INF Jitters Materialize

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The uncertain future of the INF Treaty is causing concern, and alarm in media, political, and diplomatic circles across the globe. For months now, the Trump administration has been voicing its concerns about violations of the treaty by Russia with its deployment of the SS-CX-7/SS-CX-8 Screwdriver ground-launched cruise missile. Two days ago, the administration announced that if Russia does not fall back into compliance with the terms of the treaty within sixty days, the United States will begin withdrawing from the INF Treaty. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the formal announcement on Tuesday, and it appears that the ultimatum is being supported by NATO.

Critics of the Trump administration, the Russian government, and anti-nuclear organizations were quick to react to the news, as were other parties. The greatest fear at the moment seems to be that relegating the treaty to the dust bin of history will inevitably spark a new arms race. Leaving the treaty intact, according to many observers, will deter Russia to continue developing new intermediate range missiles. While this argument does have merit, it neglects the fact that Vladimir Putin has been developing new missiles, and updating some already in service for quite some time now.

On the other side of the coin is the argument that if Russia is intent on building these weapons, the United States should be building them too. Failing to keep up with Russian advances in the missile field only serves to harm US national security, and leaves the US military at a sharp disadvantage. It would be wise for all parties to remember that the INF Treaty came into being in the 80s because of the existence of a very modern, and capable US intermediate nuclear force. Moscow had great respect for the Pershing II, and Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) systems being fielded in Western Europe by the United States at the time. The Soviets took a look at the balance of power in Central Europe at the time and concluded that a treaty was in their best interests.

In short, Gorbachev and the Soviets were motivated by US military strength, and the political resolve behind it. This is what led to the INF Treaty being signed more than any other factor.

Maintaining the INF Treaty now, without penalizing Russia, allows them to continue developing systems like the Screwdriver without penalty. It also confines the US military from developing and fielding similar systems, thus giving Russia a clear advantage in a crucial area of weaponry.

60 days is a long enough period of time for a compromise to be reached by both sides, yet if Russia is unwilling to abide by the terms of the treaty, it is in the best interests of the United States to leave the treaty and begin developing new intermediate nuclear-capable cruise, and ballistic missiles.

A Brief Summary: INF Treaty Violations and the Future of US-Russian Relations

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During the 1980s ground-based mobile missile systems became a major arms-control topic for the United States and the Soviet Union. The rationale of the superpowers on the matter was uncomplicated: both sides wanted them in Europe, yet each side was scared of the other possessing them. The US systems in place in Western Europe at the time probably worried Moscow more than the Soviet systems concerned Washington. The reason for this was the superiority of the US missile systems. The Pershing 2 and BGM-109G, the Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) system were newer and more advanced than their Soviet counterpart, the SS-20.

Those mutual fears and anxieties led President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to hammer out a treaty that eliminated all nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 310-620 miles (short range systems) and 620-3,420 miles (intermediate range) as well as their launchers. The treaty was named the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty for short. It was signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in December, 1987 and went into effect in June, 1988. At the time, the treaty was heralded as a major step forward towards eventual nuclear disarmament and peace. Then the Cold War came to an abrupt, unforeseen conclusion in 1991 and the treaty was largely forgotten for a long period of time.

In 2007, INF was again in the news. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that it no longer served the purposes of the Russian Federation. Putin’s chief military officer supported the statement by hinting that whether or not Russia remained bound by the guidelines of INF would depend on the United States intentions with the Ground Based Midcourse Defense missile system, which the US had planned to deploy in Eastern Europe. Those plans were eventually halted and replaced with a combined sea-land based system. The very system now becoming operational, with ground locations in Romania and soon Poland.

In 2017, The US/NATO missile defense system in Eastern Europe is not yet entirely online, however it continues to be a thorn in Russia’s side. For years Russia has spoken of the potential vulnerability which the system casts upon Russia and its strategic arsenal. In spite of countless assurances by the United States and NATO that the missile defense system is designed to counter missile threats from Iran, Russia has not backed down from its position. The West has not backed down from its commitment to the system. In fact, since the events in Ukraine and Crimea in 2014, NATO and the US have become more determined to field the system as soon as possible. Russia views this reality as an indication that the true purpose of the missile shield is to neutralize Russia’s strategic arsenal.

Fast forward to the present day. News broke in the media today that the Russian’s are deploying a cruise missile in direct violation of INF. The news was probably something of a shock to the public, however, the US intelligence community and Pentagon have been monitoring the development of the SS-C-8 ( a cruise missile version of the SS-30A) and surmised that eventually the system would become operational. In fact, in 2014 the Obama administration accused Russia of violating INF by developing and testing this missile.  Russia denies any treaty violation, however, the SS-C-8’s performance characteristics say otherwise. Its range is between 300 and 3,400 miles, a distance covered under the terms of INF. Russia currently has two battalions of SS-C-8 missiles in service. One is operational and deployed somewhere in the Russian Federation while the second unit is still working up.

For the short term, the appearance of the new Russian cruise missile will not affect the military picture or security situation in Eastern Europe. The violation issue will be viewed differently in Washington, however. Specifically, it will be seen as a challenge to the Trump administration at a moment of early upheaval with the resignation of Mike Flynn from the National Security Adviser chair. Further, the violation will make Trump’s desire to improve relations between the United States and Russia all the more difficult. Even though Vladimir Putin has stated a desire to also improve relations with the US, his recent actions suggest otherwise. Last Friday, Russian aircraft buzzed the destroyer USS.Porter while she was on patrol in the Black Sea. The incident was the first of its kind since Trump was inaugurated on 20 January.

Putin might not want a confrontation with the US, however, he is quite blatantly attempting to test the new president and see for himself just how far Trump can be pushed.

Wargames: Joshua’s Nuclear War Scenarios 100-119

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We’re getting towards the end of the list unfortunately. After this, only one set remains.

  • LIBYAN ACTION– Think Gulf of Sidra in the 1980s. In 1981, US Navy F-14s shot down two Libyan fighters during a period of heightened tension. In 1986, US and Libyan air and naval forces mixed it up and later, USAF and US Navy aircraft bombed targets in Tripoli and Benghazi. In 1989, Navy F-14s shot down Libyan fighters again. Any of these incidents could’ve spilled over into a much larger conflict.

 

  • PALESTINIAN TACTICAL– What if the First Intifada had gone beyond protests and riots? What if Syria had contributed equipment, weapons and advisors to the PLO and the uprising took the form of a more organized and deadly offensive against Israel?

 

  • NATO ALTERNATE– Confusing title. A Soviet move against NATO using an alternative to its war plans or vice versa?

 

 

  • CYPRUS MANEUVER– Cyprus was a bastion of instability from the 1974 coup onward into the 80s. If either Greece or Turkey had moved unilaterally to take over the island there it could have escalated quickly and gone in a direction that nobody had thought possible.

 

  • EGYPT MISDIRECTION– An Egyptian move against Libya goes awry and brings in Soviet assistance for its Libyan allies.

 

  • BANGLADESH THRUST– In the late 1970s, when this list was originally put together (years before the movie) Bangladesh was in a period of political disarray. Ziaur Rahman came to power in 1979 and was a popular president. It’s not inconceivable to imagine that Rahman, had he not been assassinated in 1981, could have prepared and executed an offensive against one of the nation’s South Asian neighbors.

 

  • KENYA DEFENSE– Kenya finds itself under attack by an external or internal enemy.

 

  • BANGLADESH CONTAINMENT– Unlike the Bangladesh scenario previous, this one revolves around containing an aggressive and outward looking Bangladesh.

 

  • VIETNAMESE STRIKE– Vietnam moves against one of its neighbors.

 

  • ALBANIAN CONTAINMENT– This one is a bit hard to swallow; Hoxa and Albania’s aspirations needing to be checked.
  • GABON SURPRISE– Omar Bongo was unpredictable and deadly. He could have taken Gabon over the edge at any time.

 

  • IRAQ SOVEREIGNTY– An internal uprising (Iranian backed?) against the Ba’ath party and Saddam Hussein.

 

  • VIETNAMESE SUDDEN– Similar to STRIKE, only faster

 

  • LEBANON INTERDICTION– This one actually became reality. Think Lebanon 1982-834

 

  • TAIWAN DOMESTIC- Chinese backed opposition groups sew political chaos on Taiwan

 

  • ALGERIAN SOVEREIGNTY– Social unrest was common in Algeria from the late 70s through the 80s. Libya or another outside nation-state player might have tried to turn the situation to its favor and chip away at Algeria’s status as a sovereign nation.

 

  • ARABIAN STRIKE– A Soviet move into the Arabian Peninsula to seize the Saudi oil fields.

 

  • ATLANTIC SUDDEN– The Soviets begin a war against NATO with a major, sudden effort to close the Atlantic.

 

  • MONGOLIAN THRUST– Either Mongolia moving against China or the Soviet Union, or perhaps a Sino-Soviet encounter within the borders of Mongolia.

 

  • POLISH DECOY– A Soviet gambit to take attention away from another region where it will be making moves in the near future.

 

Wargames: Joshua’s Nuclear War Scenarios 80-99

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Hard to believe that there were so many scenarios on that list. We’re up to 100 already. Wow.

  • GREENLAND DOMESTIC– This one is interesting. Greenland is Danish territory but hosted a number of important US military installations during the Cold War. It still does today, as a matter of fact. The population is very small too. The best spark I can think of is a Soviet backed insurrection that targets US bases there, especially the BMEWS radar site.

 

  • ICELAND HEAVY-Large scale air and naval combat between NATO and the Warsaw Pact for control of Iceland.

 

  • KENYA OPTION– During the Cold War Kenya was viewed as a strategic vanguard against communist influences from Ethiopia and Tanzania. A Soviet backed move against the nation could’ve backfired and led to escalation.

 

  • PACIFIC DEFENSE– Soviet or Chinese offensive in the Pacific resulting in a US and allied defense.

 

  • UGANDA MAXIMUM- The Ugandan Bush War boils over into a regional contest for control of East Africa.

 

  • THAI SUBVERSION– Vietnamese forces made limited incursions into Thailand in the late 70s and 80s. Compound that with an effort to stoke internal flames by Vietnam and/or the PRC, and the stage could be set for a major conflict.

 

  • ROMANIAN STRIKE– Ceausescu was a maverick. Either he lashes out, or the Soviets decide to intervene and remove him from power.

 

  • PAKISTAN SOVEREIGNTY– A situation where the survival of Pakistan is threatened. Internal insurrection, Indian invasion, or possibly a Soviet invasion out of Afghanistan.

 

  • AFGHAN MISDIRECTION– Basically, what the Soviets experienced during their time in Afghanistan.

 

  • ETHIOPIAN LOCAL– East Africa was a tinderbox in the late 70s and early 80s. Even after the Cold War, conflicts between Ethiopia and its neighbors continued.

 

  • ITALIAN TAKEOVER– The Communist Party enjoyed popularity in Italy. If they’d gained control through elections and demanded the removal of NATO forces from Italian soil, the situation could have escalated. NATO moves in, the Soviets move to support the communists and things go downhill quick.

 

  • VIETNAMESE INCIDENT– Border incident with China, tensions with Thailand.

 

  • ENGLISH PREEMPTIVE- They didn’t call Margaret Thatcher the “Iron Lady” for nothing. Perhaps the British received intelligence that the Russians were going to attack and decided to get their licks in first. That’s what pre-emption is all about, really.

 

  • DENMARK ALTERNATE– The Soviets move to capture Denmark using one of their secondary war plans instead of the primary one.

 

  • THAI CONFRONTATION-Similar to the previous Thailand-themed scenarios. Conflict with Vietnam and/or Myanmar.

 

  • TAIWAN SURPRISE– PRC invasion of Taiwan obtains strategic surprise.

 

  • BRAZILIAN STRIKE– Brazil strikes Argentina, Argentina hits back and suddenly South America is in flames.

 

  • VENEZUELA SUDDEN– Border clashes and tension with Columbia reach the boiling point. Out of the blue, Venezuela invades.

 

  • MAYLASIAN ALERT– Sino-Malay sectarian violence in Kuala Lumpur brings threats from the PRC. Malaysia goes on alert, China moves in ostensibly to ‘protect its citizens’ in Malaysia and before long the area is a cauldron.

 

  • ISRAEL DISCRETIONARY– Discreet Israeli action abroad (intelligence gathering, surgical strikes, commando raid) is unsuccessful. Israel is painted as the aggressor and the Arab world stands up to confront Tel Aviv.