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Russian Threat To Withdraw From INF Not Bluff

Four-star Army Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, the Chief of the Russian General Staff. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Feb 21, 2007
The extraordinary tough talk coming out of Moscow over the past week on the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty is mixed but not contradictory. First, four-star Army Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, the Chief of the Russian General Staff, warned explicitly last Thursday that Russia might unilaterally pull out of the nearly 20-year-old treaty that has been a cornerstone of detente and of peace and security in Europe.

"It is possible for a party to abandon the treaty (unilaterally) if it provides convincing evidence that it is necessary to do so," said Baluyevsky. "We currently have such evidence."

"What they (the Americans) are doing at present, building a third missile defense ring in Europe, is impossible to justify," he said.

Baluyevsky's remarks sounded as a strong warning to the United States regarding its plans to deploy elements of its anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic," the RIA Novosti news agency said.

Baluyevsky's threat followed a rising tide of warnings from Russian leaders about how seriously they would react to the Bush administration's plans to deploy anti-ballistic missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech republic, two former Soviet satellite states that are now members of the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

The very next day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, sounded an -- apparently -- more moderate tone when he said that Baluyevsky's comments did not reflect any decision that the Kremlin had already made to scrap the INF, which was signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and last Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on Dec. 8, 1987.

But Lavrov made it very clear he was not contradicting any of Baluyevsky's comments. "We are not speaking about a decision that has already been made. We are just stating the situation," he said.

Lavrov's comments, therefore, appeared to be a not-so-veiled hint that Russia would stay within the INF if the United States abandoned its plans to deploy BMD radars and other assets in Poland and the Czech Republic

And on Monday, Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, the commander of Russia's mighty Strategic Missile Forces, issued another tough warning. As we reported in our regular BMD Watch column Tuesday, Solovtsov said Russia was ready to resume construction of intermediate- and short-range nuclear missiles at any time. He said abandoning the INF would pose no military or security problems to his nuclear forces. Russia's strategic missile forces will be able to locate and target any ballistic missile defense facilities the United States puts in Central Europe.

Solovtsov told a Moscow press conference the Strategic Missile Forces would be able to track down and, if necessary target, U.S. ballistic missile defense radars and missiles if they were ever deployed in Central Europe.

"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic make such a decision, the Strategic Missile Forces will be able to target these systems," he said.

The INF treaty was a cornerstone of detente between the United States and the Soviet Union. Signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and last Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on Dec. 8, 1987, it scrapped intermediate-range nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 300 miles to 3,400 miles.

"By the treaty's deadline of June 1, 1991, a total of 2,692 such weapons had been destroyed, 846 by the U.S. and 1,846 by the Soviet Union," RIA Novosti said.

Baluyevsky, Lavrov and Solovtsov all appeared to be fleshing out the frank warning of their leader, President Vladimir Putin, at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy on Feb 10 when he warned that the U.S. drive to deploy BMD assets in Central Europe could set off a new superpowers arms race.

"What they (the Americans) are doing at present, building a third missile defense ring in Europe, is impossible to justify," Baluyevsky said.

The United States maintains that the BMD assets are meant only to protect Western European nations from the threat of nuclear missiles launched by Iran or some other so-called "rogue" state. But Putin and other top Russian leaders now openly ridicule that explanation, claiming that the deployments are instead aimed at them.

In these columns over the past year, we have consistently tracked the rising Russian tide of alarm over U.S. plans to extend BMD systems into Central Europe. The latest statements from Moscow confirm our assessment that the Russian threats are not bluff and should be taken seriously by U.S. policymakers. So far they have not been. This state of complacency may well continue until Russian intermediate-range nuclear missiles are once again targeting the great cities of Western Europe for the first time in a generation.

Source: United Press International

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A Bad Treaty Is Better Than A Good Missile
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Feb 21, 2007
In December of this year, the Russian-American treaty on the elimination of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles (INF Treaty) may celebrate its 20th anniversary. Or it may not. Considering the position of Poland and the Czech Republic, which are about to allow the Americans to install elements of an anti-missile defense system on their soil, the Russian leadership may well act on its recent threat to withdraw from that treaty. Such a step will certainly have many repercussions.

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