Sunday, October 21, 2018

INF Treaty

Back 31 years ago Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).   It actually predates Reagan as preliminary talks began under Jimmy Carter before Reagan was elected.  Although most of the credit goes to European leaders.  And I surmise they got their inspiration from the many protests throughout Europe against deployments of the USAF BGM-109G cruise missile, a land-based nuclear-tipped Tomahawk variant.   Even Iron Maggy Thatcher and Helmut Schmidt (an Eastern Front AAA gunner) had a hand in bringing Reagan and Gorbachev together.  They must have gotten tired of the many protests at Molesworth and Wueschheim.  INF got rid of the 109G and the Pershing IRBMs along with Soviet peers such as the RSD-10 Pioneer (aka SS-20) and several others.

Our Contract-Breaker-in-Chief, Donny, has decided to abandon our obligations to that treaty:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45930206.  Smells like the 'war horny' walrus in the White House, John Bolton is working the puppet strings from behind a curtain.  Donny blames the Russians.  Apparently for developing the Novator 9M729 aka the SSC-8 in violation of the treaty.  The 9M729 was reportedly deployed in early 2017.  It is not clear to me where it is deployed, but it has mobility. And with GLONASS, their GPS, there would be no need for pre-surveyed launch sites.

About a year before we blamed the Russians for violating INF, they blamed the US for violating the treaty.  Their claim is that ground based Aegis-Ashore system, deployed near their borders in Poland, Romania and soon in Japan, although primarily for ballistic missile defense can also launch cruise missiles.  Possibly true as Aegis-Ashore uses the same type Vertical Launching System (VLS) used aboard warships that can launch a Tomahawk or an SM-3 or even an ASROC.  Would there have to be major mods done in each VLS cell or tube to shift from a missile defense role to an offensive cruise missile?   Seems to me they could just load the cells with standard sized canisters with different internal payloads to suit the mission, but I'm no guru.   However Aegis-Ashore is NOT mobile like the 9M729, and would remain a fixed target.

By the way, this withdrawal from a nuclear treaty by the US is NOT a precedent.   Bush Junior did the same to the ABM treaty in 2002.  And Donny is infamous for breaking deals in order to try for a better advantage.  My hope is that he will do the same thing here he did with NAFTA, that is: break the agreement for political reasons then sign a new one that is damn near identical but with a new name and call it a victory.  He has a history of this, it is all about the PR.

27 comments:

  1. Donnie had leverage with NAFTA as USA, Mexico and Canadian economies are joined at the hip. Much more likely is that he will have the same success as the deal with Iran. Break it and catch nothing on the bounce.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, if the U.S. officially drops out of the treaty then Russia can build a gazillion conventional MRBMs with PGM accuracy that could with today's tech wipe out European, South Korean and Japanese air power and hundreds of other high value targets in 30 minutes.

    The lying moron may even do this on Putin's orders, and will still sell this as "being tough on Russia". Plus the warmongers will like it and the arms makers will fill the coffers of the (R) in anticipation of lots of land-based PGM cruise missile orders.


    Treaties such as INF have become fragile since the fear of WW3 went away. I suppose it had to collapse at some point. MTCR fits better to the modern world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except, of course, NK, Iran, China and Israel are not members of the MTCR. (yes, China and Israel have said that they will abide by the MTCR - unless of course it is inconvenient for them)

      Not to mention that shorter ranged nuclear missiles considerably reduce the amount of "think" time that nuclear counter-strike forces have when deciding if those incoming missiles are really missiles (or perhaps just software glitches caused by geese flying across the radar receivers).

      Delete
    2. Sven,

      This would seem a good opportunity for the EU to exercise some leadership - maybe it's time for Europe to negotiate a separate treaty with Russia or take over the INF by promising no deployments of such weapons in EU countries.

      Delete
    3. The U.S. is bombing foreign countries as a national sport. Why would the Russians agree to avoid the entire category of munitions if the Europeans do so as well? We'd need to pay them big bucks annually to reach such an agreement.

      Delete
    4. As you noted in your original comment, with no INF, "Russia can build a gazillion conventional MRBMs with PGM accuracy that could with today's tech wipe out European, South Korean and Japanese air power and hundreds of other high value targets in 30 minutes."

      Point being, it's your skin in the game. America (at least with this Administration) is an unreliable ally, so maybe it's time to make your own deal with the Russians. Maybe you would have to pay them big bucks, I don't know. What is a treaty limiting Russia's ability to wipe out your high value targets worth?

      Delete
    5. I'm extremely sure that the air forces and navy establishments would succeed to suppress that point regardless of its truth. They also managed to keep the air force 100% dependent on air bases and a handful of auxiliary airbases and airports during the Cold War when 50 nuclear-tipped SRBMs were able to wipe out the German air force in 10 minutes.

      So it's not going to be all that relevant in regard to policy.

      Delete
    6. I guess I'm not understanding you. Are Russian INF-class weapons a problem for European security or not?

      - If not, then what is the point of the INF treaty?

      - If so, then why can't Europe try to salvage an agreement that affects Europe if the US isn't interested?

      Delete
    7. Institutions do what's best for them, not what's best to fulfil their mission. Civilian oversight over the armed services is too meek. Former officers fail as overseers because they internalised the armed forces' perspective and pursuit of self-interest. Career politicians fail because they are clueless and easily manipulated - they assume the perspective of the bureaucracy they're supposed to steer away from the path of pursuing self-interest.

      Whether such missiles are a huge problem or not does not necessarily have its mirror in governance priorities.

      Delete
  3. I pretty much agree with this:

    https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1206126/trashing-the-inf-treaty/

    ReplyDelete
  4. Also this from last year:

    https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1202903/responding-to-the-inf-treaty-violation/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Andy! Good links both. I also agree with this one from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

      https://www.ucsusa.org/press/2018/exiting-inf-treaty-will-undermine-us-security

      Bottom line is that abandoning INF will put at risk the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons aka the NPT, which the US and Russia have ratified and China and almost 200 other nations have agreed to. The author states that many non-nuke member states are already fed up with lack of progress, and there may be future withdrawals as per North Korea did when Bush Junior tore up the "Agreed Framework".



      Delete
    2. Given the Union rabidly opposed the GLCM and Pershing II deployments back in the day, I'm wondering by what magic they think the INF Treaty came about by.

      Trump really doesn't need the political capital for these deals, NAFTA and China are enough for the redlands. In this case, we have valid reasons for calling out INF violations - Obama waffled on it for years before finally calling the Russians out in 2014.

      If Vlad really has problems with Aegis, then let's just pull it back and redeploy Nike Hercules "SAMs" with their undocumented ground burst features.

      Delete
    3. I think they know quite well how the treaty came around, since the EU more-or-less kicked it off in '77 when Helmut Schmidt, who particularly distrusted the then-new US president Carter gave a speech insisting that the “principal of parity...must apply to all weapons.” The Soviets were fielding the SS-20s in fairly large numbers, so the U.S. needed to field intermediate-range weapons, too.

      My understanding is that the DoD weren't all that thrilled about them - all their wargames suggested that tactical use of nukes in Europe would in something like 98.9% of the time lead to a global thermonuclear war - but they figured that 1) building and deploying them would help shore up NATO against the Pact, and 2) the IRMs might make a good bargaining chip.

      But after that buildup proceeded to kind of freak everyone out Ronnie Reagan proposed zeroing out the IRMs in '81 (with, IIRC, the cunning plan that the Soviets would blow it off and make the US look like the rational ones) and were a little nonplused when Gorby agreed.

      Anyway, I think that to assume that Trump is doing this to pick up "political capital" is to attribute too much geopolitical cunning to the rascal. I think this is more on his attack dog Bolton, who hates arms control treaties of any sort.

      And, as has been discussed here, I think the real driver is China and the South China Sea. Just like the Bushies were obsessed with Saddam, the Trumpies are getting very weird about China. There seems to me to be no real reason to butt heads with the PRC over their A2AD buildup, but there is a school of Great Power thought that disagrees, and I think the Trumpkins are reading their stuff more than anything...

      Delete
    4. Well, they were all deployed, and Ronnie got all the rage. Always funny how weak Jimmy was the deciderer on ALCMs, GLCMs, Pershings, B-2, Trident, Nimitz, MX... Gorby was reasonable because he couldn't afford his empire anymore. Ronnie because Nancy was thinking about his legacy (thank god for that woman).

      W was pivoting to China, but that was sidelined by 9/11. Obama returned to that course, eventually. Trump is just ratcheting it up. Yes, since we don't have a legacy of IRBMs, Nike Hercules and Nukular Sharing partners laying around as bargaining chips, we need to create some.

      China is what happens while you're busy making other plans. Time for their 15 year breather to end, the 21st Century is at stake! If the EU is worried about Vlad or fun-times in Libya, Ukraine or Syria, time for them to put on their big boy pants. Short of letting Japan sift through the remains of Fukushima for their tons of their "breeder" fuel and going their own way, we know where John Wayne would stand.

      Delete
    5. John Wayne? WTF?

      C'mon. If you want to come here, YOU need to pull up your big boy pants. "John Wayne" was a fake, and actor who never did anything he pretended to do in the movies. You really want to use that for your hole card?

      As for the rest of this barely-coherent screed, Sven's post below does a good job of laying out why the notion of returning to the days of the IRBM isn't worth the "bargaining chips", and the notion of ginning up a war with the PRC because of the "21st Century" is utter madness. The Chinese have showed a lot of ingenuity in sticking their noses into global trouble spots over the past couple of decades, but bulling in like Dubya into Iraq is...well, there's a reason that only complete fucking morons like Bolton still think that the Third Gulf War was a good idea.

      John he Wayne. Seriously? This ain't QAnon; you gotta up your game here; this stuff just isn't MilPub-standard, man.

      Delete
  5. AEL -

    You are right about the NAFTA leverage. But Donny is deluded and thinks he is sly enough to finesse this one also. And he probably believes that China will come around to his point of view on trade also. Same same for Iran, he pictures them signing a new Trump-like JCPOA if he just keeps the pressure on. Why wouldn't he think that? It worked for him in business a hundred times when he was able to renegotiate deals with contractors and suppliers by using a long-term litigation strategy that would have made them go broke if they did not agree to his terms.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Sven - "The lying moron may even do this on Putin's orders"

    Here are some other theories I've seen floating around:

    1] "Putin and Trump agreed to this back at Helsinki."

    2] "Trump is swapping his MAGA cap for a big white cowboy hat and will still sell this as 'being tough on Russia'."

    3] "Trump is betting on certain aerospace corporations will overflow the treasuries of him and his political allies and their PACs in anticipation of lots of pork."

    IMO it is #2 and #3 plus Trump's narcissistic fantasy that he is a the best dealmaker in the world and he can get Putin an Li to sign on to a Trumpian INF.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, my scenario is compatible with #1, #2 and #3.

      I wish you guys would get over with it already, at least with the midterm elections.

      I saw this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AjkUyX0rVw
      and wondered if the very sentiment was still possible today any more.
      That was back in the Cold War, and it still feels like Western civilisation made a lot of steps downstairs.

      Maybe it's because it was my youth and university days, but I think the 90's were the best decade, even much better than the 80's. In between the crazy Cold War and all the crap that came with 9/11.

      Wrong turns have been chosen. I won't even claim that GWB et al were ill-meaning, but it's certainly not the Chinese's (or Mexicans', Arabs') fault that so much feels just down the drain these days. Where's the optimism? I see post-apocalyptic 'entertainment' flourishing, hardly any positive sci-fi any more. More zombies than Vulcans, for sure.

      Maybe that black astronomy dude is right after all - maybe we do need some mission to Mars to get the mojo back. Just don't do it on orders of the lyin' moron.

      Delete
  7. I've read several competing takes on this. One the one hand, the consensus seems to be that 1) the Russians weren't really abiding and the Chinese weren't bound at all, so this is simply making what was the de facto status official, and 2) that neither side is looking at Europe as a reason; both the Trumpkins and Putin are worried about China.

    OTOH, this is problematic for the US because 1) it's primarily the product of Bolton's loathing of arms control, and he's dumber than a bag of hammers, 2) it does little or nothing to address the Chinese A2AD strategy, because the INF doesn't cover sea-launched munitions, which would by necessity be the primary US mechanism in,a South China Sea conflict, and 3) it hands the Russians a significant advantage in return for nothing.

    I'm honestly not sure which take is more perceptive. What I AM sure of is the Bolton IS dumb as a stump and mindlessly aggro as a rabid skunk, so if this IS his handiwork it's sure to be poorly thought out and what llittle thought went into it is based on some moron-grade wishful/magical thinking.

    I swear. These people could screw up a child's birthday party...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't see that first narrative of "simply making what was the de facto status official" as anything near a consensus. There are many that disagree. Of course maybe I am reading the wrong media outlets?

      On the other hand you scored 100% in your take about stumps, skunks, and moron-grade wishful/magical thinking.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, mike, my wording was confusing.

      What I was trying to do was summarize the two main groups of opinion pieces I've come across. In one group, the consensus of that group was that this is just recognizing the physical reality, and seems to see this as less of a "problem" than simply "what it is". The other consensus seems to be that this IS a problem, and often includes the observation that part of that problem is that this gives the Mustache of Idiocy momentum to take a whack at SALT.

      Delete
  8. https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2018/10/inf-i-dont-hold-back-this-time.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good article Sven. I wonder what triggered Soviet paranoia much earlier than Able Archer? What was it that made them unreasonably, or at least overly, suspicious?

      https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/a-cold-war-conundrum/source.htm#HEADING1-08

      Delete
  9. This guy may have a point:
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/10/23/trumps-punk-rock-nuclear-policy/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sven -

      I saw that FP article. The author, Jeff Lewis is a well respected academic and has pushed nuclear nonproliferation for years.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Lewis_(academic)

      Delete