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Missile test shows US bad faith on INF Treaty

Written By: - Date published: 4:43 pm, August 27th, 2019 - 9 comments
Categories: defence, Disarmament, Iran, military, Russia, United Nations, us politics, war - Tags:

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.

9 comments on “Missile test shows US bad faith on INF Treaty ”

  1. Exkiwiforces 1

    Either way you look at it unless every Nuclear Armed nation had signed up to the INF Treaty besides the Yanks and the Russkie’s. This was eventually going to happen and I think START will go the same way unless, every Nuclear Armed nation signs up for START.

    This is an interesting discussion over the Secret Projects website, about the recent Russia Cruise Missile test that went very wrong involving a possible nuclear powered engine.

    https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/threads/9m730-burevestnik-ssc-x-9-skyfall-cruise-nuclear-powered-missile.30104/post-360971

    This isn’t the only nuclear accident to happen in Russia in the last couple of mths either aas there was another one happen at Russian Nuclear Military Testing Site on eastern or western side of the Ural’s.

    • Dukeofurl 1.1

      A lot of misinformation about nuclear powered when the energy source is gamma radiation from an isomer

      Hafnium is also notable for having the highest excitation energy among the nearly-stable isomers; half a teaspoon of pure Hf-178-m2 contains about the same amount of potential energy as one ton of TNT.

      As usual this is being worked on in US as well

      "The concept also piqued the Pentagon’s interest. Since an isomer bomb would represent a new class of non-fission weapons, it would neatly circumvent the limitations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968. "

      As far as I know, istopes/isomers of hafnium are the method the Russians are thinking about as a fuel source for infinite range cruise missiles- which could have a hafnium based large explosive payload.

      https://www.damninteresting.com/half-science-and-hafnium-bombs/

  2. hoom 2

    US was already in breach from armed drones.

    US says armed drones don't fit the INF definition of Cruise Missile despite the obvious fact they do fit the definition

    (definition in the INF treaty)

    2. The term "cruise missile" means an unmanned, self-propelled vehicle that sustains flight through the use of aerodynamic lift over most of its flight path. The term "ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM)" means a ground-launched cruise missile that is a weapon-delivery vehicle.

    US claims they don't count due to 'launch' from an airfield rather than a rail.

    Launcher is defined in INF treaty for Ballistic missiles but not for Cruise Missiles so thats an incorrect claim.

    US also claims they don't count because drones launch missiles/bombs rather than carrying a warhead

    (additional letter from US to USSR)

    …it is also the position of the Government of the United States of America that … the term "weapon-delivery vehicle" in the Treaty means any ground-launched ballistic or cruise missile in the 500 kilometer to 5500 kilometer range that has been flight-tested or deployed to carry or be used as a weapon — that is, any warhead, mechanism or device, which, when directed against any target, is designed to damage or destroy it. Therefore, the Treaty requires elimination and bans production and flight-testing of all such missiles tested or deployed to carry or be used as weapons based on either current or future technologies

    (USSR replied affirming this)

    This letter was added specifically because the US thought USSR would bypass the treaty with missiles that carry sub-munitions -> drones firing missiles/dropping bombs are covered by this.

    Even if you do believe the US excuses, the US did already test a non-compliant cruise missile back in March.

    Namely the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie:

    • Quoted ranges vary from 3,425km to '3000 miles' but all are within 5500km INF range.
    • It carries a several SDB bombs -> is counted in the additional letter as a weapons carrier.
    • It is 'Optionally disposable' can be used to directly attack as a 'suicide drone' aka missile.
    • It is 'Airfield optional' because it launches from a rail -> does count as a missile by the US definition that missiles have to launch from a rail.

    It was tested 5th March this year.

  3. Dukeofurl 3

    You have your missiles all mixed up again Mike.

    "The canisters are now installed in Romania and are due to be installed in Poland"

    Wrong .

    U.S. activates Romanian missile defense site, angering Russia

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nato-shield-idUSKCN0Y30JX

    and Poland

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_missile_defense_complex_in_Poland

    These are missile defence against ballistic missiles , not cruise missiles 'in cannisters'
    There is nothing to prevent US installing any missile in Poland or Romania in the future if those countries want to . At the moment its only Putin saying they MIGHT do it

    However it seems this 'defence' missile has been cancelled ( or may be a later version) as it 'didnt work'

    https://breakingdefense.com/2019/08/pentagon-cancels-multi-billion-boeing-missile-defense-program/

    The test merely was taking the existing Ship based cannister cruise missiles that were never banned under INF and firing from a land site.

    Russia and US have used the same missiles regularly in Middle east but firing from aircraft or ship – as was allowed

    • hoom 3.1

      I believe the point is AEGIS Ashore uses Mk41 launchers, the same as on ships and in this new launch.

      Mk41 on ships are 'universal', can launch ESSM, SM-2, SM-3, SM-6 and Tomahawk.

      US says the AEGIS Ashore launchers are modified to not be able to launch Tomahawks, only SM-3 but its not verifiable.

      INF specified that launchers be visually distinct to enable visual verification.

      Now within a few days of officially leaving the treaty US has launched a non-compliant Tomahawk from a Mk41 on land -> the simple interpretation is that Russian complaints about AEGIS Ashore were actually reasonable.

      The cancelled missile was an upgrade to the GBI silo-based ABMs.

      (AEGIS Ashore uses the naval SM-3)

      The GAO report on that program included this doozy

      Our prior work has shown that stabilizing system design before making major production commitments and relying on knowledge rather than deadlines to make acquisition decisions at key milestones are best practices of successful product developers.

  4. Dukeofurl 4

    "he simple interpretation is that Russian complaints about AEGIS Ashore were actually reasonable."

    That doesnt make sense. AEGIS ashore is an eye watering expensive ballistic missile defence system which launches its missiles at very high speed into the atmosphere to bring down ballistic missiles – its purely defensive.

    Why would you put ground launched cruise missiles from cannister from that site- these travel fairly slowly maybe only 1500ft then down low. They are an offensive system whether conventional or nuclear armed.

    If a AEGIS radar detects 'incoming ballistic missiles, its far too late to launch a GLCM from that site,as they travel at aeroplane speed.

    In reality , as there were in Europe GLCM before INF ,will be mobile launchers which will have a home base and roam the countryside during times of crisis. This was the real worry in Europe , the mobile launchers were prime first strike targets.

    Using the 'cannisters' at an AEGIs site doesnt make strategic sense

  5. Sanctuary 5

    The deployment of land based Aegis/SM-3 ABM systems to Romania and Poland is not illegal – the US has after all formally withdrawn from the INF treaty.

    And it is a nonsense to suggest the SM-3 missile can carry a nuclear warhead.

    But there is no need to over-egg the pudding on whether or not this is a good idea. Just because it is legal does make make it wise or right.

    Ask yourself, how would the USA react if the Russians installed missiles in Cuba – actually this isn’t an academic exercise – the Cuban missile crisis shows how aggressively the US reacts when it sees what it thinks are hostile missiles being installed on it’s doorstep.

    Soviet/Russian policy post WWII has been to maintain a buffer of client states in eastern Europe as part of a "never again" strategy to avoid a situation where Russian territory is over-run by a massive invasion from the west. The fall of the USSR and the unshackling of it's client states saw that strategy crumble, and initially at least NATO undertook not to take advantage of it to push it's boundaries east.

    But the temptation has proved to much, NATO is now in the Baltic states and Poland and it is hard not to see deploying missile systems in countries like Romania simply yet another chapter in the Atlantic powers pig headed insensitivity to Russian concerns . It can only end badly.

    • Andre 5.1

      Why is NATO in the Baltics and Poland? Could it be that the people of those nations want to be under the NATO umbrella? Do those people have any rights to self-determination or not?

  6. hoom 6

    The deployment of land based Aegis/SM-3 ABM systems to Romania and Poland is not illegal – the US has after all formally withdrawn from the INF treaty.

    And it is a nonsense to suggest the SM-3 missile can carry a nuclear warhead.

    The complaint isn't SM-3 (aside from the potential imbalance of MAD) its that the land based Mk41 launchers (which were installed in Romania years ago under Obama while INF was in force) are indistinguishable from the naval Mk41 launchers that have Tomahawk capability.

    AEGIS ashore is an eye watering expensive ballistic missile defence system which launches its missiles at very high speed into the atmosphere to bring down ballistic missiles – its purely defensive.

    Why would you put ground launched cruise missiles from cannister from that site- these travel fairly slowly maybe only 1500ft then down low. They are an offensive system whether conventional or nuclear armed.

    If its a purely defensive program not aimed at Russia why would you not make changes based on concerns of the 2nd biggest nuclear power?

    'Oh, you think this potentially breaches INF and imbalances MAD? Hmm, maybe we should use a clearly different launcher not linked to the naval Mk41'

    And 'Hey maybe your idea of a cooperative program partially based in Russia is a good idea, even if its not an optimal solution we want you to be comfortable that its not aimed at you.'

    What the US (under Obama) actually did was the diplomatic version of thumb in mouth 'nga nga nga, whatcha gonna do?'

    Also if aimed at Iran (who didn't at the time, doesn't now have missiles with the range to hit most of EU & has stated it has no desire for 2000+km range) why did they build the thing facing Russia?

    https://www.google.com/maps/@44.0786884,24.4180821,1392m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Its got 360degree radar coverage so they could have built the building orientated any direction but they chose to build it pointing North East at Russia.

    Its not exactly a confidence building move.

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