US’s recent test of an intermediate range missile shows that the reasons given for its withdrawal from the INF treaty were spurious. It also shows the gullibility of our MFAT, who voted against a Russian proposal for dialogue late last year in the UN on the grounds that it was a “sidestep.”
It was these missiles the recently installed US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was seeking to have installed in the Asia-Pacific in his recent tour of the region.
The missiles can be launched from canisters and can carry nuclear warheads. The canisters are now installed in Romania and are due to be installed in Poland, close to the borders with Russia. The reason given for their installation was that they were anti-ballistic missiles to guard against an Iranian threat to Eastern Europe.
The Russians long argued that this reason made no sense and the real reason was to prepare for offensive land-based missiles on their borders, considerably shortening time to target and so facilitating a first strike.
The issues and the Russian response are covered by Russian President Putin in this news report from Vesti. The next threat is the abolition of the last remaining anti-nuclear treaty, START, due to expire in 2021. This is deeply worrying.
I find it extraordinary that the Disarmament Division of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs voted against a proposal for dialogue on retaining the INF treaty at the UN late last year. It beggars belief and defies logic.
From the UN Report:
New Zealand’s delegate explained that his delegation voted against the resolution not because it disagrees with the importance of the INF, but rather because the draft text sidesteps issues that are critical to the Treaty’s future. Compliance should be addressed through bilateral discussions, he added.
That didn’t work. One can only hope that they will conduct a more robust defence of the START Treaty.