On Tuesday, the State Duma passed the bill submitted by President of Russia Vladimir Putin suspending Russia's participation in the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Here a question arises - what can this lead to?
Answering this question requires recalling that the INF Treaty took effect exactly 31 years ago, on June 1, 1988, becoming one of the key "disarmament" agreements signed in late 1980-s by then Soviet and American leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.
The INF Treaty played a tremendous role in suspending the arms race of the two superpowers. It is enough to mention that by 1991 the USSR scrapped almost all its missile systems, a total of 1,846, whereas the USA scrapped 1,000 systems fewer, just 846 (as if the Department of State had set the task of scrapping exactly 1,000 missiles fewer on purpose).
Apparently, the Americans didn't destroy all its missile system, but the USSR and later Russia didn't have a chance to verify the US compliance with the INF Treaty, so the Russian establishment just turned a blind eye to clearly unequal compliance with the INF Treaty. The Russian Ministry of Defense made a humble hint that overseas "partners" breach a number of the treaty's provisions only after the Pentagon had started to deploy its missile defense systems in Europe in the beginning of the 21st century.
Russia's representatives for more than 10 years were drawing attention of American politicians to the fact that the so-called missile defense systems of the USA and NATO differed little from offensive missile systems, as they can rather rapidly change their targets and start delivering pre-emptive, not defensive strikes, on ground targets, not aerial ones. But we were not heard. They just waved it away. Probably, they thought that the INF Treaty had been signed by one side only. So, the US establishment back in 2000-s in fact disavowed the treaty.
It should be mentioned that the USA hasn't stopped not only developing but also testing various types of intermediate cruise missiles. However, as soon as a Russian innovative development in this sphere appeared in Yekaterinburg, Barack Obama immediately threatened Russia to withdraw from the INF Treaty due to its alleged violations by the Russian side. The Russian leadership ignored the threats of "the potential enemy" (that introduced economic sanctions against Russia and started a hybrid war against Russia), but the line of the Department of State at suppressing the Russian innovative development continued. At first, Donald Trump said that the US might suspend its participation in the INF Treaty, and later after a short-term and rather simple blackmailing of the Russia leadership by the Department of State, on February 1, 2019 to be more precise, the US president announced the suspension of the treaty. Vladimir Putin responded the next day with the same action.
The Russian president needs the federal bill passed by the State Duma early this week in order to give more legal weight to his decision, and the Duma members didn't doubt that it would need more legitimacy.
This is the story of the INF Treaty. It is simple and easy to understand: the American establishment, having achieved the complete disarmament of the USSR in the most important arms sphere (after long-range ballistic missiles), later did everything to disavow the INF Treaty, shift the responsibility for terminating it to Russia and untie the hands for a new arms race.
On the other hand, one should understand that present-day American politics is quite an ambiguous thing. I mean first of all the interests of the US defense industry that needs as a breath of fresh air a "breakthrough" in developing new weapons, and what is more in mastering new markets of modern weapons, as well as personal interests of President Donald Trump, who doesn't need a war but needs a defense industry as a powerful "group of interests" that is called to make a contribution to the victory of Donald Trump at the 2020 presidential election. There is a big difference between strategic interests of the incumbent US president (who sets tasks primarily in the economic sphere) and American democrats for who an arms race is not enough, they need a new world war.
So, the withdrawal of the Trump team from the INF Treaty is unlikely to pose a threat of a big war to Russia. It rather poses the threat of defeat for Russia in competition on global arms markets. Blocking the development of advanced missile systems in Russia and not letting Russia's advanced development to the markets of China, India, Pakistan, Iran and so on are the key tasks of American companies and Donald Trump as their chief lobbyist in the Department of State. From this point of view, the Russian leadership made the absolutely right decision, to suspend its (actually unilateral) participation in the INF Treaty, in order to untie the hand in the development of the domestic defense industry and related science-intensive industries. And it's getting important in the sense that Trump is not eternal. It is possible that for example Joe Biden or any other representative of the "party of war" will win the American presidential election in 2020, and Russia must then have "arguments" to counter those willing to turn missile defense systems in Europe into pre-emptive missile strike systems.