Analysis: Russia to answer tit-for-tat to US INF withdrawal, the Russian point of view

The creation of a new world order is accompanied by US and Western efforts to oust Russia from the zones of traditional interests and turn it into an ordinary regional power. Sanctions and pressure on Moscow aim at weakening and dragging it into the arms race. Preservation of strategic stability as the basis of economic growth and security becomes vital, the Military-Industrial Courier writes.

Analysis Russia to answer tit for tat to US INF withdrawal the Russian point of view
9P78-1 TEL of 9K720 Iskander-M SRBM missile, cause of a deep disagreement between Russia and the U.S. (Picture source: Vitaly Kuzmin)

The 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) and the 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction (New START) Soviet-US treaties are the key agreements.

Now, the United States has embarked on a path to dismantle all strategic arms control treaties which negatively affects the whole strategic stability and the military-political situation in the world, Russia claims. The first step to crush the system was the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which was a basic agreement on strategic arms control for 30 years. It promoted mutual nuclear deterrence and was the basis to stop the strategic offensive arms race.

In February 2019, US President Donald Trump suspended US participation in the INF and said the country would pull out from it in half a year. The US nuclear policy changed according to the Nuclear Posture Review of 2018. It focused on the growing role of nuclear weapons in the US military buildup and on the development of the global missile defense.

An analysis of negotiations on strategic arms in the past two decades shows that the United States has long planned to withdraw from the INF. The White House has been accusing Russia of violations since 2013. The campaign was launched through the US media and then backed by US Congressmen and administration. Russia denied the accusations and numerously confirmed its adherence to the INF.

The main US claim was that Russia allegedly tested at Kapustin Yar range the ground-based missile 9M729 of Iskander-M with a range that exceeds the allowed 500 km. In reality, the missile has a range of 480 km and does not fall under INF restrictions.

The Russian Defense and Foreign Ministries presented 9M729 to foreign military attaches on January 23, 2019 and explained its characteristics, including the range. However, US, British, French, German and NATO representatives ignored the briefing. The White House criticized the event calling it a travesty of transparency. Washington has provided no evidence of alleged Russian INF violation so far. Experts agree the aim was to discredit Russia as a reliable partner and distract the world public from US INF violations.

Moscow has substantiated claims to Washington. The United States is implementing a large-scale program of production and trials of antimissiles with similar characteristics of ground-based intermediate missiles. They are tested for missile defense, but it is likely a cover for the flight trials of designed intermediate missiles.

Universal Mk.41 launchers deployed in Romania and Poland can fire both antimissiles and seaborne Tomahawks which should be in this case classified as ground-based cruise missiles.

Russia numerously voiced concern, but the Americans avoided any detailed discussion. It meant Washington had no plans to save the INF together with Moscow.

The United States believed it was necessary to withdraw from the treaty, as it hoped to pressure Russia by the threat of a preventive strike which will weaken Moscow because of a shortage of time for retaliation.

NATO chief Stoltenberg said at the 55th Munich security conference that all alliance members support the US position on the INF. He called on Russia, not the United States, to observe the treaty. It means both the United States and NATO countries are responsible for the INF collapse.

The creation of a new world order is accompanied by US and Western efforts to oust Russia from the zones of traditional interests and turn it into an ordinary regional power. Sanctions and pressure on Moscow aim at weakening and dragging it into the arms race. Preservation of strategic stability as the basis of economic growth and security becomes vital, the Military-Industrial Courier writes.

The negative consequences of INF collapse include: 1) further deterioration of relations between Russia with the United States and its allies; 2) resumed arms race and the design of new intermediate and shorter-range missiles, including mobile ground-based launchers on Mk.41 basis (in March 2019,the Pentagon said it will test two new intermediate missiles by the end of the year - a ballistic one with the maximum range of 3000-4000 km and a cruise missile with the maximum range of over 1000 km; 3) potential US (NATO) deployment of ground-based intermediate and shorter-range ballistic and cruise missiles along the perimeter of the Russian border with the Baltic republics, Poland, Romania, Georgia, Japan, South Korea, Ukraine and other countries. A short fly-in time to Russian facilities and the ability of the missiles to bypass air and missile defense pose a major threat to Russia; 4) provoking a potential collapse of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to the ambitions of some countries (North Korea) to develop their own nuclear weapons as the only way to compensate the technological gap and army weakness against the leading world powers; 5) negative impact on New START prolongation and reduction of strategic arms in general which would undermine strategic stability on a global level.

Regardless of the INF, the US (NATO) military-political leadership designs measures which allegedly do not violate agreements: 1) additional deployment of modern air and seaborne cruise missiles in Europe which can potentially carry nuclear weapons; 2) strengthening naval forces in the Mediterranean, Norwegian, Baltic and Black Seas; 3) deployment of strategic bombers with cruise missiles at advanced airbases; 4) creation of hypersonic weapons for a prompt strike; 5) technical readiness of Aegis Ashore complexes with universal vertical Mk.41 launchers to fire Tomahawk seaborne missiles; 6) the creation of a space echelon of missile defense with information and attack functions; 7) the creation of airborne antimissiles using lasers to intercept missiles.

The United States has created missile defense infrastructure with offensive and defensive features. The number of deployed cruise and ballistic intermediate and shorter-range missiles is to be decided. Nobody can guarantee that the missiles will not carry nuclear warheads. The US declaration of a preventive nuclear strike considerably increases the danger posed by the attack component of the missile defense.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February 2019 that Moscow was also suspending the INF and told the defense and foreign ministers to refrain from initiating any disarmament negotiations until the counterparts are ready for an equal dialogue on the important issue. The Russian suspension of the INF was legally documented by the presidential decree #91 of March 4, 2019.

Russia has to take measures in response to the US withdrawal from the INF. Putin said it would be a tit-for-tat answer. Russia will design and produce ground-based intermediate ballistic and cruise missiles and arm its forces with them.

The response is likely to include: 1) the design of new intermediate ballistic missiles armed with hypersonic reentry vehicles to strip the adversary of the possibility to repel a retaliation strike in case of aggression against Russia and its allies; 2) modernization of available Kalibr seaborne missiles for deployment on the ground and a considerable reduction of time and costs to deploy forces armed with ground-based cruise missiles; 3) design of the ground option of Tsirkon hypersonic seaborne missile which will increase retaliation effectiveness due to a much shorter fly-in time. The speed makes adversary air and missile defense ineffective.

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