Mutually Assured Destruction: Russia could withdraw from START III – but why?


November 12 , 2017 – Fort Russ News – 
by Inessa Sinchougova 

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During the Cuban Missile Crisis, in a series of confused events, Soviet submariner Vasili Arkhipov refused his captain’s orders by not firing a missile against the United States. By morning, Khruschev and Kennedy had come to a mutual agreement. The world probably never truly understood how close we came to ‘Mutually Assured Destruction.’ Therefore, it is noteworthy that the rational actions of one person can avoid a full-fledged disaster.

According to a report by Vesti, on the Rossia 1 TV channel, “IRBM” is an abbreviation for the words “medium and short-range missiles” – a very important class of weapons. Under Gorbachev, and under the Soviet-American treaty of 1988, the USSR completely destroyed such missiles, of which it had about two thousand. The Americans also destroyed their own – they had less than a thousand in Europe.

This class of weapon may be the most dangerous of them all. Why? Because the medium flying range is from 1, 500 km to 5,000 km, and short range is from 500 km to 1, 500 km. Thus, we are talking about missiles with a range of 500 km to 5,000 km. These missiles are ground-based, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, missiles with a flying time of mere minutes. Hence, there is less time to make a decision about a retaliatory strike, and in this lies the danger.

In the mid 1980s, Europe had a situation that was similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet SS-20 Saber and the American Pershing missile stared at each other from a close distance. From the time of pushing “launch”, there would be 20 minutes of flight – that’s all. It is clear that nerves buckled in back then, and both parties decided to abandon this design of “international security.”

Now, the United States is seemingly desperate  to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (1988) with Russia and return to the former situation. To bring this to fruition, America has followed two pathways in recent years. The Rossia 1 Vesti report also explained this; 

1) The first – actually develop and test new medium and short-range missiles – those that are prohibited by the current treaty. Back in November 2011, the US successfully tested a hypersonic shock system at a distance of 3,700 km. 

Testing was launched from Hawaii, but the work there is ongoing. Only this year, from the same Hawaiian test site, two missiles were launched at a distance of 700 km and 2,000 km. Once again, these weapons are prohibited by the INF Treaty. 

2) In parallel, the Americans are putting launchers into full combat readiness in Europe. These are positioned in Romania – and next in line is Poland. What has the explanation of the Americans been so far? “We are creating an anti-missile defense shield.” The reality is, there are vertical launching rigs that would be suitable for Tomahawk missiles, with a range of 2,400 km. From there, they would hypothetically be able to reach all the way to the Urals. A daring breach of INF Treaty.

On the other hand, America accuses Russia of violating the Treaty, which Russia immediately denies on all accounts. The Americans do not bring any facts of violations to the table, as has become their norm. But they have to say something – so they state that Russia possesses the Iskander missile, successfully tested at a range of up to 480 km (an allowable distance.) “But the Iskander flew too confidently – what if it can fly further?” Then the Russians say – “You know, we did not design them to go further, only 480 km – within the framework of the agreement. No violations.”

Today, the Americans so often talk about “violations” from Russia, that this has become commonplace and such claims go unchecked. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s budget for the next year is openly pledging a modest $ 58 million for “countermeasures” in response to violations by the Russian Federation of the INF Treaty.” Among the countermeasures – there is money to develop a medium-range, land-based missile. This is another direct violation of the INF Treaty.

This means that the decision to withdraw from the Treaty in the United States has already been taken. Work on the creation of prohibited missiles goes on and is openly funded. Of course, such a turn of events needs to be taken into account by Russia.

So far, without any violation of the treaty, Russia has created missiles for submarines, surface ships and aircraft of the same class – something that the Americans also have – but the US doesn’t like this very much either. President Putin’s argument is simple;

“We think that we have simply equalised the situation now. If someone does not like it and someone has a desire to withdraw from the treaty in general – from our side the answer will be instant, I want to warn you about that. The answer will be instant and mirrored”– the Russian president said. The word “instant” Putin repeated twice for clarity.

And nevertheless, America somehow ransoms previously concluded agreements without ever looking back. 

It began in 2002, with the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty 1972, a treaty that Vladimir Putin called “the absolute linchpin to international security.” This then hampered the START II (1993) – Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. 

The US is tearing down the Agreement on the destruction of weapons-grade plutonium, delaying the destruction of its chemical arsenal, withdrawing from UNESCO, threatening to abandon the nuclear deal with Iran, has left the Paris climate agreement, is disregarding their obligations to the WTO – declaring sanctions to the right, left and center. Furthermore, contrary to all their conventions and their own laws, they seize Russia’s diplomatic property in the US and rip Russian flags off the diplomatic missions’ buildings. It seems necessary to ask – where is rock bottom for them? 

Violating the INF Treaty may just be it – this would be extremely irresponsible, as history may show.

What will Russia do in response? Putin has already mentioned the “instantaneous” answer. But here’s a new plot twist – he continued; “The fact that there are missile launchers in Romania, which can be used not only for anti-missiles – but also for Trident systems of medium-range missiles. These are deployed from the sea, however they can be transferred to land and used as medium-range, land-based missiles – this then becomes a direct violation of the INF,” said Putin. Checkmate. 

“Yet we have the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START III – I think that there are issues that need to be discussed,” the Russian head of state said.

This is a hint of the possibility of Russia withdrawing from the US-backed Strategic Arms Treaty – START III. After all, on the day of signing – April 8, 2010 – the Russian president (then it was Medvedev) included a special reservation – a clause that said that the treaty “can be viable only on conditions when there is no qualitative and quantitative increase in the capabilities of the US anti-missile systems.”

Article 14 of the treaty states that it is possible to withdraw from the treaty under “exceptional circumstances”. Is this what Putin alluded to by linking the US missile defense launchers in Romania, with Russia’s questions on START III?  

If you haven’t seen Putin’s appeal to the international community of journalists – to simply tell the truth about which side is hampering with international collective security – it’s a must watch.

Inessa Sinchougova is an Editor and Journalist at Fort Russ News, as well as a research fellow and translator of the Belgrade based think-tank, the Center for Syncretic Studies. She was educated at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand), in the field of Political Science and was previously employed in Marketing and Communications Strategy for a Multi-National Corporation. She runs a popular YouTube channel for translations of key Russian Foreign Policy figures and appears regularly on other alternative media channels.  

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