German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has published an article in the Spiegel magazine suggesting revising arms control agreements for the sake of preserving peace in Europe. He called to take into consideration new arms technologies, as well as the elimination of difference between nuclear and conventional arms. He also criticized but gave no proof of the "deployment" of Russian missiles in the Kaliningrad region. He also acknowledged that by deploying missiles Russia does not breach the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987.
Maas strongly advocated preserving the INF Treaty despite the recent public statement of U.S. President Donald Trump that the United States is ready to quit it. Maas believes that the rupture of the INF Treaty would eliminate one of the biggest achievements in the disarmament sphere. That is why Germany, unlike the United States, together with its European allies will support its preservation, he said.
Maas's four-point proposal on strengthening international security was the key element of his interview.
He suggested reinstating data exchange between the United States, Europe and Russia on arms and arms control mechanism, introducing universal transparency procedure for ballistic and cruise missiles, engaging China in search for further transparency in the arms control sphere and considering limitations on hyper-sonic offensive weapons that may be used in hostilities.
The initiative of Germany's foreign ministry proves that Europe is getting more and more upset about the unbalanced policy of the United States in the military area, which again may escalate to a dangerous nuclear missile stand-off in Europe, as it was in 1980-s after NATO made its Double Track Decision in December 1979.
As to Maas's first point, one should remind him of 15 unresolved problems in the arms control sphere that got hung up exactly through the fault of the United States and other NATO member states. The list of such problems include American tactical missiles still kept in Europe, Washington's multiple violations of the INF Treaty through using intermediate-range training missiles in checking efficiency of missile defense system's interceptors, the Pentagon's deployment of ground and sea-based components of its anti-missile shield global infrastructure, as well as NATO's stockpiling of general-purpose forces and joint rapid deployment operation groups and large-scale offensive exercises in many European countries.
Another thing here is that the United States has a negative attitude to 12 multilateral agreements and bilateral agreements with Russia in the arms control field. The list of such agreements include the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (the unilateral withdrawal of the United States), the Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (the United States refused to ratify the two), the New START Treaty, the INF Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty (violations by the United States), draft international agreements on European security and on prevention of arms deployment in space (the United States refused to discussed them), and some other agreements. Noteworthy, the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty may shatter and ruin the system of agreements and treaties in the sphere of preventing an arms race, the creation of which took much effort and time. Should the German minister be caring about beefing-up European security, why does he keep silent on the European Security Treaty that NATO members, including Germany, have been failing to consider for many years? If the treaty does not suit you, come up with something better.
Given this, it is hard to understand what kind of a new arms control procedure the German foreign minister speaks about, if so many issues on the current arms control agenda have remained unresolved.
Maas's second point on the control over ballistic and cruise missiles cannot be fulfilled without a special international mechanism, as all together 32 countries can produce such systems. And will one be able to talk all them into making this step, keeping in mind that the majority of them are NATO members? The minister gave no answer.
As to the possible expansion of control over the fulfillment of the INF Treaty, mutual multilateral inspections ended back in 2001. What new inspections "tied to the INF Treaty or outside of it" can be in question, if as of October 26, 2018 the United States violated it 95 times in testing the missile defense system involving real, not simulated, interception of intermediate-range missiles and is going to violated it further? This remains unexplained in Maas's proposals.
The third point of the German foreign minister mentioning China seems to be unilaterally selective. Beijing has never been a party to agreements on the limitation or reduction of nuclear weapons. One could raise with the same result the issue of ensuring the transparency of current missile and nuclear programs in the United Kingdom, France and Israel, all possessing nuclear arms, with the first two having strategic weapons.
Germany should also be added to this checklist, as American nuclear air bombs, both tactical and strategic, are kept there. This also applies to four more NATO member states – Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey – that agreed to store the bombs on their territories. Why don't raise the issue of complete cessation of NATO's provocative Baltic Air Policing mission in the skies of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that has been underway 24/7 since 2004 and has involved dual-purpose aircraft of all three West's nuclear states, and the German Air Force?
The fourth point about the hyper-sonic weapons made by the German foreign minister is likely to be considered only if there is a global consensus, better mutual confidence and respect between the countries, and after NATO's three leading nuclear powers give up offensive nuclear strategies that are still based on the assumption of "unconditional offensive nuclear deterrence" and a key set of casting the first, "preventive and preemptive" nuclear strike on a large number of states.
So, the four-point plan put forward by the German foreign minister may be interesting only in a certain context and provided that they are filled with a sincere and real desire to bolster security in Europe with something else but excessive arms and large-scale military activity in the zones of the "enhanced forward presence". Such initiatives could attract attention if they don't result in the destruction of the legal base in the arms reduction sphere and are based on the principle of "building reliable mutual security with each other rather than destructive security against each other."
Regretfully, Maas's plan to enhance arms control seems to be poorly elaborated. It doesn't take the real situation in the arms control sphere appropriately. His proposals put on the same desk absolutely different military and political policies of the United States and Russia on the international arena and are not balanced as far as China is concerned. Certain points of this initiative are just wishful thinking that have no relation to the actual arms control process that has now been reduced to zero at the initiative of Washington and its closest NATO allies, including Germany.