Farewell to the INF Treaty (II)

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - Europe may be facing a new round in an arms buildup with intermediate range nuclear missiles. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States has issued Moscow an ultimatum. If Russia does not cease its alleged violations of the INF Treaty within 60 days, Washington will withdraw from the treaty. Credible evidence for those alleged violations is as absent today, as sound proof of the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The western debate is still ignoring solid Russian evidence that the USA is violating the INF Treaty with the installation of NATO's missile defense systems in Romania and Poland. Yesterday, NATO foreign ministers blamed Russia for the abrogation of the treaty. Berlin seeks to avoid the installation of US medium-range missiles in Europe, because they would restrict the EU's planned military autonomy. Government advisors are suggesting other armament measures against Russia.

Accusations of Russia

Several German experts have recently confirmed that evidence backing up US accusations of Russia having violated the INF Treaty had been - at least until late November - totally insufficient. Washington alleges that Russia has stationed land-based Iskander type 9M729 cruise missiles (in NATO parlance - SSC 8) east of the Urals in Yekaterinburg, as well as at the Kapustin Yar testing grounds at the Caspian Sea. However, the US "for reasons of national security" refuses to provide "tangible evidence" for the allegations, announced the Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS).[1] The German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) also points out that the test firing of sea-based medium range missiles with the help of fixed launching pads in Kapustin Yar, is not in violation of the treaty.[2] If US accusations are in reference to those tests, they could evaporate. BAKS reminds that, in addition, "Russia's motivation for possibly violating the treaty is obscure." For example, Russia's treaty-compliant Iskander M and Kalibr short range ballistic and cruise missiles were "recently greatly enhanced and successfully used in the Syrian war."[3] It has sufficient stocks of these.

Suspicion of the USA

Far better founded is Russia's suspicion that the United States has been in violation of the INF Treaty for quite some time. The suspicion is primarily in reference to NATO's "Aegis ashore" missile defense system, which is already deployed and operational at Romania's Deveselu base, to the west of Bucharest, and due to be stationed at a second base in Poland.[4] As BAKS confirms, "Aegis ashore" is technically based "on the ... MK-41 launching pads used on ships," which in principle "also can be used to launch cruise missiles."[5] This is permitted for naval-based medium range missiles, however, not for the land based. Washington now claims, according to BAKS, that the MK-41 has been "so modified" that "they can only launch defensive missiles but no ground-to-ground offensive missiles." "The software," in particular, does not permit the launching of medium range missiles. On the one hand, that cannot be verified. BAKS considers it "hardly likely" that the United States would submit its missile facilities to adequate inspections. On the other, what is to prevent the USA from simply replacing the launching pad software in a conflict situation?

No Evidence

Washington launched an ostensible information campaign offensive prior to the current NATO defense ministers' meeting, to persuade the European NATO members to support the upcoming US withdrawal from the INF Treaty. For example, it was reported that the US authorities had provided their allies intelligence service material, for the first time, which included a satellite film of the trajectory of an alleged land-based SSC 8 cruise missile.[6] Details remain unknown. Should it be the test firing of a medium range missile from a fixed launching pad at the Kapustin Yar testing grounds, and if the missile used were a sea-based missile, this test would not be INF incompatible. It was also reported that Washington has named companies allegedly involved in the development and production of the SSC 8. This proves nothing, but can prove to be the prelude to future sanctions against those companies in question. Statements made by US Director of Intelligence; Dan Coats that Russia had tested missiles both from fixed and mobile launchers are also unclear. The test from a fixed launcher had a - permissible - medium range distance while the one from a mobile launcher had - also permissible - a short range distance. Again, no proof has been made available. Besides, neither of these tests were in violation of the INF Treaty.[7] However, the Dutch ministers of defense and foreign affairs said that the Netherlands had obtained "independent proof" of the Russian missile violation. But, as in the other cases, there is no credible evidence.[8]

Washington's Ultimatum

At yesterday's NATO foreign minister meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued Russia an ultimatum. Moscow must admit to the alleged INF Treaty violations and stop committing them within 60 days, or the United States will withdraw from the treaty. European allies should be given "enough time to explain the policy change to domestic audiences."[9] This was the justification for not having withdrawn from the treaty already yesterday, as, for example, US President Donald Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton had demanded. Accordingly, the NATO foreign ministers issued a statement accusing Russia of being the reason for the upcoming US withdrawal from the INF Treaty. Regarding the background for the USA's withdrawal, Pompeo said, there is "no reason" why the United States "should continue to cede this crucial military advantage" - meaning the medium range missiles - "to revisionist powers like China."[10]

Europe's Division

It is unclear which concrete consequences the pending abrogation of the INF Treaty will have. In Washington, it has been announced that production of US intermediate range missiles should begin as soon as possible. It is conceivable that alongside the installation of these weapons in eastern and southeastern Asia (german-foreign-policy.com reported [11]) a new round of intermediate range nuclear missiles build-up will take place in Europe. Berlin clearly rejects this scenario. Germany is building an "army of the Europeans," independent of the USA.[12] Stationing US nuclear medium range missiles on the European continent would provide Washington a leverage to exercise decisive influence over EU military policy. Even a policy toward Russia, independent from that of the USA, would be hardly possible. In general, Berlin's efforts to develop an independent global policy would be seriously restricted. Germany, France and other West European countries may possibly refuse US medium range missiles being stationed on their territories. Poland, on the other hand, and "other East European NATO countries," BAKS warns, "may, not only welcome, but possibly even actively promote their deployment for their defense either through bilateral agreements, or otherwise within the NATO framework."[13] This could eventually lead not only to a split in NATO, but even in the EU.

The Next Round of the Arms Race

To avoid this eventuality, BAKS, Germany's strategic center, proposes new "western military reactions," which could include "an even more intensive rotation of NATO troop presences in Eastern European countries." "An expansion of NATO's missile defense capabilities in Europe ... could also be considered."[14] Of course, the West's traditional false pretext would be absolutely exposed - that NATO's missile defense systems in East and Southeast Europe were installed not against Russian, but against Iranian missiles. The abrogation of the INF Treaty would, in any case, escalate the new cold war to heights that render all denial of this being anti-Russia aggression superfluous.


[1] Karl-Heinz Kamp, Wolfgang Rudischhauser: Der INF-Vertrag - Europa muss handeln. Arbeitspapier Sicherheitspolitik Nr. 29/2018.

[2] Wolfgang Richter: Der INF-Vertrag vor dem Aus. SWP-Aktuell Nr. 63, November 2018.

[3] Karl-Heinz Kamp, Wolfgang Rudischhauser: Der INF-Vertrag - Europa muss handeln. Arbeitspapier Sicherheitspolitik Nr. 29/2018.

[4] See also Abschied vom INF-Vertrag.

[5] Karl-Heinz Kamp, Wolfgang Rudischhauser: Der INF-Vertrag - Europa muss handeln. Arbeitspapier Sicherheitspolitik Nr. 29/2018.

[6] USA legen Nato-Partnern Beweise gegen Russland vor. spiegel.de 30.11.2018.

[7] Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats on Russia's INF Treaty Violation. dni.gov 30.11.2018.

[8] Mike Eckel: Standoff Over INF Treaty Enters New Phase As U.S. Reveals Details Of Russian Missile. rferl.org 03.12.2018.

[9] Michael Birnbaum, John Hudson: Trump administration gives Russia an ultimatum on Cold War-era arms treaty. washingtonpost.com 04.12.2018.

[10], [11] See also "Ein Alptraumszenario für China".

[12] See also Die Armee der Europäer.

[13], [14] Karl-Heinz Kamp, Wolfgang Rudischhauser: Der INF-Vertrag - Europa muss handeln. Arbeitspapier Sicherheitspolitik Nr. 29/2018.