One of the most important Soviet-American treaties of the 1980s, on intermediate and short-range missiles (INF), may again become the subject of negotiations between Moscow and Washington. The United States is worried about the possibility of Russia's withdrawal from the INF Treaty. However, such a decision, if adopted, is likely to strike primarily at the interests of Russia itself.
Ministry spokeswoman Marie Harf said that a proposal was sent to Moscow to discuss at the highest level the implementation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty).
"If the United States withdraws from the INF Treaty, Russia will have the opportunity to criticize Washington for undermining strategic stability."
The time and place of the upcoming meeting is still unknown. However, it is clear that the catalyst for the White House's reaction was Vladimir Putin's speech in Crimea, where he said that Moscow could unilaterally withdraw from international treaties, as Washington did in its time.
“The United States took and unilaterally withdrew from the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, and that’s the end of it,” Putin said. - They proceeded, as they believe, for reasons of their national security. And we will do exactly the same when we deem it beneficial and necessary to ensure our interests."
Lost in translation
It is not entirely clear what kind of treaty the Russian president was talking about. Perhaps he just made a reservation, confusing the ABM Treaty with START. However, for Washington the message turned out to be more than clear - the first thing they remembered was the INF Treaty, the indefinite Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Short-Range Missiles, signed by Moscow and Washington on December 8, 1987. The parties to the agreement pledged not to produce, test or deploy ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles of medium range - from 1,000 to 5,500 - and short - from 500 to 1,000 kilometers - range.
At that time, under the treaty, such complexes as the RSD-10 Pioneer, the RK-55 Granat land-based cruise missiles, as well as the Temp-S and Oka operational-tactical missiles, fell under the treaty. Washington removed from West Germany and subsequently destroyed the Pershing-2 and BGM-109G missile systems, the land-based counterpart of the Tomahawk cruise missile. By June 1991, the USSR had destroyed 1,846 of its missile systems. The United States responded by destroying 846 missiles.
“Withdrawal from the INF Treaty is indeed allowed under Article XV.2 with six months' notice if one of the parties decides“that exceptional circumstances related to the content of this Treaty jeopardized its supreme interests,”the head of the Center for International Security explained to the VZGLYAD newspaper IMEMO RAN Alexey Arbatov.
The issue of Moscow's implementation of the INF Treaty came under suspicion in Washington back in 2011. Then the United States accused Russia of testing the RS-26 "Rubezh" missile, nicknamed the "missile defense killer" at the suggestion of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, and the R-500 tactical cruise missile used on the Iskander-K complex. In response, it was pointed to the testing by the United States itself of target missiles for missile defense systems, the production of missile-armed drones and the creation of a unified Mk-41 launcher capable of launching medium-range cruise missiles ASROC, Sea Sparrow, ESSM and Tomahawk.
“Once again, we can be glad for the pragmatism of the Americans,” says PIR Center Vice President Dmitry Polikanov. - Americans traditionally do not like international legal shackles, so it would be a sin not to take advantage of the situation and not drop the restrictions on the INF Treaty. Moreover, when all the blame for this can be pinned on Russia, bringing to light the dubious stories of three years ago, the situation in Ukraine and God knows what else. It is not excluded that everything will end with Washington's withdrawal from the treaty, as it happened in due time with the ABM Treaty."
Former Chief of Staff of the Strategic Missile Forces Viktor Yesin, on the other hand, believes that breaking the treaty is counterproductive for both countries.
“There is no military benefit,” Yesin says. - In fact, we go back 40 years, when the United States deployed 108 Pershing-2 missiles in Germany. Then there really was a danger of a "decapitation strike" against the Soviet nuclear deterrent system. Only 7-10 minutes of missile flight to Moscow - and all our control points of the Strategic Missile Forces were destroyed. After the withdrawal from the INF Treaty, the missiles can be delivered even in the Baltic states."
Alexei Arbatov says that the breakdown of Russian-American agreements has never provided the parties with at least some advantage.
“The US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 is a huge mistake of the Americans,” the expert is sure. - Now many people in Washington admit it. After all, the grandiose plans to create an NMD have never materialized. For example, under the contract, they could deploy up to 100 strategic anti-missiles, and they plan to deploy only 40 ground-based interceptors by 2020. All issues of deploying a limited missile defense system to protect against medium-range missiles from third countries could also be resolved through the negotiation of amendments to the 1972 treaty. And it turned out that the entire process of reducing offensive strategic weapons has reached a dead end. Moreover, both Russia and China have stepped up their offensive missile and missile defense programs in response. So why was it necessary to fence the garden? " - asks Arbatov.
The former head of the 4th Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense, which was responsible for justifying and calculating damage from the use of nuclear weapons, Vladimir Dvorkin is no less categorical.
“We already have everything necessary to restrain our near and distant neighbors,” the general told the VZGLYAD newspaper. - We have intercontinental missiles and strategic bombers, which, using cruise missiles, can solve any medium-range missions without leaving the country's borders. And for this we do not need any short-range or medium-range missiles today. If someone takes it into their heads to withdraw from the RIAC, then it will not be a military, but a purely political decision."
Dvorkin is sure that in this situation both parties will have to feel uncomfortable. In recent years alone, Russia has tested and put into service three strategic missile systems: the Topol-M silo-based and mobile-based, the RS-24 Yars mobile multi-unit complex and the new Bulava sea ballistic missile.
The Americans have a situation similar to ours. They can always "get enemies" one by one or in bulk from their own territory with the help of intercontinental missiles. But creating anti-missile missiles without violating the INF is going badly.
“If the US withdraws from the INF Treaty, Russia will, of course, have an opportunity to criticize Washington for undermining strategic stability,” says Dmitry Polikanov. “But the Americans will have a free hand to create new types of weapons, and, if they wish, to deploy them in Europe under the sauce of counteracting" Russian aggression."
“This is a return to a full-scale cold war,” General Dvorkin is convinced. "And it will be a military-political catastrophe."
The experts agree that consultations are needed anyway. Neither Moscow nor Washington are really planning to break off relations under the INF Treaty.
“Withdrawal from the INF Treaty will give Russia the opportunity to deploy medium-range missiles suitable for use against third countries, but in no way affecting the strategic balance with Washington,” says Alesy Arbatov. Allied territories in Europe. Moreover, unlike in the early 1980s, as a result of NATO's eastward expansion, these missiles will shoot through the entire Russian territory to the Urals and beyond with the shortest flight time. A serious strategic imbalance will emerge, not to mention the beginning of a completely new, as it seemed recently, "forgotten" stage of confrontation with the West."