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COLUMNISTS

INF: US False Accusations to Cover its Own Cheating on Treaty

Andrei AKULOV | 17.12.2013 | 00:00
 

This November the Washington-based Daily Beast came out with a publication devoted to the concern of the White House evoked by Russia's alleged violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Forces Treaty.   (1) According to Daily Beast, congressional leaders are acting to force the Obama administration to confront Russia on its violations of the nuclear agreement that U.S. officials have acknowledged since 2012. It says On November 27 of that year, two top Obama administration officials held a closed-door hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. John Kerry, who only months later would become the State Secretary. Inside the top-secret hearing, acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon told lawmakers that Russia had violated   the agreement, according to two U.S. officials who attended the classified meeting. John Kerry agreed the Russian cheating took place and warned that if the violations became widely known, future efforts to convince the Senate to ratify arms control treaties would be harmed. That pact, signed by President Reagan, bars development, testing, or deployment of missiles or delivery systems with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Article VI of the INF treaty states that neither party shall “produce or flight-test any intermediate-range missiles or produce any stages of such missiles or any launchers of such missiles”. According to the source, there  have been several reports that Russia has tested and plans to continue testing two missiles in ways that could violate the terms of the treaty: the SS-25 road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and the newer RS-26 ICBM.

The State Department declined to confirm or deny this information. Concerns about Russia’s violations of the INF Treaty have been expressed repeatedly by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and leading House members, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers… “Since October, we have written to you twice with our concerns about a massive Russian violation and circumvention of an arms control obligation to the United States of great significance to this nation and to its NATO allies,” McKeon and Rogers wrote in an April letterto Obama. “Briefings provided by your administration have agreed with your assessment that Russian actions are serious and troubling, but have failed to offer any assurance of any concrete action to address these Russian actions.” 10 Republican senators have proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), obtained by the Daily Beast, that would force the administration to send Congress “a report on information and intelligence sharing with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and NATO countries on compliance issues related to the INF Treaty.”

In June U.S. intelligence officials said Russia was  engaged in a major violation of the treaty (2) as President Obama called for a new round of arms negotiations aimed at cutting deployed nuclear warheads by one-third.  They identified Russia’s new Yars M missile that was tested earlier this month as an INF missile with a range of less than 5,500 kilometers. “The intelligence community believes it’s an intermediate-range missile that [the Russians] have classified as an ICBM because it would violate the INF treaty” if its true characteristics were known, said one official.

Retired Colonel-General (three stars) Victor Yesin, former commander of Russian strategic forces, Professor at Russian Academy of military Sciences and a leading expert affiliated with the Institute of USA and Canada, Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an email to the Washington Free Beacon that Russia is complying with the terms of INF because the Yars M, also known as RS-26, is an ICBM and not a banned intermediate-range system. “According to the information I have, Russia closely follows the obligations arising from the 1987 INF Treaty and 2010 New START Treaty,” Yesin said. “The RS-26 ballistic missile, which is a Topol class ICBM, is not covered by the INF Treaty as its range is over 5,500 kilometers. Russia officially informed the U.S. about that in August 2011”.

Russia may be in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with its recent tests of several new ballistic missiles, the Washington Free Beaconreported on October 24. (3)

On October 10 Russia test-fired its SS-25 ICMM to a distance less than 2,000 miles. However, the INF Treaty bans all nuclear-tipped ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. Moscow declared the goal of the trial was to develop a new "combat payload". Independent issue experts and U.S. officials interviewed by the Beacon disagreed over whether Russia violated the 1987 arms control pact by conducting the October test as well as other recent Russian test-firings of ICBMs that flew to reduced ranges. Arms-control expert Mark Schneider said the October firing of the road-mobile Topol SS-25 did not seem to be in breach of the INF accord, though it does highlight the possible uses of strategic missiles at the theater level. "In this particular test it went about (1,243 miles)," he said. "The Russians said it was for the purpose of the development of a new warhead section. That is allowed." "An ICBM can be tested to INF range after its first test to ICBM range but that is unusual," Schneider added. "It is being called a reduced range ICBM in Russia," according to Schneider. "At a minimum it is a circumvention of the INF treaty because the testing strongly suggests a theater missile."

At that the Air Force Missile and Space Intelligence Center has characterized the RS-26 as a clandestine intermediate-range missile. (4)

On July 12, the US State Department released a major annual report on arms control compliance that has riled up nuclear weapons hawks. In its annual Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control , Nonproliferation and Duisarmament Agreements and Commitments, in which   the Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance assessed whether numerous countries complied with treaty obligations in 2012.

The most significant compliance allegation against Russia is that it is testing ballistic missiles that are in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

According to the publicly available evidence, the affirmations that Russia is violating the INF Treaty don’t hold water. The Report registered no concerns about Russian non-compliance.  Concerns about Moscow’s INF compliance appear to be rooted in Russia’s two most recent test flights of a new ballistic missile that some have dubbed the Yars-M. During those tests, which occurred in October 2012 and June 2013, Russia is believed to have flown the missile at a less-than-intercontinental range—that is, less than 5,550 km, which New START defines as the range of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Moscow had, though, previously stated that the new weapon is an ICBM  and in May 2012 tested the Yars-M at a range of 5,800 km, which would qualify it as one under START-3 Treaty.

 A July 2013 report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center on global ballistic and cruise missiles  (5) found no evidence of Russian non-compliance. The Center’s report says that “neither Russia nor the United States produce or retain any intermediate-range ballistic missile systems because they are banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.”

Russia could also be testing its intercontinental-range missiles at shorter ranges to improve capabilities against US missile defenses.

According to the leading Russian expert and chief designer of  actually all contemporary nuclear systems Yuri Solomonov (6) the US has actually created an intermediate missile going around the treaty.    At the same time the US uses HERA (1200 km), LRALT  (up to 2000 km) and MRT (1100 km) target-missiles what constitutes an outright violation on the INF treaty committed in broad daylight. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs raised the issue with the US State Department as far back as in January 2001 and August 2010 (7) 

No violations, the other thing is that there are doubts in Russia the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1987 should exist endlessly, says Russian presidential chief of staff Sergei Ivanov. (8) “A legitimate question arises: on the one hand, we have signed the Soviet-U.S. treaty, and we are honoring it, but this can’t last endlessly,” Ivanov said in an interview with the Vesti-24 television channel. A number of countries neighboring Russia have lately been using this type of weapons, he said.

The President called this decision arguable, and I would add – to put it mildly. Because, frankly speaking, I didn’t understand why this was done earlier, and I understand this even less now,” Ivanov noted.  The U.S. never needed this class of weapons, because, even in theory, it could use it only in a war with Mexico or Canada, he said.

The Cold War is over. Naturally, the U.S. removed intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles from Europe, and the Soviet Union scrapped and abandoned all this as well. What has happened in these 25 years? Dozens of countries, an overwhelming majority of which are located near our borders, such as North Korea, China, Pakistan, India, Iran, or Israel, have acquired this type of weapons,”  stressed Ivanov.

 As only two countries had this type of weapons during the Cold War era, they were part of their nuclear arsenals, but now the countries possessing these weapons also have non-nuclear missiles of this type, Ivanov said.  The chief-of-staff shared the Russian General Staff’s perplexity as to “why can anyone have weapons of this class but the U.S. and we legally cannot?” (8) President Putin said this June that the INF treaty does not fully meet the interest of Russia while other states work hard to increase the medium and short range nuclear potential.  (9)   He said June 19 that some of Russia’s “neighbors” were developing INF missiles and suggested Moscow would not allow the INF treaty to hinder its strategic arms buildup. “We cannot accept a situation that would put the strategic deterrent system out of balance and make our nuclear forces less effective,” Putin said on the same day Obama announced plans for a one-third cut in the U.S. deployed nuclear warhead arsenal.

***

One does not have to be an expert to understand that testing an intercontinental-range ballistic missile to a range shorter than 5,500 km does not make it a banned INF missile. According to both the INF treaty and START-3, the range of a missile is determined by the maximum range it demonstrates in a flight test, even if future tests are flown at a range of less than 5,500 km.

Those who oppose  further US nuclear weapons apply efforts to derail additional cuts. Allegations Russia is serially violating its arms control against Russia is an example. No charges are supported by real solid evidence, or even official statements. Another thing the missile may have its boost phase accelerated and fly an elevated flight path to avoid missile defense systems. These are the countermeasures the US has been warned about in case it continues with missile shield plans.

 

Endnotes:

1.      http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/26/u-s-knew-russia-violated-intermediate-range-nuclear-forces-treaty.html

2.      http://freebeacon.com/treaty-cheating/)

3.      http://freebeacon.com/new-russian-icbm-test-fuels-worries-over-violation-of-1987-missile-treaty/)

4.   http://www.nationaljournal.com/global-security-newswire/russia-may-be-violating-1987-treaty-with-recent-missile-tests-20131025

5.      http://russianforces.org/blog/2013/07/too_many_missiles_-_rubezh_ava.shtmlalso

6.      http://nvo.ng.ru/concepts/2013-07-19/1_rsvn_snv.html

7.   http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/e78a48070f128a7b43256999005bcbb3/cc9c7d192f0ebc5ac325777a0057e1ae)

8.      http://russialist.org/russia-honoring-inf-treaty-but-this-cant-last-endlessly-kremlin-chief-of-staff/)

9.      http://ria.ru/world/20130619/944418242.html

 
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