INF Treaty: Is the Document That Allowed Europe to Stop Fear Collapsing?

Experts talk about the essence of the mutual claims of Washington and Moscow in the field of nuclear missile security

MOSCOW – Last week celebrated the 30th anniversary of its existence, one of the main documents that transferred the United States and the USSR from the state of mutually threatening adversaries to the position of successfully negotiating parties – Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF). Now both Washington and Moscow say that the INF Treaty is under threat, and each of the parties accuses the other of at least creating conditions for its violation, and as a maximum – that such violations have already occurred.

On Saturday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, in an official commentary on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, said that «the anti-Russian propaganda campaign in the context of the INF Treaty looks more and more as an attempt to dump from a sore head onto a healthy», and «its strengthening may be a sign that Washington has taken a course towards withdrawing from this agreement, as it once withdrew from the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems.».

Ryabkov also said: «We are fully committed to the Treaty, have always strictly followed it and are ready to act in the same way in the future. However, if the other side ceases to follow it, we will be forced, as President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has already indicated, to give a mirror answer».

Sergei Ryabkov reacted so harshly not to the official statements of Washington, but to the publication on December 9 by Politico, citing its sources in the US government, that the White House is ready to support sanctions against Russia for violating the INF Treaty. Usually, the Russian leadership reacts only to official information, urging to wait for its confirmation by the United States authorities..

How and why the agreement on the elimination of the INF Treaty was concluded

The conclusion of the INF Treaty was preceded by the growing confrontation between the USSR and the West in the late 70s – early 80s of the last century, accompanied on both sides by deployment in Europe – NATO and Warsaw Pact countries respectively – missiles with a target range from 500 to 5500 kilometers. The most famous types of these weapons to the general public were the MGM-31C missile. «Pershing ii» the United States and the RSD-10 missile «Pioneer» (NATO called it SS-20) from the Soviet Union.

This escalation of tension was superimposed on a series of deaths of Soviet leaders from Leonid Brezhnev to Konstantin Chernenko, and ended under Mikhail Gorbachev, who authorized his Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, to agree in September 1987 on a compromise acceptable to Moscow with Washington..

Pavel Palazhchenko, translator and aide to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who participated in the INF negotiations, recently recalled in his Facebook post what preceded the conclusion of the treaty: «Remembering the rather frank conversations with the members of the Soviet delegation at the talks, I can say that the scale of the strategic miscalculation made by the leadership of the USSR, which made the decision to deploy medium-range missiles in the late 1970s «Pioneer» («SS-20»), was obvious to many even then. We had to manage to turn the whole of Western Europe against ourselves (the new missiles were a technically perfect means of warfare, incomparable in their characteristics with the old missiles, which they supposedly replaced) and at the same time give the Americans a reason to deploy missiles against us that reached the most important targets and control centers on the territory of the USSR in 5-7 minutes».

Three months after the agreements between Shevardnadze and US Secretary of State George Shultz, Mikhail Gorbachev himself, during his visit to the United States, signed an agreement with Ronald Reagan on the elimination of the INF Treaty. – the first document in history that spoke about the practical reduction of existing nuclear weapons. At the same time, the countries agreed to create centers for the reduction of nuclear danger..

Russia 10 years ago: «We are ready for the possible production of MRBM»

For the first time, the recently elected President of Russia Vladimir Putin announced the hypothetical possibility of Russia’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty in June 2000. – he made this statement in connection with the later implemented US intention to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

In February 2007, the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Yuri Baluyevsky, stated: «The INF Treaty between Moscow and Washington has an indefinite character, but the possibility of withdrawal from it exists if one of the parties provides convincing evidence of the need to withdraw. Today there is such convincing evidence – many countries develop and improve medium-range missiles».

Also in his speech, Yuri Baluevsky then expressed regret at the fact that «Russia, having fulfilled the INF Treaty, lost many systems of such weapons, which were unique». Earlier, Yuri Solomonov, director and general designer of the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering, which developed Russian intermediate and shorter-range missiles, said that he and his colleagues «ready for the possible production of MRBMs (medium-range ballistic missiles) both intellectually and by our production facilities».

These statements were made just a few days after the well-known «Munich speech» Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which he reproached the United States for wanting «impose their norms on other states». Many experts then regarded Putin’s speech as a turn to the strategic confrontation between Russia and the West..

In the same 2007, Sergei Ivanov, then the Minister of Defense of Russia, speaking in the State Duma, called the conclusion of the INF Treaty «big mistake» and hinted at a withdrawal from it, because, according to him, India, Pakistan, Korea, China, Iran and Israel have missiles with parameters falling under the treaty.

Alexander Golts: US claims under the INF Treaty against Russia are being discussed in open sources

Since 2014, the US authorities have been directly saying that Russia is violating the INF Treaty by testing new medium-range cruise missiles, however, Washington representatives often speak only of their exact knowledge of this fact, without giving detailed justifications for what was said..

Independent Military Reviewer Alexander Golts in an interview with the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» explains why: «Over the past few years, Russia has decisively changed its status in the eyes of the American military: if before the annexation of Crimea and the intervention in Ukraine, Russia was still more a partner than an adversary, now the American military categorizes it as potential adversaries in a very definite way. And a potential adversary should not know how the United States got this or that information, since the specification of this information gives a potential adversary the opportunity to determine the sources and capabilities of the other side. Their position is clear – «we will present the relevant evidence to our administration and Congress, and let them decide what to do in this situation».

INF Treaty: Is the Document That Allowed Europe to Stop Fear Collapsing?

The military analyst lists possible reasons for the US fears, which have already been openly discussed in various publications: «Several assumptions have been made in the open press. We can talk, for example, about a new warhead for a missile «Iskander», whose tactical and technical data do not fall under the INF Treaty. They write that «Iskander» a new warhead has appeared, which allows you to exceed the limits established by the treaty and fly further than 500 kilometers. There are also publications that there is a certain ground version of the rocket. «Caliber», which was used for the first time in October 2015 from our submarines from the Caspian Sea. According to some researchers, the range for the ground version of such a missile exceeds 500 kilometers. They even say that two divisions of such missiles have already been put on alert.».

«Finally, there is the RS-26 missile. «Border», intercontinental ballistic missile. Russia absolutely has the right to create and deploy such missiles, but two short-range tests of such a missile were carried out, which could give the Americans a suspicion that, in fact, a medium-range missile is being created.», – tells Alexander Golts.

According to the military expert, Russia’s retaliatory accusations against the United States, calling the missile defense systems deployed in Poland and Romania, a potential threat to Russian territory, are absurd: «The version that the MK-41 launchers can be loaded «Tomahawks», is purely hypothetical. Nobody has ever tried this. No one has ever tested a sea-launched or air-launched missile "Tomahawk" in installations MK-41. This is a fiction that is consistent with the general approach of the Russian leadership, which is that both sides lie to each other and try to cheat as soon as possible.».

Vladimir Dvorkin: I do not see any scenario for the start of hostilities with the launch of missiles

Vladimir Dvorkin, Chief Researcher at the Center for International Security of the IMEMO RAN, retired Major General Vladimir Dvorkin is confident that disagreements under the INF Treaty can be settled without political statements: «In December, a special control commission should work, which exists within the framework of this agreement. And with normal relationships, all controversial issues can be sufficiently resolved, because all claims are purely technical in nature.».

Vladimir Dvorkin says that none of the points presented by the parties to each other affects the combat potentials of the two countries: «Technically — yes, missiles can be launched from missile defense installations in Romania and Poland «Tomahawk», and this is a formal violation of the article of the treaty. But there is no point in such a launch, because the United States already has more than 6 thousand cruise missiles at sea alone. If we add another 20-40 cruise missiles, which supposedly can be placed in missile defense installations in Romania in Poland, then this does not give any increase to the potential, and therefore makes no sense».

«US claims that Russia has tested a cruise missile from a ground-based launcher for a range of more than 500 kilometers? But the INF Treaty itself allows the testing of cruise missiles of any range from ground-based launchers at the experimental stage, from a launcher that differs from serial ones and is stationary, not mobile.», – continues the expert.

Vladimir Dvorkin rules out any real use of any controversial weapons by both sides: «I do not see any scenario of the outbreak of hostilities in which these missiles can be launched. Is the US attacking nuclear Russia? Or nuclear Russia begins to attack NATO or the United States, which are stronger and more general-purpose forces, and also have nuclear weapons?»

The retired general is confident that «the current skirmish will have no consequences in terms of withdrawal from the treaty, because it would be catastrophic for Russia, the United States, and Europe: political attacks and discussions will continue»

INF Treaty: Is the Document That Allowed Europe to Stop Fear Collapsing?

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