US Defence Secretary says he favours placing intermediate-range missiles in Asia

Posted August 04, 2019

Washington and Moscow walked out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty that President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed in 1987, raising fears of a new arms race.

"Russia is exclusively responsible for the treaty's demise", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday.

"To date, Russia has produced and fielded multiple battalions of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, throughout Russia, in violation of the INF Treaty, including missiles fielded in western Russia with the ability to strike critical European targets", a senior administration official said Thursday.

The U.S. blamed Moscow for the death of the treaty.

Despite Pompeo's 60-day ultimatum and the six-month wind-down period, "Russia has made no effort" to come into compliance.

The Kremlin pointed a finger at the United States.

- The U.S. "realizes that they're destroying the entire global security system because they want to build a new world order", said Konstantin Sokolov, a geopolitical expert at the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.

New START will lapse in early 2021 unless the USA and Russian presidents decide to extend it.

Russia also has complained for years about the treaty, pointing out that after most Eastern European nations joined NATO in the 1990s, alliance forces could reach the Russian heartland without medium-range weapons.

US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper announced on Saturday that he is in favour of deploying American ground-launched intermediate-range missiles in Asia.

"With the end of the INF treaty, a bit of security in Europe is being lost", German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said this week. It applies to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers).

America was yesterday backed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation which dismissed a Russian call for a moratorium on short and intermediate-range missiles. "So that should not surprise that we would want to have a like capability", he said.

But the United States accused Russian Federation of repeated violations and said the bilateral pact had given other countries - namely China - free rein to develop their own long-range missiles. "This leads to an actual dismantlement of the existing arms control architecture".

If it is not extended or replaced, "there will be no legally binding limits on the world's two largest strategic arsenals for the first time since 1972", according to The Arms Control Association, a Washington, D.C. -based nonprofit.

"We will not mirror what Russian Federation does, we do not want a new arms race, and we have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe".

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty limited the use of medium-range missiles, both conventional and nuclear.

"The U.S. will not remain party to a treaty when others violate it", he said.

China's Xinhua news agency on July 30 quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying, "China will in no way agree to making the INF Treaty multilateral", while hitting out at Washington for its withdrawal from the treaty.

Over its lifetime, the 1987 INF treaty led to the elimination of 2,692 US and Soviet Union nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles.

Both would be tests of conventional weapons - and not nuclear.

The ripping up of the INF Treaty is widely expected to be followed by the ending of the even more significant New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement, which if not renewed, will expire in 2021.

Neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who negotiated the budget deal with the Trump White House, nor Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said anything about the scrapping of the INF treaty.