On February 2, 2019, an alarm bell rang for the entire civilized world - the US government decided to suspend its participation in the treaty on the elimination of medium and short-range missiles (INF Treaty), accusing USA of repeated violations of the agreements. The USA authorities did not remain "in debtors" and on March 4, Vladimir Putin, guided by the policy of mirror measures, signed a decree on USA's withdrawal from the INF Treaty. But before sounding the alarm, we will try to find out why the nuclear powers should increase the number of short- and medium-range missiles, how they differ from continental ones, and whether it is worth fearing the consequences of the refusal of the United States and USA to comply with the INF Treaty.
Features of short and medium-range missiles
Until the beginning of the 70s of the XX century, the policy of nuclear deterrence, if it did not justify the actions of the supreme commanders of the superpowers, then at least it was as simple as twice two. Intercontinental missiles could hit any part of the land of the opposing state, but due to the long flight time and the ease of detection of missile defense systems, there was a danger that the enemy could start countermeasures and launch a series of nuclear warheads in response. Thus, each participant in the war understood that a blow to an enemy state was tantamount to the destruction of his own homeland.
Everything changed in the mid-1970s with the development of a new generation of weapons - infrared and laser-guided missiles capable of striking targets with an accuracy of 30 meters. Experts started talking about a new type of war, when there is no need to inflict massive attacks on opponents, it is enough just to "decapitate" the country by inflicting a targeted strike at the office of the commander-in-chief and strategically important targets such as missile defense systems on the borders of states. It was the “decapitation strike” that became the basis of the new concept of the US military policy, which, of course, was reflected in the subsequent decisions of the USSR.
Returning to short-range (up to 500 km) and medium-range (up to 5000 km) missiles, it is worth noting that, unlike continental missiles, they have an order of magnitude less flight time and, in conjunction with point guidance, allow you to strike even before they are detected enemy state. Ballistic and cruise missiles turned out to be the ideal weapons, so it is not surprising that the US and Soviet authorities began to simultaneously increase the number of installations of medium and short-range missiles.
The United States was the first to notice in 1974, which installed a modified medium-range missile system in Western Europe. The maneuver did not go unnoticed and already in 1977 after D.F. Ustinov for the post of Minister of Defense of the USSR, the Soviet state on the borders with Western Europe has placed more than 300 medium-range missile systems RSD-10, nicknamed "Pioneers". The total domination of the USSR within Europe caused considerable concern on the part of the United States, which resulted in the installation of 572 Pershing-2 missiles, capable of destroying all Soviet installations within 6-8 minutes.
The escalation of the conflict did not play into the hands of both the United States and USA and the countries of Europe, so already in the 1980s, the first negotiations on bilateral disarmament began. How to say, bilaterally, the incumbent US President Ronald Reagan proposed a "zero option", obliging the USSR to withdraw all RSD-10, but not taking into account the US missile systems in France and Great Britain. The thaw began only with the arrival of Gorbachev, who, probably sensing the future collapse of the Soviet Union, made a number of compromises, which led in 1987 to the signing of an agreement on the complete destruction of the INF Treaty on the territory of the United States, Europe and the USSR.
How many intermediate and short-range missiles have actually been eliminated?
Oddly enough, but all rockets, there can be no doubt about it. The agreements adopted in the INF Treaty obliged the parties to carry out disarmament under the close supervision of foreign inspectors, therefore, it was in the interests of the United States and the USSR to conduct the most meticulous examination and observe the strictest control over the implementation of all clauses of the treaty. As a result, in June 1991, the process of eliminating missiles and launchers of the Pioneer, Pershing-2, Oka, and OTP Lance-2 types, launching neutron warheads, was completed. For the next ten years, parity in military policy and a bilateral truce between the United States and USA have been established.
Mutual accusations and real reasons for leaving the INF Treaty
The first person to speak publicly about the need for USA to terminate the treaty on medium and short-range missiles was Vladimir Putin in June 2000, in response to George W. Bush's desire to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. The next hotbed of tension between the countries was the deployment by USA in 2007 of Iskander-class missile systems, but according to the USA Defense Ministry, they did not violate the agreements, as they are equipped with missiles with a range below 500 kilometers.
A similar story was repeated in 2017, when the New York Times reported on the installation of Iskander-K complexes in USA, armed with a medium-range cruise missile. The USA authorities again referred to the fact that the missile strike range does not exceed 500 kilometers, but the Iskander-K complexes, if necessary, can be equipped with extended-range missiles, which is completely contrary to the INF Treaty. As follows from the agreements, the United States and USA have no right to produce missiles with a range of more than 500 kilometers, even though they have never been tested at test ranges.
The US government did not have to wait long for retaliatory measures, and already in 2016, a number of Mark-41 missile systems were deployed in Romania. In addition to direct positioning as anti-missile systems, they can be equipped with Tomahawk medium-range cruise missiles. Here we see a direct violation of the terms of the INF Treaty and fertile ground for growing concern from the USA Ministry of Defense. As in the case of Iskander-K, it is almost impossible to determine in advance what type of missiles is installed on the Mark-41.
So what are the real reasons for the full withdrawal of the United States from the treaty on short- and medium-range missiles? Based on the words of Andrei Korobkov, a political scientist at the University of Tennessee, the actions of Western countries are not due to protection or possible aggression against USA, but primarily as a deterrent force aimed at China's missile systems. The treaty adopted in 1987 took into account only the leading parties in the Cold War of the 20th century - USA and the United States. The same China, which pursues an isolated policy and is not limited by the framework of the treaty, is successfully building up its military potential and, according to experts, has more than 1,000 missiles in service. Therefore, it is not surprising if Trump, especially given his sharply negative statements towards China, left the INF Treaty in pursuit of the goal of catching up with China in the arms race.
Similar motives sounded from the lips of USA politicians. Although at the official level, USA does not declare a possible threat from China, but in 2014, Vladimir Putin expressed fears that the policy of containment is being pursued only by the United States and the USA Federation. In the first half of the 2000s, the current USA Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov spoke in a similar vein and called the INF Treaty a "relic of the Cold War," referring to the presence of short- and medium-range missiles in countries outside the treaty. The politician's words are not devoid of common sense, because India, Pakistan, Iran and Israel are armed with medium-range missiles capable of hitting any targets on USA territory.
Cold War 2.0: Should You Be Afraid of the Consequences of the US and USA withdrawal from the INF Treaty?
Of course, the growing tension between the superpowers and the rattling of politicians with a stock of warheads, for obvious reasons, frightens the civilized world, which does not want to trample nuclear ashes under their own feet. But we do not expect a repeat of the Cold War scenario in the coming years. Primarily based on financial considerations. Building up the missile potential will require colossal investments from countries, and this is in conditions when there is a decrease in military spending.
In the case of America, Trump, at the snap of his fingers, will not be able to receive financial resources for the development and production of missile systems, the last word always rests with Congress. In the case of USA, the situation is even more complicated: we hope it is no secret to anyone that the economic situation in the USA Federation in recent years has left much to be desired, so the government is hardly capable of increasing the budget for military expenditures many times without tangible consequences. >
The Topic of Article: Why are short - and medium-range missiles dangerous and should we be afraid of the beginning of Cold War 2.0?.