The reason the Soviets eventually signed the INF treaty in 1987 was because the US and NATO deployment of hundreds of Pershing and ground launched cruise missiles in Western Europe exemplified NATO solidarity and vitiated the coercive threat that the earlier Soviet SS-20 missile deployments had hoped to secure to prevent a NATO response to potential Soviet aggression. Pictured: Pershing II missiles at Fort Bliss McGregor Range. (Image source: US Dept. of Defense)
by Stephen Blank and Peter Huessy for GatestoneInstitute.org, December 5, 2018 –
Russia, evidently not restrained by the agreement, is already building missiles outside the INF treaty, according to an October 29, 2018 report from the Congressional Research Service. The bottom line is: If the Russians do not comply with the INF arms control treaty, there is no treaty to be saved.
Worse, as China was never a party to the INF treaty, it is deploying thousands of such INF range missiles in the Pacific, thereby putting the USA and its allies at a serious military disadvantage.
To counter such threats effectively and stand up to the culture of intimidation and threats of both Russia and China, the US needs create a conventional missile and nuclear deterrent capability that is at least on a par with those of Moscow and Beijing. Such deployments, rather than undermining arms control, might even induce Russia and China to negotiate any future arms negotiations with the US in better faith, while simultaneously strengthening US security.
If created with US allies in the Pacific, such relatively inexpensive and easily produced conventionally armed missiles would, in short order, rebalance the Pacific security situation in the favor of the US and its Indo-Pacific alliances.
The US renunciation of the 1987 United States-Soviet Union Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) has generated much skepticism in the arms-control community – particularly in much of Europe, and from Japan.
These countries hoped not only to keep Russia and the United States in the 1987 treaty, (despite Russia's major violations of the INF treaty) but also to persuade China to become a party to the treaty and thus be forced to eliminate the multiple hundreds of INF-range missiles China has deployed in Asia ranged against US and its allied interests.
Critics have presented the following five main arguments against the US move:
- It enables Russia to build as many INF missiles as it likes, while simultaneously allowing Moscow to blame Washington for reneging on the treaty.
- It imperils the entire structure of arms control, including the possible 2021 extension of the United States-Russia 2010 New START Treaty.
- It would require extensive consultation with Europe or risk undermining allied cohesion and offering Moscow new targets in its campaign of political warfare against the NATO alliance.
- It is unnecessary — despite Russia's violations — because the US has adequate conventional air-launched and sea-launched cruise missiles to keep Russia at risk and defend Europe, and presumably America's Pacific allies, against China.
- It concedes a strategic advantage to Russia, as no INF-equivalent missile is in production by the United States to match Russia's INF missile deployments.
When examined, however, these arguments do not hold up to scrutiny.
Given the fact that the Russian and Chinese threats are present and growing, the US decision to withdraw from the treaty and deploy weapons such as more missiles to counter these threats, actually strengthens – not weakens – both deterrence and the defense of America's allies.
Specifically, Russia, evidently not restrained by the agreement, is already building missiles outside the INF treaty, according to an October 29, 2018 report from the Congressional Research Service.
Without a parallel United States and NATO response, the missile imbalance in Europe could expand to the detriment of the security of the US and its allies, thereby undermining the very deterrence that the INF treaty enhanced when both parties were compliant.
Staying within the INF treaty, as the United States is still doing, has evidently not restrained Russians from violating their treaties. Why, then, would continued United States unilateral adherence to the treaty change that?
However much the US would like to disregard the treaty violations of an adversary, its non-compliance threatens not only Western — but also global – security.
The implications of Russia's violations of the INF treaty, as well as the implications of both Russia's and China's continued rapid production of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles (Beijing is not a party to the INF treaty) need to be taken seriously.
Furthermore, Russia has violated not only the INF treaty, but, according to former senior White House nuclear arms official Frank Miller, most major arms control, military and security agreements that it has signed over the past two decades.
Russia's violation of the INF treaty was also recently confirmed by senior defense officials in the Netherlands, as well as by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said that while he does not expect a nuclear buildup in Europe, he did back United States allegations that Russia has been violating the INF pact.
America's other NATO allies agreed that the Russians were violating the 1987 INF Treaty, which bans an entire class of weapons: all land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range between 310-3,410 miles. “The treaty,” Stoltenberg concluded, “is not working if it's only being respected by one side. The problem, the threat, the challenge is the Russian behavior…has been ongoing for a long time.”
As senior American administration officials have emphasized, the United States will continue to invite Russia to come back into the INF treaty if it will continue its limitations. To date Russia has rejected such offers
In this respect, and contrary to criticism, all of NATO is on the same page, putting the blame for breaking the treaty squarely on the Russians.
Yet another charge is that leaving the INF treaty would imperil another major arms control agreement such as the 2010 New Start agreement between the United States and Russia and thus undermine US security. But would the United States' departure from the INF threaten the overall arms control framework represented by the INF and other nuclear arms treaties?
Here are the facts:
The most important other nuclear arms agreements are the 2010 New Start treaty, along with the 1969 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which has 189 state signatories, including the United States and Russia. The United States is in complete compliance with the New Start and NPT treaties and remains committed to them.
According to the US nuclear specialist Mark Schneider, when Russia released its official nuclear-weapon figures earlier this year — as stipulated in the New START treaty – and when it announced a reduction in nuclear warheads, Moscow allegedly deployed more than two dozen additional multiple warhead missiles.