What’s Behind Plans to Deploy US Missiles in Europe?

Washington, DC (SCF) – The US has been ramping up the controversy over alleged violations of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). As far back as December 2014, Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for arms control and international security, told Congress it was important to make Russia comply with the treaty. This June the United States picked up the issue again.

The Associated Press was given an unclassified portion of a report written by the office of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It says that the US officials are urging Russia to observe the treaty. In case of non-compliance the Obama administration is weighing a range of aggressive responses to Russia’s alleged violation of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty, including deploying land-based missiles in Europe that could pre-emptively destroy the Russian weapons.

Let me remind the readers, that Washington has not deployed intermediate range missiles in Europe since the 1980s. In 1987 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles that required destruction of the parties’ ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, their launchers and associated support structures and support equipment within three years after the treaty entered into force.

It was an agreement to ban an entire class of weapons from the arsenals of both countries, including US Pershing-2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) and Tomahawk cruise missiles, as well as Soviet SS-20 Saber (RSD-10 Pioneer) and SS-23/OTR-23 Oka IRBMs. The treaty had been implemented by 1991. The United States destroyed 846 missiles and 318 launchers. The Soviet Union had to destroy a much bigger arsenal of 1846 missiles and 825 launchers.

True, there was no parity in reductions but the USSR faced a much greater threat. The range of Soviet missiles was too limited to reach the continental USA. In comparison Pershing-2 had a seven-eight-minute flight time to the targets. The missiles boasted very high precision and could knock out some key objectives to reduce the potential of Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces. The missile had a warhead with earth-penetrating characteristics (a nuclear munition able to penetrate 25 meters deep into the ground). The checks conducted till early 2000s proved the treaty was complied with. As time went by, it became clear that the “re-set” policy, which according to US vision implied one-sided concessions on the part of Moscow, failed to live up to expectations. As a result, Russia was accused of a lot of things it did wrong, including the violation of INF treaty.

The US claimed said the tests of RS-26 Rubezh ballistic missile were in breach of the treaty’s provisions. But this missile was tested at intercontinental range. It is not an intermediate range weapons system. Now the United States says the range of R-500 cruise missile exceeds the 500-km limit. As soon as Iskander tactical missile entered the inventory of Russian armed forces, the US brought up the controversial issue again. The officially announced range of the missile is not in violation of the INF treaty. It can be conventional or nuclear-tipped. All Russian Ground Forces missile brigades will be armed with Iskander ballistic missile systems by 2018, according to the Russian Defence Ministry statement.

The United States does its best to prevent the system from deployment. The Pentagon and the NATO headquarters got jittery upon receiving the news that Iskander missiles were to be deployed in the Kaliningrad region in the west of Russia, as well as Crimea, to target US missile defense systems and stymie the US plans to build the third BMD site in Europe.

The administration has thrown away the fig-leaf it used for so long to disguise the missile defense plans under the veil of invented Iranian threat. The fact that the BMD in Europe is aimed against Russia is obvious. Europe still hosts US nuclear weapons deployed in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, as well as the Asian part of Turkey. According to experts, the United States deploys around 200 nuclear munitions with overall yield of 18 megatons.

After the Second World War our country has lived for many years under the barrel of «nuclear gun». As soon as the war was over the United States came up with the plans to attack the country that only yesterday was its anti-Hitler’s coalition ally. Plan Totality was worked out in 1945. It envisioned a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union with 20 to 30 atomic bombs. The target list included the largest cities of the USSR: Moscow, Leningrad, Stalino (Donetsk), Kuibyshev, Baku and others. Then such plans followed one after another. The NSC 20/1 U.S. Objectives With Respect to Russia said that the objective was to reduce the Soviet Union’s political, military and psychological influence. One strategy replaced another. Mass retaliation, flexible response… Nothing was changed after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Today the White House and the Pentagon cannot reconcile with the fact that Russia is not threatened by US nuclear weapons stationed in Europe and Asia after the INF treaty’s provisions were carried out. It launched information campaign to prepare the public opinion for US leaving the treaty. Evidently the return of intermediate range missiles into Europe will negatively affect the international situation. The US accusations against Russia are not made precise. No concrete details are provided. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that «has no intention to break the treaty». “We will be ready to consider concrete evidence that gives Americans grounds to think that we violated something”, the Minister added.

The ballyhoo raised around the Russia’s alleged violations of INF treaty is another attempt to exert pressure on Russia. It is provoked by the Ukrainian crisis and obvious collapse of Western policy aimed at achieving the set goals by imposing sanctions. Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said, “One has the impression the United States is making a fuss about alleged Russian violations to create a pretext for implementing its own, ostensibly retaliatory military steps, expected to assert US leadership in resisting a Russian military threat – a myth Washington keeps inflating in defiance of obvious facts»”

Pershing Rocket in a display titled "End of the Cold War" Image Source: Bernt Rostad, Flickr, Creative Commons

Pershing Rocket in a display titled “End of the Cold War”
Image Source: Bernt Rostad, Flickr, Creative Commons

In other words by breaking the regime of strategic stability that does not meet its goals Washington acts like a thief shouting “Stop the thief!”

Written by Yuriy RUBTSOV for Strategic Culture Foundation.