The aggravation of the international situation caused by the events in Ukraine sharply raised the question of the need to rapidly strengthen Russia's military-strategic positions in Europe in order to neutralize the deployment of NATO’s military infrastructure to Russia's borders. In this context, the expediency of Russia's further participation in the treaty on medium-range and shorter-range missiles (INF) raises some doubts. It is no coincidence that last year the discussions on this topic became noticeably more active both in the expert community of Russia and the United States, and in the political circles of both countries.
In July, 2014, Washington officially accused Moscow of violating the INF Treaty. This was stated in the annual report of the US Department of State on the observance of international treaties in the field of arms control. The reason for the accusation was the alleged non-compliance by Moscow with the provisions of the treaty prohibiting the development and testing of medium-range cruise missiles.
And in December, the issue of Russia's compliance with the INF Treaty was discussed in some detail at a hearing in the US Congress. The hearings were held in the form of a joint meeting of members of the committees of the House of Representatives for Foreign and Armed Forces Affairs. The US government was represented by Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense Brian McKeon and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemeller.
The latter again accused Russia of violating the treaty, citing the development of a new ground-based cruise missile of medium range. According to her, President Obama even wrote a letter to Vladimir Putin on this issue, but Russia rejects this claim. Gottemeller did not specify how long the United States intends to still wait before responding to these “violations”. Among possible responses, she cited diplomatic steps, economic sanctions and military countermeasures. In turn, Brian McKeon said that he did not rule out the deployment of American cruise missiles in Europe in response to Russian "violations".
Republican Ted Poe, who was present at the hearing, citing non-public information, called the “violations” on the part of Russia “alarming”. And the chairman of the subcommittee on strategic weapons, Mike Rogers, said he was concerned about the "inability of the administration to respond to the Russian deception." He also threatened to make the appropriate allocations through his committee, even against the wishes of the US administration (1).
These statements by official US representatives were not ignored by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Already, December 12 Foreign Ministry issued a brief comment expressing regret that the US continues to follow "confrontational logic", and it was clearly stated that Russia does not intend to obey "American dictate". “As for the possible military steps that the American representatives hinted at, they would only add tension to an already very complicated situation. This is unlikely to help strengthen the security of the United States and its allies, as discussed at the hearing. It is noteworthy that, speaking with such threats, the United States cannot clearly articulate what their claims actually are, and stubbornly refuse to flesh out their accusations, ”the commentary (2) stated.
In the Russian expert community, at least two people have commented on the hearings in the US Congress - former Lieutenant-General of the Russian Ministry of Defense former treaty international department, Yevgeny Buzhinsky, the former head of the international defense department, and Konstantin Sivkov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems. Moreover, both experts opposed Russia's withdrawal from the INF Treaty (3). A little earlier, the author of these lines also spoke on the INF Treaty, but from directly opposite positions (4). It is noteworthy that Sivkov and Buzhinsky turned out to be more ardent supporters of the INF Treaty, than even the Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement which did not say that this treaty retains lasting value for Russia and that it does not intend to withdraw from it. Sivkov, in particular, noted that “it is extremely undesirable for us that Americans start producing Pershing missile systems again. He explained that these missiles“ could reach our strategic nuclear force control system in 5-7 minutes, and the accuracy the hit was about five meters. ”“ In fact, they could destroy the country's leadership and the strategic leadership of the military forces without some kind of response. ”
Buzhinsky spoke in much the same vein. “If the Americans place medium-range missiles along our borders,” he stressed, “then the flight time to Moscow and the main centers will be calculated in minutes, which was with the“ Pershing ”and ground-based cruise missiles. When they were stationed in Europe, our soldiers immediately realized that we absolutely did not need this. ”
As you can see, these arguments do not shine with novelty. In fact, they boil down to the same thesis - the short flight time of American medium-range ballistic missiles and, accordingly, their ability to quickly destroy the Russian military control system. At the time of Gorbachev, this thesis was used to justify the need to conclude an INF Treaty. Only both experts forgot to mention that this thesis was purely propaganda, used, so to speak, for public consumption. And the true reasons for the consent of the military leadership of the USSR on the INF Treaty were completely different. Just uncover them at that moment was not possible.
The real reason was that, given the strategic configuration in Europe that had developed by the 80 years of the last century, the USSR and its ATS allies had a decisive advantage over NATO in the number and armament of general-purpose forces. And if NATO could still count on reflecting the first blow of ATS troops located in Central Europe, then the approach of the armies of the second strategic echelon from the territory of the USSR condemned the alliance to an inevitable defeat. The only thing that could save NATO in that situation was the use of nuclear weapons.
Moreover, NATO planned to use nuclear weapons not only in the combat zone, but also in the form of an attack on the Soviet troops of the second and third strategic echelons moving forward to Europe. Otherwise, these fresh forces, which NATO would have nothing to oppose, would have easily gone to the English Channel without much difficulty. Thus, the concept of a “strike on the second echelons” of the ATS forces has become one of the main elements of NATO’s military doctrine. The most important role in such a strike could be played by American medium-range missiles, which, unlike aviation, were the only reliable means of delivering nuclear weapons to the desired area.
In this situation, the presence of nuclear weapons in Europe was unprofitable for the USSR, and if he had such an opportunity, the Soviet leadership would then go to the elimination of all nuclear weapons in the European theater. But NATO, realizing its vulnerability, categorically refused to do so. However, the deployment of the Soviet ultra-modern medium-range missiles Pioneer pushed the West into serious negotiations to reduce an entire class of nuclear weapons in Europe. As a result, the removal of medium-range and shorter-range missiles from NATO’s arsenal significantly improved the strategic configuration for the USSR in the European theater. So in that situation the INF Treaty was generally in the interests of the USSR, although we had to reduce a much larger number of missiles than the United States.
However, now the strategic situation on the European continent has changed dramatically. Russia and its allies not only have no advantage in the general-purpose forces that existed during Soviet times, but, on the contrary, they are significantly inferior to NATO in this area. And although Russia may temporarily create a regional military superiority in Eastern Europe and conduct offensive operations in this region, any protracted war with NATO (and the other cannot be) will require the use of tactical nuclear weapons by Russia. Otherwise, NATO’s numerical superiority in personnel and armaments will not work.
That is, unlike the USSR, Russia has not the slightest interest in eliminating TNW in Europe. And the addition of medium-range nuclear missiles to Russia would further enhance our country's ability to contain a potential aggressor. And under these conditions, references to the arguments of the period of Soviet military domination in Europe to justify the continuation of Russia's participation in the INF Treaty look rather strange. References to propaganda arguments of that period look even more strange.
Meanwhile, the question of small flight time was precisely the propaganda argument. After all, it was necessary to somehow explain our Soviet public, at first glance, unacceptable concessions to the Americans in terms of the number of missiles being reduced. Therefore, there was a rationale that we lose in quantity, but we win in quality. However, an objective analysis of the strategic situation shows that the short flight time of US medium-range missiles from Europe does not provide NATO with any qualitative advantages. Strictly speaking, it was clear even in Soviet times, but now it is even more obvious.
The fact is that Russia's strategic security is not based on the speed of reaction to the first nuclear strike, but on the guaranteed possibility of a nuclear response to the aggressor. In Soviet military planning, a retaliatory strike was always considered only as a desirable, but not at all obligatory condition for causing unacceptable damage to the enemy. Therefore, the strategic forces of the Russian Federation are built in such a way as to be able to absorb the first nuclear strike from the United States and at the same time preserve the potential for a retaliatory strike.
Under these conditions, the small flight time of the US INF does not fundamentally change anything compared to the existing strategic configuration. In fact, the main danger in terms of the first sudden strike is not the conditional Pershing in Europe, but the American Trident II SLBMs, which have only slightly lower accuracy of impact. Moreover, the launch of such a rocket along a flat trajectory from the sea area in the region of the west coast of Denmark will only exceed the range of the “Pershing-700”, released from the central region of Poland, by 2 km. That is, the flight time of the Trident 2 SLBM will only exceed the time of a medium-range missile by a couple of minutes.
Moreover, the Pershingi-2, with a maximum range of 1800 km, is not able to hit objects even in the Urals, not to mention the more remote regions of Russia. Meanwhile, spare command posts for managing strategic nuclear forces are not only in the European part of the USSR. Therefore, Sivkov’s assertion that the conditional Pershing is capable of reaching our strategic nuclear force control system within 5-7 minutes is incorrect. Even if these missiles are deployed in Poland and Romania, they can only get command posts that are located in the European part of the country. But they will not be able to fly to objects in the Urals and beyond.
Thus, the claim that the Russian military government will be instantly beheaded by a medium-range missile attack is not true. Especially when you consider that a war, especially a nuclear war, cannot begin with a bay-swagger. It is only in a science fiction film that one can imagine that the President of the United States, having woken up in the morning in a bad mood, suddenly decided to “strike on these Russians.” In reality, any war is preceded by a period of aggravation of the situation, which makes it possible to disperse the country's military-political leadership in such a way that it cannot be destroyed in any way with the first blow.
In addition to the limited range of damage, medium-range missiles are much more vulnerable to Russian air defense / missile defense systems than ICBMs or SLBMs. Since Soviet times, the level of development of these systems in Russia has increased significantly. Modern Russian air defense systems C-300 and C-400 can effectively deal with well-known US medium-range missiles. It is characteristic that the United States, when testing its THAAD and Patriot PAC-3 theater missile defense systems, use Hera missiles that use control and guidance devices taken from the Pershing-2. And Hera missiles are successfully intercepted by the indicated American systems. Meanwhile, the Russian air defense / missile defense systems C-300 and C-400 are not only not inferior, but even surpass the Patriot PAC-3 in a number of parameters. For them, intercepting American Pershing-2 missiles will not pose a serious problem.
In addition, it must be borne in mind that the Russian command centers and mines of ICBMs are covered with means of destroying missile warheads at the closest approach. These means are rapid-fire artillery systems, including volley fire, with a range of up to several kilometers. Moreover, the probability of their destruction of warheads of medium-range missiles flying at a slower speed is much higher than the probability of hitting ICBM and SLBM warheads. Thus, the use of US-assisted USMDs for a counter-force strike on Russian mines of ICBMs in the European part of the country is likely to be less effective than the strike of the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Finally, in the “Pershing-2”, a head-end guidance system was applied to the final leg of the flight using a radar map of the terrain. However, modern powerful EW systems are capable of suppressing the guidance radar at a considerable distance from the object, which makes it difficult to accurately hit the missile at the target.
And one more thing, US-based INF in Eastern Europe will be very vulnerable to our non-nuclear-powered cruise missiles or Iskander missiles. The fact is that the areas where they are based will be known in advance, and it will be quite difficult to change these areas, as they are located in foreign countries and this will require a complex system of approvals. Therefore, it will be possible to observe the routes of the movement of American INF in Europe both by electronic means and agent intelligence. And this makes an accurate strike on these missiles is not so difficult.
Thus, US-made Preschool-2, if placed in Europe, will not give the United States any significant advantages over the current situation. They are not able to deal a decapitating blow to the Russian military control system, their counter-force potential is rather limited, they are highly vulnerable to modern air defense / missile defense and electronic warfare weapons, and can also be destroyed by a non-nuclear missile preventive strike by Russian tactical missiles. Well, since Russia does not plan a large-scale invasion of Europe, and does not have the potential for such an invasion, the topic of a NATO strike on the second echelon of the advancing Russian troops is not relevant now.
By the way, it’s not a fact that the United States will be able to quickly restore the production of Pershing-2 missiles. It is possible that technology and scientific schools have already been lost. Well, it will be very difficult for Americans to create a new, more advanced rocket. Unlike Russia, they were not engaged in the development of highly mobile missile systems designed to overcome missile defense systems like Topol M and Iskander. And to create such missiles quickly they fail. They even have difficulty creating a new rocket for a flight into space, although this topic, unlike the INF, has always been in the focus of their attention. Theoretically, the United States, of course, can solve this problem, but it will take a lot of time and money. Meanwhile, the budget funds of the United States the further, the more they will be limited by the objective parameters of the national debt, which continues to grow. And the less allocations go to this area, the longer the whole process will be delayed. Therefore, let them try, spend money and time on research and development of a new rocket. Let them set up its production and demonstrate its effectiveness. But the Russian side will be able to evaluate all this and, on the basis of the new strategic situation, decide whether it needs a new INF Treaty. Then it will be possible to talk about the specific parameters of the restriction of this type of weapon. And then only if the benefits of such a contract are greater for us than for its absence.
The very same Russia exit from the INF Treaty can give a number of immediate benefits. We already have an almost finished rocket. It is enough to remove one step from the "Topol M". You can also increase the range of Iskander missiles to 1000 km and more. The United States will be able to respond to this only by deploying its Tomahawk cruise missiles in Europe. But this will not give them any principal advantages, since they can still fire these missiles at our territory from the waters of the Mediterranean, Baltic and Norwegian seas.
It should also be borne in mind that the main military threat for us stems from the territory of Europe, and not from the territory of the United States. Indeed, it is from Europe that a military invasion of Russian territory is possible. The main warehouses, military contingents and infrastructure for war with Russia are located precisely in Europe. To invade our territory, bypassing Europe, the United States can not. That is, the main objects for our counterstrikes are precisely in Europe. If these objects are destroyed, the troops located in the United States will not be able to do anything to us, since even if they so wish, they will not be able to get in contact with our troops. For the transfer of new large contingents to Europe and the creation of a new military infrastructure there, the United States will take years. Meanwhile, we ourselves deprive ourselves of the most effective weapons for the destruction of objects in Europe.
Thus, the deployment of medium-range missiles would only increase the deterrent role of Russian nuclear weapons to prevent NATO aggression against Russia. These missiles would make it clear that all the strategic facilities of NATO in the center and in the west of Europe can be guaranteed to be destroyed in the first hours of the conflict. Now this can be done only by striking strategic nuclear forces. But what then will remain with us for a retaliatory strike on the United States?
Moreover, our use of strategic missiles to strike NATO facilities in Europe significantly lowers the threshold for a limited nuclear war in a European theater to develop into an all-out nuclear war. After all, the launch of Russian strategic missiles will inevitably provoke the Americans into a retaliatory strike on our territory. They will not have confidence that we strike only in Europe. On the other hand, Americans will be able to distinguish the launch of medium-range missiles from strategic Americans. And in this case, most likely, they will not launch a nuclear strike on the territory of Russia. After all, this is certainly followed by a retaliatory nuclear strike on the territory of the United States. Thus, the presence of medium-range missiles in our country will inevitably confront the United States with a difficult choice: whether to respond to our nuclear strike on NATO facilities in Europe with a nuclear strike on the territory of Russia. In words, of course, the United States loudly declares its allied solidarity with Europe, its readiness to use nuclear weapons to protect NATO countries. But it is in words. And when they are really faced with the question of whether they are ready to go for self-destruction for the sake of Poland, Hungary, Romania, Italy or even Germany, Washington may have very serious hesitations and doubts.
And this element of uncertainty and doubt significantly increases the deterrent role of Russian medium-range missiles in Europe, even if NATO has similar systems. Indeed, Russia doesn’t care if it hits medium-range missiles from Europe or US strategic missiles on its territory. The answer will be unequivocal - a total blow to the enemy in Europe and the United States. But with a similar strike by Russia on the European allies of the USA, with the exception of Britain and France, which have their own nuclear forces, there is no such unambiguity.
Under these conditions, both the Americans and their European allies will be more cautious about the possibility of unleashing aggression against Russia. The United States will not be confident that NATO will win over Russia, as they will understand that Russian medium-range missiles will quickly destroy a significant part of key NATO military facilities such as airfields, naval bases, radar stations, weapons depots and fuel and lubricants, bases of storage of military equipment, concentration of troops, command centers, control and communications. Under these conditions, the victory of NATO in the war with Russia becomes unreal.
Well, the European allies of the United States will not be sure that American nuclear deterrence in Europe will work, given that the territory of the United States itself will be safe from a nuclear strike. That is, they will consider the likelihood of a Russian nuclear strike on Europe as very high. And this will immediately diminish their willingness to flex their muscles and intimidate Russia with military exercises and the deployment of new bases near its borders. Not to mention the possibility of starting a real war with Russia.
But that's not all. At the present level of development of Russian military technology, medium-range missiles can dramatically change the balance of power in Europe in our favor, even if they are not equipped with nuclear weapons. The accuracy and power of missile warheads has increased so much that it allows to solve a number of military tasks, mentioned above, with conventional missiles. Such missiles will not be effective only for well-fortified targets and troop congestions. All other objects can be destroyed in the same way, even if not by one, or by several conventional warheads.
For example, medium-range missiles would be particularly effective for destroying components of the global US missile defense currently deployed in Romania and Poland. Intended for intercepting Russian ICBMs in the middle segment of the trajectory, this system will not be able to effectively resist highly maneuverable Russian short-range and medium-range missiles, as well as low-flying ground-based cruise missiles. Thus, in the event of Russia's withdrawal from the INF Treaty, the European echelon of the global missile defense system will immediately become meaningless, still not being deployed. Of course, one could wait until the Americans fully deployed this echelon, spending significant resources. But this is a question of tactics.
Finally, medium-range missiles are important for Russia not only in a European context. They could be a reliable deterrent to Japan, which in recent years has begun to forcefully build up military power. The deployment of a certain number of such missiles on Sakhalin, even in non-nuclear equipment, would greatly impede the implementation of any Japanese plans to seize the Southern Kuriles even if Japan could gain an advantage over Russia in the ratio of naval forces. These missiles would be an effective means of quickly and reliably hitting Japanese airfields, seaports, control centers and communications. Moreover, this efficiency would be obtained with the lowest cost and possible losses compared, for example, with the use of strategic aviation. And most importantly, Japan would have no illusions about the ability to fend off such a blow.
Well, finally, medium-range missiles could be an effective weapon against international terrorists and their territorial entities, such as ISIL, and even states that provide support to terrorists. Ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a large throwing weight, are quite able to destroy the bases of terrorists and their political leadership. Do not use expensive strategic systems for these purposes, which are also limited by the START-3 agreement? Moreover, such strikes can be applied instantly, in real time, significantly increasing the probability of hitting the selected targets. It would also be much more politically acceptable than air strikes or sending sabotage groups.
Despite the obvious advantages that Russia gives way out of the INF Treaty, the country's leadership is not in a hurry to take this decisive step. It can be seen that fears that such a move will cause another wave of criticism in the West. However, as the aforementioned congressional hearings showed, Russia is already accused of non-compliance with the treaty, although there are no formal violations on the Russian side. After all, the tested cruise missile, which the Americans are talking about, most likely has a range of more than 5500 km and is not covered by the agreement. However, there is no doubt that the American side will continue its accusations of “violations”, despite all the arguments. Since the deployment of this new missile will give Russia enormous strategic advantages, the United States will seek to prevent this by any means, including threatening with the deployment of its cruise missiles in Europe, that is, de facto withdrawal from the INF Treaty. And why should we abandon this new, breakthrough type of weapon?
And if not, what are we waiting for? We want the United States to be the first formal violators of the treaty? But what will it give in practice? Influencing Western public opinion, we still can not. There we have already been declared guilty. Our partners in Asia are not parties to the treaty. Most of them have their own medium-range missiles. Why would they complain about our withdrawal from the treaty? Therefore, it seems that the basic ordeals of our diplomacy in connection with the INF Treaty have a psychological character, consist in the desire to prove to ourselves that we are the most honest and decent people. They say they held the contract to the end, although he did not meet our interests, and only the actions of the other side led to the collapse of the contract. I remember how this psychological factor made it difficult to make a decision on a moratorium on Russia's participation in the treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe, although it was already obvious to everyone that this treaty was unacceptable for Russia. Is it not time, finally, to transfer our policy in the field of arms control to a more detailed basis, connected not with psychology, but with constant analysis and forecasting of the development of the military-political and strategic situation around Russia? And on the basis of this analysis, it is already up to us to decide which agreements on arms control we need and which ones should be abandoned. With regard to the INF Treaty, such an analysis shows that this agreement has exhausted itself, it no longer meets the Russian security interests and must be left out of it.
1) Gertz, Bill. Pentagon Considering Deployment of Nuclear Missiles in Europe. http://freebeacon.com/national-security/pentagon-considering-deployment-of-nuclear-missiles-in-europe/
2) Commentary by the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry on the continuing US allegations of Russia's violation of the INF Treaty. Doc 2861-12-12-2014
3) “Pershing” returns to Europe // Free Press, 11.12.2014. http://svpressa.ru/war21/article/106938/
4) Chance for a breakthrough or again about medium-range missiles // TsVPI website, 29.10.2014: http://www.eurasian-defence.ru/eksklyuziv/novosti/shans-proryv-ili-eshche-raz