Does Russia Really Need INF Treaty?
The United States of America accuses Russia of violating the 1987 Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Nuclear Forces (INF), according to The New York Times as quoted by the White House. U.S. President Barack Obama in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had violated the treaty by testing a ground-launched cruise missile.
Secretary of State John Kerry addressed Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, with a similar message in a phone call. According to the publication, an official statement charging Russia of violating INF Treaty will be made public soon in the State Department's annual report on international compliance with arms control agreements.
Development and testing of ground-launched cruise missile seriously break the agreement and threaten the security of the U.S. and its allies, said in Washington.
If Moscow doesn't return to compliance with the Treaty, the United States intends to hold consultations on this matter with its allies. As the NYT notes, the U.S. doesn't want to renounce the INF Treaty, but may deploy sea and air-launched missile systems in Europe.
The U.S. refers to the Russian cruise missile R-500 with a range of over 2,000 km created for the missile complex "Iskander-K". In 2008 Sergei Ivanov, then Deputy Prime Minister, told about tests of such missile. Earlier, the U.S. administration didn't insist on the cease of these tests, not wanting to upset relations with Moscow. As NYT noted then, the absence of hard line response of the White House was due to uncertainty in the classification of the test missiles. These weapons can be formally assigned to intercontinental missiles, as their range is much higher than 5,000 km indicated in the Treaty. Nevertheless, they can be easily converted for the less powerful ones. All things considered, the P-500 is at the threshold of starting its deployment which in some measure caused the excitement of this issue by the Americans right now.
Moscow, in its turn, also previously had serious issues with the U.S. in violation of the INF Treaty. On January 31, 2014 our website reported about that ("Lay the blame on somebody else"). Thus, according to Russia, the U.S. systematically violates the basic provisions of the Treaty, using target missiles simulating medium range ballistic missiles for testing individual elements of missile defense system. In addition, all long-range unmanned fighting vehicles (UAVs), strictly speaking, fall under the Treaty definition of "cruise missile", the development of which is prohibited by the Treaty. The U.S. has been producing and operating unmanned fighting vehicles MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper for a long time. The issue of UAVs as a violation of the INF treaty was brought up by the Soviet side as far back as the sunset of the USSR, and then quite actively but surreptitiously mooted by Russia in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The U.S. decision to begin discussions on the Treaty is unlikely to lead to its abolition because it is not profitable for both parties. Russia still remembers the "missile alert" caused by the deployment of U.S. missiles Pershing 2 in Europe. The U.S. is also not very eager for the development of Russian missiles of such range. However, earlier Russian officials and the military said that the Treaty, concluded for an indefinite term in 1987, is outdated, because the world has changed dramatically. Now short and medium ballistic missiles are in operational service with many of Russia's neighbors. Russia has nothing in this class of weapons, and it could endanger the country's defense. In 2013 Sergei Ivanov, the head of the Russian presidential administration, said that the treatment banning intermediate- and shorter-range ground-based missiles can not exist endlessly.
Now the U.S. Navy has 4,000 cruise missiles "Tomahawk" on surface ships and 1,000 more on nuclear submarines. In addition, the U.S. Air Forces are able to use approximately 1,200 cruise missiles for one flight. Totally there are not less than 5,200 cruise missiles in a salvo. Its engagement range is 2,200 - 2,400 km. In all fairness it has to be noted that they are not prohibited by the INF Treaty.
By now China has hundreds of land-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) of types "Dong Feng-4" (4,750 km), "Dong Feng-3" (2,650 km), "Dong Feng-25" (1,700 km), and others.
Almost immediately after the signing of the INF Treaty by USSR and the USA in 1987, Israel put into service ballistic missile "Jericho-2B" with engagement range of about 1,500 km. By 2000 the arsenal of Israel has had over 100 such missiles placed in closed mines. And in 2008, IRBM "Jericho-3" with engagement range of 4,000 km entered service. The missile is equipped with two or three split warheads with nuclear explosives. Thus, all European part of Russia apart from the Kola Peninsula turned out to be within the range of operation of Israeli missiles.
Besides Israel, other countries like Iran, India, Pakistan, North Korea have acquired IRBMs along the borders of Russia.
As for the history of the issue, the U.S. and USSR medium-range ballistic missiles have much in common in design and exploitation. The principal difference is that the USSR missiles were based on the territory of the country posing no threat to the USA. And the US missiles were placed on the territory of the European countries and in Turkey. They were able to strike the European part of Russia.
Nikita Khruchev upset such a disbalance by accepting the operation "Anadyr" plan which allowed the 51st missile division to be secretly transported to Cuba. The division had a special organization including five regiments. Three of them had 8 ballistic missile launchers R-12, and two of them had 8 R-14 each. All in all 36 R-12 and 24 R-14 were to be delivered in Cuba. The R-12 had a maximum range of 2,000 km, and the R-14 had a range up to 3,600 km.
During the negotiations the USA and the USSR reached an agreement according to which the USSR withdrew the Cuban missiles, and the USA guaranteed its non-aggression against Cuba and withdrew the medium-range missiles "Jupiter" from Turkey and Italy (total 45) and "Thor" (60 pcs). In such a way, after the Cuban crisis the missiles were placed on the native lands of each country. The missiles "Thor" and "Jupiter" were storaged in the USA till 1974-1975, and R-12 and R-14 remained on combat duty.
The meaning of keeping these missiles was always different between the USA and the USSR (Russia). The USA could operate without them because of their geographic location. But that didn’t take into account the U.S. task of umbrella security and force measures for its European partners. The USSR (Russia) is in a rather different geographical and geopolitical situation than the USA. But if the southern and partially eastern USSR borders were effectively protected without the missiles augmentation, now it’s politically and practically essential thing.
"The Treaty is perpetual, but every part can withdraw from it if it proves its necessity," said former Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Gen. Baluevskiy. "Now the arguments exist because a lot of countries produce and upgrade medium-range missiles, but Russia lost many missile systems having observed the Treaty."
"Now, when the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System elements are practically mounted in Eastern Europe and our relations with the USA and NATO are going from bad to worse because of the situation in Ukraine, the issue of renunciation of this treaty becomes more actual," said the general.
The repeated boom about Russian violations of the treaty may actually be a canny move to make a pretext for medium-range missile deployment somewhere near the Russian border. In such case the best card of the USA will be minimal time of arrival.