While the world in general, and the US in particular, are watching the unfolding investigation into Russian hackers and the US election Russia is quietly rearming itself with nuclear missiles in violation of a 30-year-old treaty while Trump does nothing for fear of upsetting Putin.
In 1987 Russia and the United States signed the “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles” known more commonly by its abbreviated name “Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty).” Now, Russia has chosen to violate this treaty by developing and aiming mobile, intermediate range, ground-based nuclear missiles at Europe.
The signing of the INF Treaty was considered a landmark moment in the de-escalation of the arms race and the beginning of the end of the cold war. It banned the development and deployment of all nuclear and conventional missiles and their launchers, with ranges of 310–620 miles – short-range – and 620–3,420 miles – intermediate-range. By May 1991, less than three years after the treaty came into effect, 2,692 missiles were eliminated.
In December 2016 it was rumored that Russia had violated the treaty by deploying two missile battalions each with four mobile launchers with about half a dozen nuclear-tipped missiles allocated to each of the launchers. One battalion is said to remain at their testing facility in Kapustin Yar the other is elsewhere in the country with its sights set on Europe.
This decision by Russia, to deploy intermediate range nuclear missiles aimed to the west of their border does not only affect Europe but the United States as well. By using the new cruise missiles, Russia has freed up its long-range missiles and can use them to take aim at the United States. Each missile battalion is believed to have four mobile launchers with about half a dozen nuclear-tipped missiles allocated to each of the launchers.
Remote identification of the weapon systems may be difficult because the mobile launching equipment for the cruise missile is very similar to the launcher for the Iskander missile system which does not violate the treaty. The mobile launcher for the cruise missile, however, closely resembles the mobile launcher used for the Iskander, a nuclear-tipped short-range system that is permitted under treaties.
Meanwhile, a U.S. defense official revealed in February that a Russian intelligence-collection ship has been operating off the U.S. east coast, in international waters. The ship has been monitored off of the coast near Delaware and had arrived there following a port call in Cuba
Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
“We believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility.”
When the General was asked how the US would respond to the Russian violation of the treaty, he said that the military was preparing options to be presented to the Trump administration but that he could not discuss what those options might be. However, he did say the plan would be to:
“…look for leverage points to attempt to get the Russians to come back into compliance, I don’t know what those leverage points are.”
Image Source: Popular Mechanics