President Donald Trump said Washington will exit the Cold-War era treaty that eliminated a class of nuclear weapons due to Russian violations, triggering a warning of retaliatory measures from Moscow.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, required elimination of short-range and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles by both countries.
“Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement so we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters on Saturday after a rally in Nevada.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Sunday that a unilateral U.S. withdrawal would be “very dangerous” and lead to a “military-technical” retaliation.
U.S. authorities believe Moscow is developing and has deployed a ground-launched system in breach of the INF treaty that could allow it to launch a nuclear strike on Europe at short notice. Russia has consistently denied any such violation.
Trump said the United States will develop the weapons unless Russia and China agree to a halt on development.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, will visit Moscow next week.
Ryabkov, in comments reported by state-controlled RIA news agency, said if the United States withdrew, Russia would have no choice but to retaliate, including taking unspecified measures of a “military-technical nature”.
“But we would rather things did not get that far,” RIA quoted him as saying.
TASS news agency quoted him as saying withdrawal “would be a very dangerous step”, and it was Washington and not Moscow that was failing to comply with the treaty.
He said the Trump administration was using the treaty in an attempt to blackmail the Kremlin, putting global security at risk. “...We will, of course, accept no ultimatums or blackmail methods,” Interfax quoted him as saying.
British defense minister Gavin Williamson, in comments reported by the Financial Times, said London stood “resolute” behind Washington over the issue, and that the Kremlin was making a mockery of the agreement.
Nearly half of US military troops believe America will be drawn into a major war next year and see Moscow and Beijing as main threats, according to a recent poll. But is there any basis for this anxiety among soldiers?
Almost a half of soldiers and commanders in the US Armed Forces (46%) believe that their country will be drawn into a large-scale armed conflict in 2019, reveals a new Military Times' poll of active-duty troops. They didn't clarify though what kind of war with Russia they expect. Neither have they presented any analysis of a potential strategic armed conflict between Moscow and Washington. US servicemen didn't consider the latest trends and changes in the way our countries will do combat in the near future. They have briefly mentioned cyberattacks, but only the ones that took place this year.
The US military didn't mention the three most important things that play a major part in any war: goals, methods/ways of achieving those goals, and means. Basically, they think that the war is imminent, but they don't know what kind of war it will be.
Even though tensions in the Russia-US relations have significantly heightened, neither Washington nor Moscow has ever said anything about being ready to use armed forces in order to achieve military and political goals. Seems like the bilateral relations are at their worst today, but there are no ideological, economic, or territorial disputes that could provoke a large-scale war within a year.
The existing and potential local armed conflicts, which political analysts enjoy listing (making sure they cover everything – from the Far East and all the way to the Western Hemisphere), will not cause a major war between Russia and the US either.
The current situation in Syria proves that point because we see how Moscow and Washington do everything they can to avoid stepping on each other's toes in that region. Besides, and this is true for both countries, neither Russian nor US experts are able to outline concrete military and political goals, which such a conflict would pursue, in a few brief statements.
It must also be said that a war can't be spontaneous and preparation for warfare takes time. Even if the two countries gear up for a large-scale war as fast as they can, it would take at least six months to get everything ready. And, given the high level of modern intelligence systems, it would be impossible to keep the potential adversary unaware of the preparation process under way.
Apart from all that, armed confrontation between Moscow and Washington cannot start with only peacetime combat-ready units going into battle. It would be an outrageously reckless venture for both sides.
Meanwhile, there is no intelligence data indicating that strategic deployment of troops has started in either of the two countries, which means that no one in Russia or the US is currently busy bringing the armed forces to combat readiness, or operatively deploying troops to theatres of war and in strategic space zones, strategically moving troops from inland areas towards the theatres of military operations, or deploying priority strategic reserve forces. It means that neither side is preparing for a large-scale military conflict.
It'd be more serious than just a shootout
However, if we do try to classify a hypothetical war between the US and Russia, it would most probably be a protracted nuclear world war. From the very beginning, this warfare would be characterized by a mutual unlimited use of all available mass destruction weapons, primarily strategic nuclear arsenals, which would entail a catastrophic aftermath not only for the two belligerent nations, but also for all the other countries of the world.
Both the West and the East know this perfectly well. Senior vice president of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies James Andrew Lewis wrote in September that with the advent of nuclear weapons, major powers have sought to avoid direct military confrontation, and wars between big, heavily-armed states became expensive and risky.
According to Lewis, "the US finds itself now in a world where its soft power is diminished and its hard power less useful." Emerging powers see themselves as challenging the US for economic power, international influence, and regional leadership. Some have moved from challenge to conflict.
In this environment, says Lewis, Washington's opponents will exploit the opportunities created by information technology for damaging the US and advancing their national interests. He calls it a new kind of conflict whose core is information and the cognitive effect it produces.
As for the Military Times poll, we should remember that no such survey among military troops can be conducted without the approval of the top military and government officials. More often than not, the results of surveys like this are known beforehand; in other words, they will be what they are ordered to be.
It seems that in this case the order was to add fuel to the fire, but no more than that. At any rate, it would not be wise to treat the poll results as an indication of what the US administration intends to do with war and peace in the near future.