Did Russia Violate the INF? Putin SLAMS U.S Destabilizing Withdrawal

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MOSCOW – The US decision to withdraw from the INF treaty, which previously checked the use of intermediate and short range nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, leads to a shattering of the system of international security agreements, said Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This certainly changes the operational situation. And, unfortunately, not for the better,” the head of state stated at a meeting of the board of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.

The Russian leader noted that, despite the difficulties in relations with a number of countries, Moscow is ready for close cooperation and trustful work in the fight against international terrorism, which is a threat to the world community.

On March 4th, Putin signed a decree suspending the implementation of the INF. The decision was a response to the US withdrawal from the agreement. This has been misreported in Atlanticist media along misleading lines, with headlines reading as though Russia was the country to back-out of the agreement, and the details embedded in the article later provide clarification and FRN’s assessment.

Logically, such an agreement requires both parties to adhere. Russia did not order the termination of the agreement, but the suspension of Russia’s side of implementation, given that the U.S formally terminated the agreement, de facto unilaterally.

Washington accused Moscow of violating the treaty due to the presence of the 9M729 missile, the flight range of which allegedly is outside the acceptable standards. At the same time, the American side did not provide specific evidence, while the Russian Federation informed foreign colleagues about the tests of this missile.

9M729 missile system

In order to prove the groundlessness of the accusations of the United States and dispel the fears of a number of western countries, the Russian Defense Ministry during the January briefing for foreign military attaches demonstrated the above-mentioned missile with a launcher, revealing the characteristics of weapons.

In contrast to the unsupported accusations of the American side, Moscow had previously presented irrefutable evidence of direct violations of the INF on the US side. This, in particular, is about the US Mk-41 launchers deployed in Europe, which are part of the Aegis Ashore global missile defense system.

These installations, as noted by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, can be used to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles. In addition, the agency recently published a photograph of the plant of the Raytheon military-industrial corporation in the United States, at which preparation for the production of weapons prohibited by the treaty began two years ago.

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The INF Treaty was concluded between the USSR and the USA in December 1987 and entered into force in June 1988. The document prohibits the two countries to produce and deploy ballistic and cruise missiles of medium (area of ​​destruction from 1 thousand to 5.5 thousand km) and a smaller (zone of destruction from 500 to 1 thousand km) range. In addition, the agreement prohibits Moscow and Washington from using launchers designed for these missiles.

FRN’s assessment:

Despite the claims made by both the U.S and Russia, it is clear that in both cases – with the MK-41 and the 9M729 – they are each at minimum ‘dual capacity’ launchers. That is, they are capable of launching both allowed and prohibited missiles under the terms of the now defunct INF treaty, and both of these would violate the INF treaty.

The treaty did not address the use of short and medium range launchers from naval ships, and so there had always existed this ‘loophole’. There are Tomahawk missiles armed on U.S naval vessels, as there are  9M728 (SS-CX-7) and 9M729 (SS-CX-8) missiles as part of the Iskander missile system. These are widely reported as variants of the earlier SS-C-4. When equipped on ships, they are not ruled out by the INF, but when U.S Tomahawks and Russian SS-C-4 variants are based on land, it violates the INF. The ground-based Tomahawks are known as BGM-109G Gryphons. 

In February 2018, U.S. military officials confirmed they were developing a new ground-launched, intermediate-range cruise missile to counter Russian development of a similar weapon system that violates the INF Treaty.

The reality is that the INF treaty was agreed to under vastly different geopolitical conditions, when NATO’s border was East Germany, and Poland and other Eastern European and Balkan states, less Yugoslavia, were part of the Warsaw Pact on defense.

The INF was brokered at that time, and while Russia is the successor state to the USSR, and it is likely enough that Russia in recent years had been developing a cruise-type missile that would violate the INF if deployed, Russia had not deployed this missile as of 2018, when U.S president Trump announced that the Russia was in violation of the INF.

In the talks the led to the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, it was agreed to then that NATO would not expand eastward, and this agreement between the last Soviet premiere, Gorbachev, and his American counterpart, would immediately afterwards be disregarded by the U.S and Poland, followed by other former Warsaw states, would join NATO.

In a manner that shocked Russian civilian and military leaders, the U.S declared that it was not bound to an agreement with Russia regarding NATO expansion, on the basis that Russia was not the USSR.

Thus, while it is likely enough that in the narrowest sense, Russia violated the INF ‘first’, it is the United States that played fast and loose with the concept of successor state when it was convenient to them, and broke the U.S-Soviet agreement on the expansion of NATO.

From that angle, and by the U.S’s own logic, Russia was not bound by the INF treaty.

Published on: Mar 6, 2019 @ 15:12

 

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