UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Mar 02, 2007
A remarkable strategic debate has opened up in the Russian media about the merits and pitfalls of withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. As we reported in BMD Focus last week, Russia's most senior generals have already publicly served notice that the Kremlin is prepared to pull out of the more than 19-year-old INF, which has been a cornerstone of superpower detente since it was signed on Dec. 8, 1987.
"If a political decision is taken to quit the treaty, the Strategic Missile Forces are ready to carry out this task," SMF Commander Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov told a news conference in Moscow on Feb. 19, according to a report from the RIA Novosti news agency.
Solovtsov's statement followed hard on the heels of a warning the previous week from his boss, four-star Army Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, the Chief of the Russian General Staff, that Russia may unilaterally scrap the nearly-20-year-old INF.
"It is possible for a party to abandon the treaty (unilaterally) if it provides convincing evidence that it is necessary to do so," Baluyevsky said Feb. 15. "We currently have such evidence."
RIA Novosti explicitly linked this threat to the Bush administration's determination to push ahead with plans to build a base for ground-abased anti-ballistic missile interceptors in Poland and a radar tacking facility to guide them in the neighboring Czech Republic.
However, an article published later in February by RIA Novosti correspondent Andrei Kislyakov and reprinted by UPI on Feb. 27 by permission of RIA Novosti, opened up a new area of the debate by questioning whether it was in Russia's own interest to leave the INF even if the United States and its allies pushed ahead with their ambitious BMD plans for Central Europe.
Kislyakov argued that taking the decision to reopen production lines to build a new generation of intermediate range ballistic missiles to replace the old SS-20s that were scrapped under the INF Treaty would be an ambitious, time-consuming and costly undertaking.
And even if the healthy Russia treasury could find the money to pay for the program out of its windfall profits from record oil and gas export prices, Russia's overall defense budget was still only a fraction the size of the United States.'
"Where is the war chest to help pay for all these things?" Kislyakov asked. "If we recognize that no magic wand has been found yet, then we'll have to cut back on existing national projects, and no one will be able to choose which ones to axe."
Also, Kislyakov argued that Russia's military-industrial base for building ICBMs and other shorter range ballistic missiles was already fully extended. Therefore to launch an additional ambitious program would be to force Russian policymakers to slow down on the production of other urgently needed weapons.
"Which plant will manufacture the required number of missiles?" Kislyakov asked.
The existing facility east of the Urals chronically fails to cope even with the production of ICBMs ordered by the state. What must be the procedure for condemning land for positioning areas and where should they be located? How to provide the proper infrastructure and bring units up to the necessary strength? How to ensure uninterrupted command and control, including launching new communications and reconnaissance satellites into orbit?"
"Sergei Ivanov, Russia's former defense minister, may have been right to describe the INF Treaty as a relic. But all things old are not always worse than what's new," Kislyakov wrote.
"Modernizing the existing nuclear missile arsenal is indeed quite an understandable asymmetrical answer to the appearance of global anti-missile systems," Kislyakov continued. "But adding intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles to such an answer in the future is not a very happy choice."
Kislyakov's arguments look unlikely to be heeded, given the high-profile support Gen. Solovtsov has already given for reopening the production lines for intermediate-range ballistic missiles. And the healthy state of Russia's energy export earnings suggests that the money to do so could and probably will be found.
But Kislyakov's article is of prime importance for several other reasons. First, it confirms that a healthy, open debate on major national security issues still exists in Russia's print and electronic media.
Second, it raises important issues of what Russia's spending priorities should be given its impressive and once again expanding, but still finite aerospace industrial resources.
Third, the debate Kislyakov has opened is of note because it is not about responding from weakness, but about different ways of responding to strategic developments from strength. Industrially and financially, militarily and strategically, Russia is once again on the global upswing after a quarter century of relative and absolute decline.
Debates how to respond to challenges from a position of strength are very different from debates about to how to respond to problems from positions of weakness. The arguments now being heard in Moscow are much more likely to lead to effective answers.
Source: United Press International
In mid-February, Army Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, chief of Russia's General Staff, said that Russia might unilaterally pull out of the 1987 treaty. He directly linked the possibility of that step with plans for the implementation of an American anti-missile defense program for European countries.
For several years now the Russian military and political leadership has been saying that it will give an asymmetrical, less expensive but very effective answer to Washington's anti-missile defense plans. It is no secret that the reference is to systems, both existing and under development, for penetrating anti-missile defenses with Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles.
In principle there is nothing radical about this, despite the fact it pits strategic offensive weapons against purely defensive armaments. Modernizing the existing nuclear missile arsenal is indeed quite an understandable asymmetrical answer to the appearance of global anti-missile systems. But adding intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles to such an answer in the future is not a very happy choice.
By the mid-1980s, efforts by the Soviet Union and the United States to deploy intermediate- and shorter-range missiles had reached their peak and posed a real threat to global security.
In the middle of December 1985, the Americans completed the deployment in Germany of all 108 planned Pershing-2 ballistic missiles, with a range of 1,080 miles. With an impressive circular error probable of 20-40 meters, the missile could carry a nuclear warhead with a regulated TNT equivalent of 110 pounds to 220 pounds. The target approach time was about 14 minutes.
In addition, Britain -- on two bases, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and West Germany deployed a total of about 500 GLCM/109G missiles with nuclear warheads. The range of these missiles was 1,500 miles.
The Soviet Union could engage the probable enemy from several positioning areas on its territory by deploying its famous Pioneer mobile ground-based missile system, carrying an RSD-10, or SS-20, missile with a range of around 3,120 miles. Therefore the whole of Europe lay within its reach.
There were also plans to deploy this system in the country's Far Eastern near-polar region. In that case, most of the U.S. western seaboard would have been vulnerable. And even that was not the whole story. In November 1983, a decision was made to develop a new advanced Skorost mobile missile system, which would be deployed in Czechoslovakia and East Germany.
But even under these circumstances, the United States' tightening nuclear missile noose compelled the Soviet Union's leadership to hold negotiations on the limitation of intermediate-range missiles.
In such a case it is hard to refrain from asking: why is the present situation any different than the past? It is not, to put it mildly. Should the Americans want to drop their rhetoric about the future of the INF Treaty in favor of practice, they will have all of Western Europe at their disposal.
Speaking technically, an initial arrangement could be to replace destroyed ground-launched cruise missiles with similar, but not banned, ground-based SLCM/BGM-109A Tomahawk missiles -- only mothballed in 1991 -- equipped with nuclear warheads.
For Russia, however, the second episode in the saga of intermediate-range missile deployment is one big question mark. Which plant will manufacture the required number of missiles? The existing facility east of the Urals chronically fails to cope even with the production of ICBMs ordered by the state.
What must be the procedure for condemning land for positioning areas and where should they be located? How to provide the proper infrastructure and bring units up to the necessary strength? How to ensure uninterrupted command and control, including launching new communications and reconnaissance satellites into orbit?
And last but not least: where is the war chest to help pay for all these things? If we recognize that no magic wand has been found yet, then we'll have to cut back on existing national projects, and no one will be able to choose which ones to axe.
Sergei Ivanov, Russia's former defense minister, may have been right to describe the INF Treaty as a relic. But all things old are not always worse than what's new.
Source: RIA Novosti
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