- The US withdrawal from the INF nuclear treaty being the latest and most serious example
Submitted by Richard Galustian…
Treaties are important partly because they often mark the end of a period of conflict.
The honoring of treaties has been described by many eminent men and women throughout history as a sacred undertaking requiring also good faith by each party for their proper enforcement; a matter of, not least, honour.
Let us remind ourselves that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, INF Treaty, was a formally ratified Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles. The US Senate approved the treaty on 27 May 1988, and ratified it on 1st June 1988.
As we approach the 31st anniversary of the signed of this treaty in 1988 this June, it’s important we all remember why it is so important for a country not to break Treaties.
The main real consequence of Trump’s decision will be the start of a new global arms race in 2019 which will continue sadly for years to come.
The US’s act of folly essentially means two things:
1. The slow death of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is part of a collapse in cold war era arms control.
2. Chaos now beckons, as every country fends for itself. Welcome to the New World Disorder
Recently the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Moscow that the US will suspend its adherence Treaty and withdraw from the landmark treaty within six months of February 2, (by August 2019) unless Russia “proves” its full compliance with the pact.
The treaty signed (later ratified in both counties) by US president Ronald Reagan and President Mikhail Gorbachev on December 8, 1987, banned production, flight-testing, and possession of all ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500km and 5,500km.
Currently Washington is accusing Moscow of violating the treaty by testing the ground-launched cruise missile SSC-8, designated as 9M729 in Russia.
Moscow denies this, saying the missile has not been developed and tested for the banned range.
Last month, a Russian commander, General Mikhail Matveyevsky, announced its maximum flight range as 480km. The US remains unconvinced, citing “intelligence data” without providing evidence!
Nevertheless to save the treaty, Moscow began bilateral negotiations in Geneva on January 15 2019. These ended in failure.
The US side was intransigent – the US was prepared to discuss absolutely nothing but the details of the SSC-8 elimination, while Russia thought it wiser to press for an all embracing comprehensive solution between the two sides.
Apparently, US President Donald Trump had made up his mind to abandon the treaty before announcing his intention in a speech last October. The reasons he cited were Russia’s alleged violations and China’s military build-up.
Visiting Moscow later that October, the US National Security Adviser John Bolton reportedly told his Russian counterparts that the political decision had already been made and could not and would not be changed.
It is China that will pick up the pieces of the torn up Treaty.
The US needs the consent of its major Western European allies, most of whom are unhappy about the treaty termination, as it will be them, not America, who will be exposed to the missiles Russia may deploy once the accord becomes invalid. In this context, after all, it may be not so important if the SSC-8 really violates the terms of the treaty or not; for Washington, the most important thing is to create the pretext for quitting.
That is why this time the American side showed absolutely no inclination to talk or listen, ignoring Moscow’s proposals to discuss mutual concerns, to send experts to see the missile in question and to conduct its test launches in the presence of US inspectors.
Moreover, Washington refused to discuss any transparency measures or listen to Russia’s concerns about its own compliance: for example, Moscow is wary about America’s Mk-41 vertical launch systems for missile interceptors deployed in Romania and due to be employed in Poland because they can launch ground-based cruise missiles as well.
The Russian administration to this day has been seeking to preserve the treaty, considering it an important arms control arrangement.
That said, Putin’s Russia’s has its own internal political conflicts not so dissimilar to those that exist in Washington DC.
In its military and political establishment the treaty has been criticised by some of the Russian political and military leadership for a wide variety of reasons: citing for example that too many and great concessions to America were given by Gorbachev (the USSR destroyed twice as many missiles as the US); the need to target US missile defence systems in Europe, and so on.
Among the Russian ‘hawks’ major concerns have been ground-based medium range missiles position by the US in Europe on ‘Russia’s doorstep’, and of course the fact that countries such as China, Iran, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel have medium range missiles.
Today, though, still calling for the preservation of the treaty, the Russian side is ready to honour the Treaty.
However if America starts deploying in Europe missiles, it will position its weapons to defend itself, in reaction to the threat instigated by the US.
Indeed, the arms control structure of the cold war era with Moscow-Washington accords at its core is getting obsolete – the INF treaty part being no exception.
Without participation of other nations, especially China with its dramatically rising military power, the ability to address international security challenges of the 21st century is destined to decline.
The US decision perfectly fits Trump’s “America first” mantra, founded on the belief that Washington’s international obligations are merely a nuisance and an impediment for pursuing America’s national interests.
The immediate consequences of the treaty termination won’t be immediately apparent nor dramatic. Originally its aim was to address a particular issue in East-West relations of the late 1980s: the imbalance caused by the deployment the Soviet SS-20 missiles targeting western Europe. Its contribution to international arms control is limited as it bans only ground-based missiles, leaving sea-based and air-based missiles of the same range beyond control.
Will America embark on an even larger scale deployment of the currently banned missiles in Europe?
If they did, the US’s Western European allies will probably ‘push back’ with stiff resistance from many of the EU governments and its general public.
What about the Asia Pacific?
No doubt, Washington’s major strategic goal in this region is to contain China, and to achieve this goal it is seeking a level playing field to develop all kinds of weapons, ground-based intermediate-range missiles included.
However, there are very few platforms where American ground-based missiles can be deployed.
Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries are apparently out of the question: no government would think it worth the risk of angering their own public and importantly of Beijing.
What does that leave?
Guam and Alaska?
The world is drifting towards a new chaos where every country will be acting on its own.
The blunt fact is that the Trump administration is initiating one more step towards the demolition of the international arms control structure its predecessors created together with Moscow.
While the existing structure is being demolished, no steps are being taken to create a new one.
Furthermore, such steps are hardly feasible in the wake of America’s deteriorating relations with China and Russia and Trump’s idiosyncrasy towards international obligations.
Consequently, in the area of arms control the world is about to be left without any structure, any functioning arrangement at all. It is drifting towards a new chaos where every country will be acting on its own. This is not an inspiring perspective.
Under this “new world disorder” it will be increasingly difficult to contain the global arms race and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including the threat of obtaining such weapons by terrorists