Friday, February 1, 2019

Taking our nukes and going home

I'm a bit baffled at the tactics in play here.
"For far too long, Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad. Tomorrow, the United States will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty and begin the process of withdrawing from the INF Treaty, which will be completed in 6 months unless Russia comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment."
There's no question that the Russian Federation has been playing fast-and-loose; the 9M729 GLCM violates the 1987 INF Treaty's definition of banned weapons; "...all land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers..."

My understanding is that one thing that worries the Russians is China, which isn't bound by the INF and has some intermediate-range missiles that the Russians would like to counter. The USN has similar concerns about the tricksy Chinese, too, and may have been pushing for this. Our old pal Bolton hates arms control treaties - ALL arms control treaties - with a hate as huge as his mustache.

So there's no shortage of players who wanted this to happen.

But, as Kaplan points out, there's a huge difference between "...Bolton go(ing) to Moscow, formally declare the Russians in breach of the treaty, and give them a certain span of time to rectify matters, warning of consequences if they don’t." and reneging on the treaty ourselves.

For one thing, how does this "punish" the Russians? I mean, unless it means that the US is going to begin a GLCM arms race in Europe, which, I'm sure, will thrill the living shit out of the EU.

If China's the US's problem, as Kaplan points out:
"...we have plenty of other weapons, nuclear and conventional, that would deter a sensible Chinese leader from aggression against vital U.S. interests. (If the Chinese leader isn’t sensible, then all principles of deterrence are null and void anyway.)"
The other point is that this treaty bans LAND-based intermediate range missiles. Ships and aircraft? Not limited.

And the biggest thing about this is that it gives away the game to the Kremlin, largely because of Trump's preceding treaty fucktardry. The guy who spiked the Iran deal, the Paris accords, NAFTA can't realistically whine about other people breaking treaties.

This simply give the Russians a free hand to do what they were doing sneakily anyway.

That doesn't sound much like the Art of a Very Smart Deal to me.


  1. Why would anyone expect a smart deal from MoronDon? This is the guy that could not make any money from running a freaking casino, for crikey sake.

    And his deal breaking days started back the with that casino, or before. Screwing over small contractor businesses. After he had made deals with them he broke those deals not paying the previously agreed price. Then dragging their lawsuits on for years in the courts until they could no longer afford their lawyers.

    His concept of a 'deal' is of a zero sum game.

    But even when he made a bad deal he always put spin on it and bullschat the press saying how great it was.

  2. Former Obama era ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, has some insight on this.

    * - Russian military wanted out of the INF ever since Gorbachev signed it. So seems like Trump is doing them a favor.

    * - Trump's neocon advisors main reason for wanting to leave INF is to start an arms race with China.

    * - Nuclear arms race during the Cold War did not make the United States more secure. Neither will launching a new arms race.

    * - Why do treaties need Senate ratification, if the President is able to withdraw unilaterally and without consulting Congress?

    * - Trump's foreign policy used to be ABO (anything but Obama), but now you have to add ABR (anything but Reagan).

    * - Trump is pulling out of one of the most successful arms-control treaties ever:


    1. Sven,

      Reagan proposed a "zero-zero" option in his first year in office. The idea that he came to support the INF only after the Able Archer scare is not supported by the historical record. The three major factors that allowed the INF treaty to come into existence were the elevation of Gorbachev, the impending collapse of the Soviet economy, and the US GLCM and Pershing deployments.

      Able Archer certainly did give both sides (especially the US) pause about miscalculations but it wasn't a critical factor leading to the INF.

  4. It's been 15 years since I followed nuclear stuff with any fidelity, but I think this primer from Lawfare from last October is a good backgrounder.

    My own thoughts:

    I think it's important to emphasize this treaty is and was all about Europe and European security. It is, after all, European cities that would be under threat from INF-class weapons. Europe, therefore has the "skin in the game" on this, while the US does not. This is an action, then, where the US makes the decision (since it is a bilateral treaty), but all the consequences and risks fall on Europe.

    For their part, the Europeans (except Poland) pre-announced last year that they wouldn't allow the reintroduction of INF weapons regardless of what happens with the INF. Many have reiterated that since this announcement. So from Russia's perspective - what's to lose? Either way, Russia gets to unilaterally rebuild an INF arsenal and there is unlikely to be any reciprocity from Europe and there is little the US can do about it.

    To me, the big question is why the Europeans are so reluctant to go to bat to save this treaty or come up with some alternative.

    So overall I think the demise of the INF is/was inevitable. The Russians don't want it (for obvious reasons) and have been in material violation for a decade, the Europeans don't want it enough to really fight for it, and so the US cannot continue to support a treaty as long as those two factors remain in place.

    But I agree about the questionable tactics here. Even though this move was projected ahead of time (announced last October), there doesn't seem to be any specific reason to do it now instead of waiting to see if any strategic advantage could still be extracted from the present situation. The we haven't got our ducks-in-a-row to ensure that Russia gets the blame for this. The Russians will be able to use this to convince all the useful idiots that Russia is the aggrieved party here.

    It seems to me the timing is wholly about the selection of John Bolton as NSA. Pretty clearly he's the driving force in the administration for withdrawal.

  5. That was kind of my main point, that it’s not so much that this is a thing, but the WAY the Trumpkins are doing it. For a guy who keeps ranting about “no collusion!!” it’s like these jokers sat around trying to come up with the best way to give Putin what he wants whilst getting nothing it return. That’s as Bolton a “deal” as I can think of

    1. The thing is, Bolton is no friend of Russia, and the "collusion" narrative also works both ways.

      I think Trump's basic view is purely transactional - "what am I (the US) getting out of this treaty?" Nothing in his view. So pulling the plug makes sense to him and aligns with his natural instincts. I don't think he cares much about the details or potential strategic effects.

    2. The Bolton part is where he gets to trash the treaty. Dude HATES treaties, arms control treaties especially. Trump throws in the "this doesn't make me any money" (and it makes his KGB controller happy)