In the run-up to the “milestone date” of August 2 – the day when the US decisively and unilaterally withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF Treaty) signed in 1987 - there have been some metamorphoses in the statements of the NATO leadership and the EU politicians. Before mid-July they groundlessly accused Russia of non-compliance with the treaty obligations claiming that Moscow had created some missiles that were banned by the document.
They also threatened to take some tough retaliatory measures against Russia if it does not resume compliance with the document. Now, however, their rants contain some signs of conciliation and even pleas, although they are addressed only to Moscow, not to withdraw from the treaty, they used to regard as a “cornerstone” of the European security and stability.
Partially, such a metamorphosis can be explained by the fact that another round of the US-Russian security consultations took place in Geneva the other day. At that meeting the parties touched upon the 1987 Treaty in the context of China’s possible participation in it, which was proposed by Washington even despite the fact that Beijing had already decisively and firmly rejected Washington’s “touching concern” for the reduction of the Chinese nuclear arsenal.
Both NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and head of the EU diplomacy Frederica Mogherini, who spoke on behalf of the EU leaders, voiced direct appeals, addressed exclusively to Russia, asking it to use the “last chance” to keep the treaty effective. But if it was not for the destructive attitude of the current US administration towards the treaty, it would continue to be effective for an indefinite period and would prevent the creation of such ground-based nuclear-missile systems of the two largest nuclear powers in the world, such as the US and Russia.
It seems that the NATO and the EU leaders decided, although independently of each other, to provide strong moral and political support for the American delegation at the meeting in Geneva. Mogherini talked to representatives of media outlets and her interview was reinforced by special statements of the European Union on July 14. In turn, Stoltenberg gave an interview to a well-known German newspaper Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung on July 15. Both interviews concerned the future of the INF Treaty. They both contained a number of fundamental provisions which should not be ignored.
When staging their “walkouts,” both NATO and the EU repeatedly pulled out the story of “creation and deployment” of 9M729 land-based cruise missile in Russia. This missile has a maximum range of 480 km, which is not prohibited by the INF Treaty - the document banned only land-based ballistic and cruise missiles of shorter medium and intermediate range (500 to 5,500 km). Considering this, one can trace lack of professionalism in such criticism.
It was for the tenth time in a row that neither NATO and nor the EU presented any evidence that Russia “breached” the 1987 Treaty, although accusations have been pouring from the horn of plenty since 2012.
At the same time it looks strange that in their pompous statements, Stoltenberg and Mogherini ignored the fact that since October 1999, the US have frequently used short and intermediate range ballistic and cruise missiles (banned by the INF Treaty) as training intercepted missiles when checking the effectiveness of their missile defense system. That means, the US openly breached the treaty. Moreover, it violated the treaty because of the use of training missiles, which served as target missiles for interceptor missiles of the missile defense system.
It is hard to imagine that the two high ranking leaders did not know about the existence of Pentagon press releases and the Congressional Research Service reports, which described every single “experiment” that was conducted and mentioned not only the time and place but also the class of intercepted target missiles (medium, small and intermediate range). The US military include missiles with a firing range of 3,000-5,500 km in the category of intermediate range missiles, which fits into the restrictions of the 1987 Treaty. Over the past 20 years, the American side used six types of missiles of these two classes, in total 117 units.
Possible deployment of land-based cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, which have similar combat characteristics at the US military bases in Romania (this base is already operational) and in Poland (it will become part of the US missile shield in 2020) will also be a violation of the INF Treaty by Washington.
Defensive missiles of the ABM system can be replaced with offensive missiles or UAVs very quickly - the diameter of the launchers and the software at the above-mentioned military bases allow the US to do this. They do not have to do any serious upgrade there. In total, 48 missiles (24 missiles at each base) can be deployed “on the front lines.”
Note: the new missile defense strategy of the US, which was approved in early 2019, envisages the use of these bases for attacking at Russia “before the launch” of Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles. That is a very frank confession, indeed.
It is with such statements that NATO and the EU, with most of its member-states being part of the military alliance, are trying to shift responsibility for destroying the INF Treaty from Washington to Moscow, although it was the American side that initiated its termination unilaterally under a false pretext.
In this regard, the appeals of the leadership of the NATO and the European Union to Russia to save the INF Treaty are incorrect and untenable. These appeals should, first of all, be addressed to Washington because it initiated the course on “hacking” the entire system of arms control. As the New York Times rightly pointed out on July 15, Trump’s commitment to the new accords raises questions, “given his administration’s skepticism of arms control.”
It would be appropriate to elaborate about this skepticism. Of the 13 bilateral and multilateral treaties and agreements in this area, the US administration is extremely negative about, six documents concern nuclear missiles and the strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation. These are violations of the START-3 Treaty, withdrawal from the INF Treaty, violations of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty, refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Treaty, unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Vienna agreement on the Iranian nuclear program) and incomplete compliance with the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement.
It is likely that, after withdrawal from the INF Treaty, the current US administration will not extend the START-3 Treaty after its expiration in February 2021. Washington is obviously trying to link its possible extension with the elimination of promising Russian weapons, which are not subject to its restrictions.
If Washington really withdraws from the 1987 Treaty in early August, Moscow will definitely retaliate. It has already reserved the right to come up with a tit-for-tat response.
Moscow did so when the U.S. initially suspended its participation in the 1987 Treaty. Russia also suspended its participation in it since March 4 of this year. If the US continues its R&D efforts on medium and shorter-range missiles, Russia will do the same. If Washington finally withdraws from the INF Treaty on August 2, then Moscow will also stop fulfilling its provisions. On the contrary, the Russian side will comply with all its provisions again, if the American side returns to its obligations under the agreement.
As for the possible deployment of Russian medium-range and shorter-range missiles in the European part of Russia after the INF Treaty ceases to exist, the tit-for-tat principle may also be applied there. If American opponents abandon such plans – Moscow will do the same. If they do not refuse, then it is quite natural that they will see symmetrical countermeasures.