Think tank: THE US tearing up the INF Treaty led to today’s Crisis in Ukraine


The Quincy Institute’s February 15, 2022 article by Peter Rutland on why the United States’ scrapping of the Intermediate-Range and Short-range Missiles Treaty (INF) was a very bad move.Mr. Trump’s move shifted the regional balance in Europe, putting pressure on Russia and contributing to today’s crisis, he said.One issue that deserves more attention in the Ukraine crisis is President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Missile Treaty in 2019 and station a new generation of short-range rocket launchers in Eastern Europe.This development was arguably a major factor in Vladimir Putin’s escalation of demands for an overhaul of Europe’s security architecture, as well as today’s military build-up on the Ukrainian border.Until 2019, Russia was confident that its air defenses and artillery could overwhelm NATO forces, and that it would not need to upgrade to nuclear weapons to deter NATO attacks.A 2016 report by the Rand Corporation suggested that Russia could seize the Baltics in three days.However, as Us Army Major Brennan-DeVereux explains, the arrival of a new generation of rocket launchers may have changed the balance of power in the Baltic, conventional or non-nuclear.In 2018, the United States deployed the 41st Field Artillery Brigade to Germany, equipped with the M142 high Mobility Artillery rocket system and advanced tactical missile system.The latter can drop a 500-pound warhead at a range of 300 kilometers, guided to its target by a global positioning system.In September 2020, the United States conducted live-fire exercises with these rockets in Estonia.Romania and Poland are buying more than 100 of these launchers.Major Devereux, among others, welcomed the deployment as a way to counter Russia’s superiority in conventional weapons.In addition, air Force University professor John Maurer said the U.S. has many countries that could deploy the missile, while Russia and China lack similar Allies.Meanwhile, when these new short-range missiles arrived, Us Secretary of State Mike Pompeo happily withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned all ground-based surface-to-surface missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500km (310 to 3,420 miles).Thus, 1,752 Soviet weapons and 867 American weapons were dismantled under the INF Treaty.The treaty reduced the risk of nuclear escalation because it eliminated the possibility of the Soviet Union taking the intermediate step of striking targets in Europe instead of the United States.However, in 2014, the Obama administration accused Russia of deploying a new 9M729 (SSC-8) missile in violation of the INF Treaty because it has a range of more than 500 km.The Trump administration has used this in part to rationalize its withdrawal from the treaty in 2019.German Foreign Minister Heikko Maas deplored this development, saying in August 2019 that “a piece of European security has been lost”.Two weeks later, in August 2019, the US tested a Tomahawk cruise missile with a range of more than 500km from a ground-based M-41 launcher (the same launchers used in the Aegis ashore missile defence system in Poland and Romania).Russia refuses to admit that its 9M729 missiles violate the INF treaty and has been unable to persuade the United States to revive the agreement by suspending new deployments.In October 2020, Russia proposed not to deploy 9M729 missiles west of the Ural Mountains, and proposed bilateral inspections of the US Aegis Offshore missile system in Europe and the 9M729 missile in Kaliningrad.Russia has deployed other new missiles in recent years, including the Iskander, which has a range of 500 kilometers and comes close to violating the INF Treaty.China is not a signatory to the INF Treaty, so it deploys many intermediate-range missiles to face off against the INTERMEDIate-range arsenals of the US Navy and air Force, and is not restricted by the INF treaty because it only covers land-based missiles.The deployment of new short – and medium-range missiles in Europe is destabilizing not only because it threatens Russia’s superiority in conventional weapons, but also because it is impossible for adversaries to know whether the missiles are armed with conventional or nuclear warheads.NATO argues that it is a defensive alliance and that Mr Putin has no reason to fear attack from the West.Russia points to NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999: not an act of self-defence, but an intervention to pursue humanitarian goals in Kosovo, a country that is not a NATO member.The Kremlin imagines a similar scenario in countries such as Belarus, where a crackdown on civil unrest prompts a NATO humanitarian intervention.Before 2019, such a scenario would have been entirely far-fetched given Russia’s superiority in conventional weapons in the region.Now, that calculation may be changing.Reviving a ban on medium-range missiles is under discussion during marathon talks between Mr Putin and a string of western leaders.On January 10, the Wall Street Journal reported that “the Biden administration’s willingness to discuss limits on land-based intermediate-range missiles is an important shift in Washington’s position.”Unfortunately, this may be too little, too late.A year ago, a willingness to revive the INF treaty might have helped put diplomacy back on track and forestall Mr Putin’s march towards war.But Putin has stepped up his demands, including a ban on new NATO members and a return of NATO forces to their 1997 positions.To paraphrase the Godfather, this is an offer the West cannot accept.

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