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MOSCOW, June 5. /TASS/. US threats to deploy in Europe its intermediate range missiles targeted at Russia’s nuclear potential in response to Moscow’s alleged violation of the 1987 treaty that eliminated intermediate and shorter range missiles (INF) can for the time being be seen as another in a series of unfriendly gestures that were so frequent of late, Russian experts say. However, in the longer term this threat may materialize to trigger a nuclear escalation and put the world on the brink of a disaster.
Washington is considering the possibility of deploying in Europe its ground-based missiles targeted at Russia’s nuclear potential, says a report by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Michael Dempsey. Associated Press says the United States presents these measures as retaliation to Russia’s alleged breach of certain terms of the INF treaty.
The 1987 treaty envisaged the elimination of all Soviet and US intermediate and shorter range missiles. By 1991 the treaty had been implemented, and mutual inspections continued up to 2001. Last summer the United States accused Russia of non-compliance. Russia dismissed the US charges as groundless.
The possibility of deploying missiles in Europe should not be brushed off altogether, although at this point the possibility still looks slim," expert Vasily Kashin, of the Centre of Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told TASS. "Even if one leaves aside the general spirit of confrontation the Americans increasingly see the INF as an obstacle and might use this pretext for quitting the treaty," he said.
In that case the United States will in the first place seek to place the missiles in countries around China, because the Americans find China’s growing military potential ever more worrisome, Kashin said. As for Europe, theoretically the missiles may be stationed in Poland and the Baltic countries. If that happens, Russia will have to retaliate.
All ballistic intermediate range missiles, which were the most dangerous component of confrontation in Europe, were eliminated under the treaty. Neither the United States nor Russia has them anymore, and restarting their production would take years," Kashin said. The INF treaty also outlawed land-based cruise missiles, but did not prohibit air and sea-launched ones. Theoretically, these can be easily altered for use on the ground.
If it really withdraws from the INF treaty, the United States may first deploy cruise missiles and then start developing new intermediate range ballistic missiles," he said. "At this point this is still a threat, but if the standoff gets worse and escalates, we may see that as early as next year. That will add much chill to another edition of the Cold War. The deployment of missiles would bring about a nuclear escalation fraught with a still greater threat than the one that existed in the Soviet era.
For the time being the deployment of US missiles is a theme for political speculations, the editor-in-chief of the Arsenal Otechestva (Arsenal of Fatherland) magazine, Viktor Murakhovsky, has told TASS. "The United States already has some weapon systems to which the INF treaty applies and it makes no bones about that. In particular, he pointed to US drones Predator armed with Hellfire missiles.
Many foreign experts agree that there is no big difference between drones and cruise missiles. Russia stated that quite clearly to declare the United States itself was responsible for breaching the INF treaty.
Also, Murakhovsky said US ships carrying cruise missiles were permanently present in the Baltic Sea and from time to time they enter the Black Sea.
"In fact, the treaty does not work already now," he believes. "And attempts are being made to put the blame at Russia’s door."
Russia has never created the slightest pretext for being accused of violating the INF treaty, says the deputy chief of the international security department at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, Dmitry Danilov.
"At the moment it still looks like a threat and just does not fit in with the logic of worsening relations. But in fact the United States is shaking loose the INF treaty’s regimen, and the consequences of that may be very grave," he told TASS.
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