August 2 marks the termination of INF, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In this regard, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg published an article in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemaine Zeitung, stating that should Russia fail to take the last chance to preserve the treaty, it will be ultimately responsible for its breakdown and the subsequent global unrest.
Stoltenberg preached to the choir — the North Atlantic Alliance's position of unconditionally laying the blame for INF breakdown on Russia has never been a surprise. It has also been clear for a long time that the US decision to withdraw from the Treaty was brought about not by Russian missiles 9M729, but by Washington's focus on deterring China in Southeast Asia. Washington has never really hidden this. And at the very once when Stoltenberg was preparing his article, Chief of Staff of the US Army Mark Millie addressed the Senate hearings with a positive answer to the question as to whether the US intends to place intermediate-range land-based missiles in Southeast Asia after the ultimate withdrawal from the INF Treaty.
The European Union is well aware of this. No wonder that in November last year, immediately after America announced its intention to quit the pact, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tried to raise the issue of arms control during his visit to Beijing. However, this attempt came to nothing, with China clearly stating its lack of intention to enter into any arms reduction contracts and continuing to stick rigidly to this position up to the present moment.
It is clear that in such a situation, the European NATO countries, many of which are indeed seriously concerned about the impending perspective, have no choice but to once again blame Russia, demonstrating the Alliance's solidarity position. If unable to change anything, one can try to get at least some political dividends.
But it wasn't by accident that Stoltenberg chose a German edition to publish his article. Germany, which has experienced and remembers the "missile crisis" of the early 80's, has become NATO's weak component. It is unclear what position Berlin is going to take when it comes to discussing the deployment of American short- and intermediate-range missiles in Europe. And there is no doubt that this issue will be placed on the agenda — today NATO and Stoltenberg are only saying that these missiles will not carry nuclear warheads, but no one denies the fact that the missiles will be placed after all.
"NATO allies do not intend to develop and deploy new ground-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe," Stoltenberg wrote in his article. In the original version of the published text, the word "nuclear" had been omitted for technical reasons related to translation, which had given rise to timid hopes, but then the Frankfurter Allgemeine editorial staff corrected the text and apologized.
In this regard, the question arises as to where. The most obvious answer is Germany, since the necessary infrastructure has been preserved there since the Cold War. The simplest option is Poland, as it is ready to accept any American troops, considering them a guarantee of its security in the face of the "Russian threat". But Berlin's consent is required in any case, otherwise NATO will face a serious crisis fraught with an abysmal degradation of the Alliance. After all, Germany is well aware that deploying missiles in Poland does not actually change anything — Berlin is only one hundred kilometers away from the Polish border.
It is safe to say that we are bearing witness to the hour of reckoning being at hand. When almost forty years ago Bonn was deciding to deploy the American Pershing-2 missiles in its territory, it was conceivable, since back then Germany stood ahead of the game in the two superpowers' confrontation. And present-day Germany and the entire European Union as well, are turning into a bargaining chip in the global conflict between the US and China. All this despite the fact that Berlin and Brussels are not having the worst relations with Beijing.
The EU and Germany have long been talking about the need to form their own "European" foreign policy stance, and this idea was once again confirmed by Ursula von der Leyen at the July 16 European Parliament hearings. But will the EU be able to prove out that this is not just mere rhetoric? While the INF Treaty breakdown provides a good chance here, all one can do is wait and see whether European countries are able to take it, or the whole story will become another confirmation of united Europe's political powerlessness.