and its Orthodox Church, which is the largest and strongest in the world at this time.

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