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Leonid Sutsky: “After the INF treaty: how to ensure strategic stability”

Washington officially withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (the INF treaty). Chairman of the State Duma Committee oтInternational Affairs Leonid Slutsky gave commented to the “Rossiiskaia Gazeta” the decision of the White House, voiced on Friday by the USA Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. He reflects on the consequences of that step in his article “After the INF treaty: how to ensure strategic stability” specifically for “Rossiiskaia Gazeta”.

Treaty on Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range (land-based) Missiles is rooted in the history. It was concluded between USA and USSR in 1987 and was one of the symbols of the end of the Cold War and pillars of global architecture of armament control.

The whole responsibility for the break of the INF treaty most certainly falls on Washington, which UNILATERALLY declared its withdrawal from the treaty. USA by doing so is guaranteeing “carte blanche” for themselves in the framework of confrontation against Russia and China that they caused themselves. Military aspect plays a significant role in this arrangement.

Washington has been headed in the direction of the INF treaty break for a long time.Despite that, USA has cynically and evenlyshift the blame on Moscow. By bringing against Russia the unsubstantiated charges of violating the obligations, USA who had not been binding by the obligations of the treaty did everything in their power to ensure that the negotiations on eliminating mutual complaints would not happen.

It would have been absurd to remain the only sate to oblige by the INF treaty, especially when the missiles of intermediate and middle range are already being considered by Washington as tools of military deterrence of Russian Federation, DPRK and other “enemies”. Russian leadership made an entirely appropriate decision – to mirror the actions.

Nevertheless, the break of the INF treaty strikes a heavy blow to strategic security. The perspective of placing intermediate and shorterrange land-based missiles in Europe, especially Central or Eastern, presents the biggest threat. It takes them so little time to reach Russia from Poland or the Baltic states (around 4 minutes), that Moscow will be forced in that case to adopt the doctrine of preventive strikes. And this is where the risk of a nuclear conflict “by mistake” rises significantly.

If Washington proceeds to deploy land-based missiles of intermediate and shorter range in the Asia-Pacific region, an arms race becomes possible between USA and China, where intermediate and shorter range missiles account for a significant part of nuclear arsenal. It will further complicate the mission of maintaining control over strategic nuclear armament and undermine the non-proliferation regime.

In spite of the fact that the IRNFT is expiring, it does not necessarily mean the critical weakening of Russian security. Reliable nuclear deterrence is still provided for years. Brand new and solid Russian weaponry and armament, including hypersonic weapons guarantee the ability of an effective retaliation and liquidation of the potential threat despite the quantitative parameters of American nuclear rockets and missile defense systems. Hence, the danger of a renewed arms race is unlikely to extend to Russia.

In this regard the “death” of the INF Treaty should be perceived as a reason for starting a serious work on strengthening strategic stability in the context of new military-strategic circumstances. First of all, these conditions should take into consideration the factor of “the third” nuclear Powers (not only China, but Great Britain and France too) in the Russia-American dialogue, the factor of absence any distinction between nuclear weapons and non-nuclear strategic ones, the enhance of confrontational attitude of the Washington policy and gradual demise of the treaties on the reduction of nuclear weapons.

Taking into account all these components, first and foremost we should continue concluding agreements with the USA on deployment of medium- and shorter-range ground-based missiles in Europe, especially in the Central-East Europe and the Baltic countries. With the other approach, the threat of a global nuclear conflict is getting significantly higher. It is high time Washington refused the illusions that the military clash could be kept only on the European theater borders. In case of the attack on Russia from the NATO-countries territory, not only Europe but the decision-making center – the USA,- will be struck back.

Secondly, it is necessary to prolong the New START Treaty- the only mechanism at the present day that can set the playing field of nuclear weapons and that provides the regime of transparency and predictability. In case of its non-renewal there will not be any other instruments of arms race limitation.

Meanwhile it is crucial not to give into White House’s “tricks”, particularly, the proposal made by the US President Donald Trump regarding the inclusion of China into the negotiations on nuclear arms limitation. From the Washington’s position, the respective track resembles an attempt to justify its own unclear position regarding the New START, while simultaneously implant an element of mistrust into Russia-China relations. Moscow does not oppose the trilateral negotiations format, however is Beijing going through with this? Until the current moment, the answer has been negative. It is as well essential to prevent dictating Russia the “deal” on tactical nuclear weapons in the capacity of INF Treaty prolongation condition. It is going to result only in one-sided Russia’s disarmament and establishment of a considerable military imbalance in favour of NATO. If in the position of choosing between non-prolongation of the New START and “control” over Russian TNW, then the “lesser evil” is the suspension of the treaty. Nevertheless, even in this case it is essential to come to an agreement with regard to preservation of measures on the transparency of strategic nuclear weapons.

Thirdly, the conduction of negotiations with the USA and other nuclear powers over the strategic stability on the whole, its provision measures’ adaptation to the new strategic military conditions are indispensable.

In this context the initiation of a dialogue through the ministries of foreign affairs, between Russia and the US, concerning strategic stability is highly welcomed. It is to be hoped that throughout the year that remains till the finish line of the US presidential campaign, we manage to progress. We are going to actively facilitate the process on the parliamentary level.

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