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Nuclear chickens coming home?

Written By: - Date published: 8:23 am, August 8th, 2019 - 30 comments
Categories: australian politics, China, defence, us politics, war - Tags:

The Intermediate-range  Nuclear Forces treaty between the United State and Russia signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987 formally ended on August 2nd. On Sunday the new US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper dined privately with Winston Peters. Before and during his trip to the Pacific, Mark Esper called for placement of intermediate-range US missiles in Asia.

The United States has been steadily retreating from all the anti-nuclear treaties established in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis. Current National Security Adviser John Bolton has been a vocal advocate of withdrawal from these treaties for years.

The INF treaty was a particular target. The US and Russia both argued that  the other was in breach of it. Late last year the Russians proposed via the UN that the two parties meet to resolve the dispute. The US argue against any dialogue and inexplicably so did New Zealand, stating that the Russian resolution was a “sidestep.”

The real sidestep would appear to be what is now apparent in Esper’s call for Asia-Pacific countries to deploy US missiles. The real target is China, and the American aim is to surround China with missiles with a short launch to target cycle making defence that much more difficult.

And the Chinese are under no illusions as to what the targets are – their cities. As far back as the 1950’s when the US was planning first-strike nuclear attack on Russia cities, they also included Chinese cities.

Jacinda Ardern famously said in one of her early speeches that climate change was the nuclear-free issue of the 21st century. But the 21st century is not nuclear-free; indeed the US and now Russia are rapidly developing new weapons supposedly to produce a new stalemate.

Intermediate range missiles significantly raise the danger level; and the real danger is not from deliberate destruction but from accidents or mistakes. Esper said the missiles would not have nuclear warheads; if you believe that I have a bridge to sell you. The Australians have stated there will be no missiles on their territory, but they are building a new base with the US in Papua New Guinea. And there is always Nauru.

Winston Peters is also our Minister of Disarmament. New Zealand supports the abolition of nuclear weapons; one hopes that he raised the issue of nuclear disarmament with the US Defense Secretary. He prides himself on his plain speaking.

But Peters has invited the US to take more interest in the Pacific; its no surprise to me that their response has been to offer to provide missiles with which to attack China, rather than a trade deal.

In the 1980s we stopped the US ships from coming our way. Now that missiles are the weapon of choice, we need to stop them too.

 

 

30 comments on “Nuclear chickens coming home? ”

  1. Gosman 1

    You state that this is nuclear chickens coming home to roost but none of the missiles that are being discussed being deployed will be nuclear armed. It is stated explicitly in the article.

    • Dukeofurl 1.1

      Yes. The shorthand says INF, but the treaty covered all 'weapon systems'- nuclear and non nuclear – of that type within the ranges – thats the Intermediate part.

      The reason for that is a nuclear warhead can be as small as a conventional warhead and you cant really tell the difference.

      Another conumdrum is the Treaty covered 'ground launched' while still allowing sea and air launched versions of the same missiles. We have seen them used both by US, UK and Russia in the Middle East wars.

      The US was already breaking the Treaty by deploying armed drones over the same distances. This would cover drones strikes to Pakistan and Yemen, which is why technically these strikes are 'highly classified' yet in reality are talked about in the papers.

  2. Dukeofurl 2

    "And the Chinese are under no illusions as to what the targets are – their cities."

    I dont think thats the case, these small weapons would only be useful on fixed military bases, of course some bases could be next too and within cities. The same applied to Europe where the INF would base their launchers near cities.

    Dont forget the Chinese arent bound by the 'old ' Treaty- it was only US and USSR ( and now its continuing state Russia)- so they certainly have these sorts of missiles.

    • McFlock 2.1

      Assuming non-nuclear payloads (big assumption), cities tend to contain C3 hubs.

      But I reckon the main uses of conventional intermediate range conventional weapons would be decapitation attempts, and China's ports and border crossings. Not NK-style artillery targeting suburbs.

      And that would all go nuclear very quickly, though.

      There's also the section within the US military and repugs that actively supports entangling nuclear and conventional forces so there is no threshold or Rubicon to cross (and therefore avoid), just a steady continuum of escalation. This goes back to at least the "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" Bush Jr wanted in the early 2000s. The idea of tactical nukes was based around stopping Soviet hordes in the Fulda Gap, but now some yanks want to be able to have them as an option for every tactical situation they might face.

  3. Your post is written as though China were a hapless victim lacking its own nuclear weapons, which it is not. From your linked article at foreignpolicy.com:

    … China, which is not a party to the agreement, has deployed hundreds of midrange conventional missiles across Asia…

    You write that we shouldn't believe the US government when it says it's only deploying conventional missiles. Should we believe the Chinese Communist Party when it says it's only deploying conventional missiles?

    • Mark 3.1

      Where are these missiled deployed across Asia, aside from of course China itself?

      • Dukeofurl 3.1.1

        Russia and USA no longer possess or manufacture these missiles. Thats what the Treaty was all about , they had to give up stocks and production facilities.

        The simple answer is there arent any outside China [The cruise missile category allowed air and sea launched version to continue to this day]

  4. SPC 4

    The next Great Leap Forward is again obvious.

    But this time let's hope TPTB get it right. Last time Nixon gave away to Beijing the seat on the UNSC and got nothing in return (he could have got independence for Hong Kong and Taiwan and a peace to end the Korean War) – maybe the MIC is addicted to the perpetual arms build-up profit making and Deep State to security paranoia for their power in and over democracy?

    Given the Americans of this generation are as incompetent as they were then, it is time for the EU to salvage from Brexit some dignity and leave NATO to get this done. The Russians see the EU and NATO advance eastwards as a new Barbarossa.

    So the EU leaving NATO and making a free trade deal with Russia (and all other USSR era republics not in the EU) ends that. All Warsaw Pact nations and the Baltic States remain in the EU orbit.

    They resolve the Ukraine matter – by accepting Crimean and eastern area plebescite separatism into Russia (as the UK would a Scottish independence vote to stay in the EU and NI joining Eire). In return Russia takes over a share of the Ukraine public debt (pro rata to the land, assets and population transfer) and agree to supply gas to Ukraine at the same rate as to the EU.

    Then it's on to defence co-operation in Europe. Which should be easy once the UK and US meddling ends. This reduces military risk and cost to all involved. And allows a peace dividend to both the EU and Russia.

    This deals with the underlying cause of the missile treaty issue.

    If the Russians then decide to point their IRM towards China rather than Europe, so be it. Then the Americans do not need any in our region then A. And consider China contained to make this the best deal that the dumb and stupid as f88k Yanks had to be dragged kicking and screaming into – dumb as Zombie cult nation. Sad.

  5. Exkiwiforces 5

    To be really honest, I don’t think there will be any basing of US IRBM’s in Australia or where else in the South Pacific. Unless Australia feels the urge to purchase them and if they do? They would want to maintain all OPCON at all Tactical and Strategic level.

    The Pom’s offered the Aussies a couple of SQN’s Vulcan’s or Victor’s to cover them to preserve the hrs on their Canberra bombers as the TSR2 project was running a tad late at the time. But the catch was that the Pom’s wanted to maintain OPCON on the V Bombers under Aussie ownership, but the Aussies told the Pom’s to bugger off and then pulled out of the TSR2 as delays were getting longer along with cost and backed the FX1-11 project which in the end its issues forcing the Aussies to lease two SQN’s of F-4’s.

    As for Australia rebuilding of the Manus Naval Base (which was a RAN Naval Base from 1945 to 1975) from a Strategic POV actually make sense for Australia, USA and possibly NZ as well. As anyone who controls the approaches into Coral Sea and the Coral Sea will be able control both Australia and New Zealand’s Sea Lanes to it Northern and Eastern Trading partners through the Pacific Islands.

    The Japs had a crack at this during WW2 and were checked at the battle of the Coral Sea and later in the Solly’s at huge cost to both the Allies and Japs. If the Japs had prevail at the battle of the Coral Sea along with success of taking Port Moresby and also at Milne Bay at the eastern tip of PNG. Then Japs would’ve been able to invest in the seizing New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and all the way to Tahiti Therefore they would’ve been able to degrade both Australia’s and New Zealand’s Eastern SLOC’s to the US and to the UK via the Panama Canal.

    There are two essays in this quarters “The Navy, The magazine of the Navy League of Australia” for further reading called-

    The Battle of Australia- A different prospective, and Operation Mo and the Battle of the Coral Sea.

    And this quote from old mate, Admiral of the Fleet Sergei Gorshkvo “Australia is the centre of the world’s oceans”.

    • Michael 5.1

      The now-repudiated INF treaty was definitely intended to reduce the threat of nuclear war between the two superpowers and their respective vassals (NATO and the Warsaw Pact). The trouble began in the late 1970s when the Soviets began to deploy SS-20 intermediate- range and nuclear-tipped missiles into Eastern Europe (notably East Germany). These weapons were capable of delivering a "tactical" nuclear warhead (I forget the yield but several times the power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki weapons) to their targets, cities and military bases across Western Europe (including the UK) after only a few minutes of flight. Thus, the weapons provided little time for warning or defence before they detonated. The Americans (NATO) followed suit by deploying Pershing II IRBMs to sites in West Germany and other places. These weapons had a similar performance to the SS20s (although they were more accurate). However, there was one crucial difference: the weapons could strike Moscow and its surrounds, where the Soviet Communist Party bosses maintained their bunkers and command and control apparatus: they too, would have little warning time to reach whatever safety the bunkers provided before the territory above-ground was devastated (even if the IRBMs didn't vaporise the bunkers, the bigger ICBMs, containing larger warheads, fired from silos in the continental US and submarines offshore, would certainly have done so). Thus, the IRBM saga put the Soviet leaders under severe threat. Their first response was to mobilise the Western peace movement (no protests against the SS20s, AFAICR) and, when that didn't work, the Soviets were moved to the bargaining table and offer concessions, including withdrawal of the SS20s (to locations within the Soviet Union from which they could swiftly be redeployed th threaten Western Europe again, should the "correlation of forces" move to the Soviet advantage). The INF Treaty probably did make the world a bit safer for a while. Now it is gone and we can expect proliferation of IRBMs once again and not just in the Asia-Pacific theatre. I expect IRBMs to be located in Poland (not far from where the Russians have already deployed them in its Kaliningrad enclave and routinely threaten their use against European targets), thus bringing targets in and around Moscow within very short range.

      • Dukeofurl 5.1.1

        The main weapon used by US in Europe was the nuclear armed ground luanched cruise missile not the IRBM.

        The US hasnt had IRBM for many decades, even before INF, so cant see them putting something they dont have in Poland.

        Since that time anti -ballistic missile defences for these sorts weapons have improved and they do have these in Eastern Europe ( initially against Iran?)

        The US did have short range or tactical missiles

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MGM-52_Lance

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MGM-140_ATACMS

        The non nuclear version of this was used heavily in ME wars and may be bought by Poland and Romania

        Iskander M missiles in the Kaliningrad Russian enclave are claimed by Russia to be not covered by INF – "rockets with ranges between 310 and 620 miles. "

      • greywarshark 5.1.2

        Gosh Michael, that is a brick. I guess you could call it a modern Rosetta Stone.

    • Grafton Gully 5.2

      Antarctica has the Indian, Southern, Atlantic and Pacific oceans around it. Australia lacks the Atlantic. Gorshkvo was perhaps thinking politically rather than geographically.

      • Exkiwiforces 5.2.1

        Actually I think Sergei Gorshkvo is right in saying “Australia is the centre of the world’s oceans”. If the Yanks lose access to the greater Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic and degraded access around both Capes of Horn and Good Hope. Then Australia and I would throw in NZ as well as, it Defends/ Protects Australia's easting seaboard (where some 80% of Australia's pop lives) is the centre of the world’s oceans, as it's the link to the Middle East, and both canals.

        If both NZ and, or the South Pacific were to fall under the opposing forces then it would make for some very interesting scenario's. Doing a convoy against the current at 40deg's sth or 50deg's sth would make the Arctic Convoys of WW2 look quite present sailing conditions.

  6. Exkiwiforces 6

    Sorry can’t use the reply mode while I’m using the iPad?

    Fully understand your post Michael @5.1 IRT the INF Treaty. I would expect too see the Yanks deploy their IRBM’s in and around Northern Asian Pacific Region aka Guam, Sth Korea Japan and possibly Attu Island. (Must dig out my old tac’s on IRBM’s in one of my trunks to refresh my memory on range, weapons payload and possible fallout areas from CBRND TEWT.)

    There is no chance of a the US basing their IRBM’s here in Oz fullstop, as the blow back would be huge as there is some push back momentum gathering atm IRT the possible Joint Aus/ US military port at Glyde Point. Which is an area of good fishing, sea cow/ turtle habitat etc as most amateur, commercial fishers and greenies would be up an arm’s if the port goes ahead. (I be one of them getting involved).

    • Dukeofurl 6.1

      "I would expect too see the Yanks deploy their IRBM’s in and around Northern Asian Pacific Region.."

      Cant happen . As part of the treaty US gave up all its stocks and production facilities for all its IRBM. They dont exist anymore.

      They would to have to start from the beginning to produce , test and deploy a brand new IRBM

  7. greywarshark 7

    There is a great doco with Gorbachev talking about his efforts to bring about a peaceful Europe, sadly stymied by one of the usual suspects, while he was on holiday in the Crimea. (By that i mean the eager beavers impatient to get to the top of the pile with no firm practical vision.) His idea for his tombstone was "He tried".

    One of his notable statements:

    People who don’t understand the importance of cooperation and disarmament should quit politics.

    Mikhail S. Gorbachev

    He might have been thinking about Margaret Thatcher who tried to persuade him how unwise it was to de-escalate nuclear weapons. He shook his head in wonder at her.

    This was a great doco and very much from the heart as Werner Herzog questioned him deeply.

    Views:
    https://www.nziff.co.nz/2019/auckland/meeting-gorbachev/

    (https://www.facebook.com/nzfilmfestival/videos/2338094619783456/?v=2338094619783456

    (https://www.flicks.co.nz/movie/meeting-gorbachev/#canterbury

    It appears to have finished in Auckland on 6 August.
    It's sold out in Wellington.

    Christchurch seats? Fri 9 Aug 2019, 2:15pm Sat 10 Aug 2019, 11:00am Mon 12 Aug 2019, 8:30pm Sun 25 Aug 2019, 5:45pm
    Where: Lumiere Cinemas, 26 Rolleston Ave, Christchurch https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2019/nziff-2019-meeting-gorbachev/christchurch

    Nelson Aug 20 8.30pm Suter Theatre Nn

    Other places might find on the flick link above.

    • greywarshark 7.1

      In the doco I referred to above, Gorbachev was contemptuous of the attitude that the USA 'won' the Cold War. He had done much of the work to bring about its end, and I think he felt that it was the will of the people that he was in tune with, so he felt certain that he was doing the right thing when he made his diplomatic moves. He said something about Reagan and he had made a person-to-person bond, but the Defence Dept and CIA could not believe its validity.

      This is an interesting story – out of a movie and in fact a book was written by one of the CIA men and a movie also.

      https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018707458/jonna-mendez-master-of-disguise

      The film Argo is based on her late husband Tony's famous clandestine operation to rescue six Americans trapped in Iran.

      Before he died, Tony co-wrote a new book called The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics that Helped America Win the Cold War with his wife.

  8. Exkiwiforces 8

    To Dukeoful @ 6.1 I’ve given myself an upper cut at stupid school boy error, with seven days punishment of CB along with 7 days of hard tack and water.

  9. Exkiwiforces 9

    Anyway there’s the Wikipedia link to the INF Treaty, which I should’ve consulted before I typed. I’m to drink some glow in the dark beer at my local bush fire captains house.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermediate-Range_Nuclear_Forces_Treaty

  10. Anne 10

    The INF treaty was a particular target. The US and Russia both argued that the other was in breach of it. Late last year the Russians proposed via the UN that the two parties meet to resolve the dispute. The US argue against any dialogue and inexplicably so did New Zealand, stating that the Russian resolution was a “sidestep.”

    Sidestep? In what way? Perhaps someone could explain what that is supposed to mean.

    I don't profess to understand the complexities described above, but it seems to me that we are entering another dangerous nuclear age. Who is fundamentally responsible? The Yanks or the Ruskies or both – or China?

    The whole thing stinks of three despotic so-called superpowers all wanting to be top dog. I will place my bet on China winning but not before the rest of the world has been to hell and back.

    Here we go again!

    • Dukeofurl 10.1

      China was never a party to the INF treaty. Nor was North Korea.

      Then again the INF only applied to 'Ground launched' cruise missiles and intermediate range ballistic missiles. The US hasnt had IRBM since they 60s when they were stationed in Britain.

      The same nuclear armed cruise missiles still exist for air and sea launch. ( the electronics between conventional and nuclear differ as nuclear has heaps more launch and targeting blocks and high level control)

      Their conventional armed siblings were used by USA ( mostly) but also UK and more recently Russia in Syria . The Russians launched cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea via Iran and Iraq to hit ISIS targets in Syria-Iraq.

      • Anne 10.1.1

        Thanks. You're a fountain of knowledge on the subject. Yes, I did know China wasn’t part of the INF treaty.

        Still don't know why NZ voted against a UN attempt to resolve the dispute between Russia and the US. It has a rather petty feel about it – on the part of both Russia and the US.

        • Louis 10.1.1.1

          "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"

          https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/ga12116.doc.htm

        • Dukeofurl 10.1.1.2

          I only came to the INF in a round about way. I was looking at how the Predator drone strikes against targets people in Afghanistan and Yemen were such a top top secret for US officals when they were openly discussed in media everywhere.

          The clue seemed to be they break the INF treaty against moderate range 'ground launched winged weapons systems' – that was the definition. Armed drones didnt exist back when it was signed and was meant to cover the one way cruise missiles. But it now does cover these longer ranged flights. And the US had the cheek to say Russia was breaking the INF ( they may well have done so with a type of ballistic missile)

          That seems to be the reason why Obama was authorising these flights to kill people but would never never admit to it. They had a ridicuosly high security classification even when it was widely known and not even what they call an 'open secret'

          • Anne 10.1.1.2.1

            In other words, when they do it it's OK cos they're doing it for the right reasons, but when the other side does it it's not OK cos they're doing it for the wrong reasons and must be punished.

            And so it goes on… ad infinitum

  11. greywarshark 11

    Nuclear chicken? I have heard of buttered chicken. I think the USA has been buttering us up for a while and all the hungry capitalists* have their mouths agape like Mr Creosote. Perhaps we are the chickens.

    The INF treaty was a particular target. The US and Russia both argued that the other was in breach of it. Late last year the Russians proposed via the UN that the two parties meet to resolve the dispute. The US argue against any dialogue and inexplicably so did New Zealand, stating that the Russian resolution was a “sidestep.”

    The real sidestep would appear to be what is now apparent in Esper’s call for Asia-Pacific countries to deploy US missiles. The real target is China, and the American aim is to surround China with missiles with a short launch to target cycle making defence that much more difficult.

    There is money in war – First you sell your weapons, then they get destroyed and replaced, then there is reinstatement and rehabilitation in the country/ies attacked and the beaten country's treasury of resources and special objects gets raided by the conquerors. Now we know that the world is overpopulated so who worries about killing a lot of people. It is just a more brutal version of neo lib business where a company is bought out/taken over and a change agent sacks half of the staff, and the rest have to reapply for their jobs for lower wages.

    *Not to be mistaken with The Hungry Caterpillar which is a well-loved children's story that hasn't got anything about nuclear fission or fusion in it, though the Caterpillar is a force of nature devouring all green matter in its path. Perhaps children should be shielded from this sort of story showing unbridled aggression at grass level?

    • woodart 11.1

      yep, the most neo-lib business out there is war,and all its hanger on friends, fear, burglar alarms, guns, gun racks, maga hats ,etc

  12. Exkiwiforces 12

    Well the INF Treaty is well now kicked into touch now, with the launch of an IR Ground Base Cruise Missile in 30yrs and god knows where the Yanks got this cruise missile from probably a secret stash squirrel away for a last ditch Doomsday action or from a Museum?

    The other sad thing is the first test launch of an US IRBM since the INF Treaty was kicked into touch will happen towards of this year.

    https://warisboring.com/u-s-puts-russia-china-and-north-korea-on-notice-with-cruise-missile-test-first-in-30-years/

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