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A Lexicon for Disaster

Russia seeks arms control agreements to prevent dangerous escalation. But the U.S. seeks only unilateral advantage. This risks all out conflict unless this changes.

By Scott Ritter | Consortium News | December 19, 2022

Dec. 8 marked the 35th anniversary of the signing of the intermediate nuclear forces (INF) treaty. This landmark arms control event was the byproduct of years of hard-nose negotiations capped off by the political courage of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev who together signed the treaty and oversaw its ratification by their respective legislatures.

The first inspectors went to work on July 1, 1988. I was fortunate to count myself among them.

In August 2019, former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the INF treaty; Russia followed shortly thereafter, and this foundational arms control agreement was no more.

The Decline of Arms Control

The termination of the INF treaty is part and parcel of an overall trend which has seen arms control as an institution — and a concept — decline in the eyes of policy makers in both Washington and Moscow. This point was driven home during a two-day period where I marked the INF anniversary with veteran arms control professionals from both the U.S. and Russia.

These experts, drawn from the ranks of the diplomatic corps who negotiated the treaty, the military and civilian personnel who implemented the treaty others from all walks of life who were affiliated with the treaty in one shape or another, all had something to say about the current state of U.S.-Russian arms control.

One thing that struck me was the importance of language in defining arms control expectations amongst the different players. Words have meaning, and one of the critical aspects of any arms control negotiation is to ensure that the treaty text means the same thing in both languages.

When the INF treaty was negotiated, U.S. and Soviet negotiators had the benefit of decades of negotiating history regarding the anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) treaty, the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT), and START, from which a common lexicon of agreed-upon arms control terminology was created.

Over the years, this lexicon helped streamline both the negotiation and implementation of various arms control agreements, ensuring that everyone was on the same page when it came to defining what had been committed to.

Today, however, after having listened to these veteran arms control professionals, it was clear to me that a common lexicon of arms control terminology no longer existed — words that once had a shared definition now meant different things to different people, and this definition gap could— and indeed would — further devolve as each side pursued their respective vision of arms control devoid of any meaningful contact with the other.

The U.S. Lexicon

Disarmament. Apparently, disarmament doesn’t mean what it once did to the U.S.—the actual verifiable elimination of designated weapons and capability. In fact, disarmament and its corollary, reduction, are no longer in vogue amongst the U.S. arms control community. Instead, there is an arms control process designed to promote the national security interest. And by arms control, we mean arms increase.

America, it seems, is no longer in the arms reduction business. We did away with the ABM and INF treaties, and as a result we are deploying a new generation of ballistic missile defense systems and intermediate-range weapons. While this is disconcerting enough, the real threat comes if and when the only remaining arms control agreement between the U.S. and Russia — the New START treaty — expires in February 2026.

If there is not a replacement treaty of similar capacity negotiated, ratified and ready for implementation at that time, then the notion of strategic arms control will be completely untethered from any controlling mechanism. The U.S. would then be free to modernize and expand its strategic nuclear weapons arsenal. Disarmament, it seems, means the exact opposite — rearmament. George Orwell would be proud.

The Interagency. Back when the INF treaty was negotiated and implemented, the United States was graced with a single point of contact for arms control matters — the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, or ACDA. Formed by President John F. Kennedy in the early 1960’s, ACDA provided the foundation for continuity and consistency for U.S. arms control policy, even as the White House changed hands.

While there were numerous bureaucratic stakeholders involved in formulating and executing U.S. arms control policy, ACDA helped ride herd over their often-competing visions through what was known as the interagency process—a system of coordinating groups and committees that brought the various players around one table to hammer out a unified vision for disarmament and arms control. The interagency was, however, a process, not a standalone entity.

How times have changed. Today, ACDA is gone. In its place is what is referred to as The Interagency. More than a simple process, The Interagency has morphed into a standalone policy making entity that is more than simply the combined power of its constituent components, but rather a looming reality that dominates arms control policy decision making.

The Interagency has moved away from being a process designed to streamline policy making, and instead transformed into a singular entity whose mission is to resist change and preserve existing power structures.

Whereas previously the various departments and agencies that make up the U.S. national security enterprise could shape and mold the interagency process in a manner which facilitated policy formulation and implementation, today The Interagency serves as a permanent brake on progress, a mechanism which new policy initiatives disappear into, never to be seen again.

Sole Purpose. Sole Purpose is a doctrinal concept which holds that the sole purpose of America’s nuclear arsenal is deterrence, and that American nuclear weapons exist only to respond to any nuclear attack against the United States in such a manner that the effective elimination of the nation or nations that attacked the U.S. would be guaranteed.

Sole Purpose was linked to the notion of mutually assured destruction, or MAD. Sole purpose/MAD was the cornerstone philosophy behind successive American presidential administrations. In 2002, however, the administration of President George W. Bush did away with the Sole Purpose doctrine, and instead adopted a nuclear posture which held that the U.S. could use nuclear weapons preemptively, even in certain non-nuclear scenarios.

Barack Obama, upon winning the presidency, promised to do away with the Bush-era policy of preemption but, when his eight-year tenure as the American commander in chief was complete, the policy of nuclear preemption remained in place. Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, not only retained the policy of nuclear preemption, but expanded it to create even more possibilities for the use of U.S. nuclear weapons.

Joe Biden, the current occupant of the White House, campaigned on a promise to restore Sole Purpose to its original intent. However, upon assuming office, Biden’s Sole Purpose policy ran headfirst into The Interagency which, according to someone in the know, was not ready for such a change.

Instead, Sole Purpose has been re-purposed to the extent that it now reflects a policy posture of nuclear pre-emption. You got that right—thanks to The Interagency, the sole purpose of American nuclear weapons today is to be prepared to carry out preemptive attacks against looming or imminent threats. This, The Interagency believes, represents the best deterrent model available to promote the general welfare and greater good of the American people.

The Russian Lexicon

Reciprocity. Reciprocity is the Golden Rule of arms control — do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It was the heart and sole on the INF treaty — what was good for the Goose was always good for the Gander. In short, if the Americans mistreated the Soviet inspectors, one could guarantee that, in short order, American inspectors were certain to encounter precisely the same mistreatment.

Reciprocity was the concept which prevented the treaty from getting bogged down in petty matters and allowed the treaty to accomplish the enormous successes it enjoyed.

Under the terms of the New START treaty, each side is permitted to conduct up to 18 inspections per year. Before being halted in 2020 because of the pandemic, a total of 328 inspections had been carried out by both sides with the rules of reciprocity firmly in place and adhered to.

However, in early 2021, when both sides agreed that inspections could resume, the U.S. demonstrated the reality that the concept of reciprocity was little more than a propaganda ploy to make Russia feel “equal” in the eyes of the treaty.

When the Russians attempted to carry out an inspection in July, the aircraft carrying the inspection team was denied permission to fly through the airspace of European countries due to sanctions banning commercial flights to and from Russia in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Russians cancelled the inspection.

Later, in August, the U.S. tried to dispatch its own inspection team to Russia. The Russians, however, denied the team permission to enter, citing issues of reciprocity — if Russian inspectors could not carry out their inspection tasks, then the U.S. would be similarly denied.

For Russia, the definition of reciprocity is quite clear — equal treatment under the terms of a treaty. For the U.S., however, reciprocity is just another concept which it can use to shape and sustain the unilateral advantages it has accrued over the years when it came to implementing the New Start treaty.

Predictability. Historically, the primary purpose of arms control agreements was to reach a common understanding of mutual objectives and the means to achieve them so that over the agreed upon timeframe there would exist an element of stability from the predictability of the agreement.

This, of course, required agreement on definitions and intent accompanied by a mutual understanding of the four corners of the deal, especially on quantifiable subjects such as treaty-limited items.

Under the INF treaty, the goals and objectives for both parties were absolute in nature: total elimination of the involved weapons which existed in a class covered by the treaty. One couldn’t get much clearer than that and by mid-1991, all weapons covered by the treaty had been destroyed by both the U.S. and Soviet Union.

Subsequent inspections were focused on ensuring both sides continued to comply with their obligation to permanently destroy the weapons systems designated for elimination and not to produce or deploy new weapons systems whose capabilities would be prohibited by the terms of the treaty.

Under New START, the goals and objectives are far more nebulous. Take, by way of example, the issue of decommissioning nuclear-capable bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missile launch tubes. The goal is to arrive at a hard number that meets the letter and intent of the treaty.

But the U.S. has undertaken to decommission both the B-52H and Trident missile launch tubes onboard Ohio-class submarines in a manner which allows for reversal, meaning that the hard caps envisioned by the treaty, and around which strategic planning and posture is derived, are not absolute, but flexible.

As such, Russian strategic planners must not only plan for a world where the treaty-imposed caps are in effect, but also the possibility of a U.S. “break out” scenario where the B-52H bombers and Trident missiles launch tubes are brought back to operational status.

This scenario is literally the textbook definition of unpredictability and is why Russia looks askance at the idea of negotiating a new arms control treaty with the U.S. As long as the U.S. favors treaty language which produces such unpredictability, Russia will more than likely opt out.

Accountability. One of the most oft-quoted sayings that emerged from the INF treaty is “trust but verify.” This aphorism helped guide that treaty through the unprecedented success of its 13-year period of mandated inspections (from 1988 until 2001.) However, once the inspections ended, the “verify” aspect of the treaty became more nebulous in nature, opening the door for the erosion of trust between the U.S. and Russia.

A key aspect of any arms control agreement is its continued relevance to the national security postures of the participating nations. At the same time the INF inspections came to an end, the administration of President George W. Bush withdrew from the landmark 1972 anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty.

In doing so, the United States propelled itself into a trajectory where the principles that had underpinned arms control for decades—the de-escalation of nuclear tensions through the adherence to principles of disarmament set forth in mutually-reinforcing agreements intended to be of a lasting nature, no longer applied.

By unilaterally disposing of the ABM treaty, the U.S. opened the door for the deployment of ABM systems in Europe. Two Mk. 41 Aegis Ashore anti-missile defense systems, normally deployed as part of a ship’s Aegis-capable cruisers and destroyers, were instead installed on the ground in Romania and Poland. The issue of the Mk. 41 system is that the launch pods are capable of firing either the SM-3 missile as an interceptor, or the sea-launched cruise missile (Tomahawk.)

Russia objected to the Mk. 41 potentially offense system being employed on the ground, arguing that in doing so the U.S. was violating the INF treat by deploying a ground-launched cruise missile.

The U.S. rejected the Russian allegations, declaring that the Aegis Ashore launch configuration was solely for the firing of surfacre-to-air missiles. However, the U.S. balked at providing Russia the kind of access that would be necessary to ascertain the actual science behind the U.S. claim that the missile batteries were configured to operate only in a surface-to-air mode.

The U.S. also claimed it was impossible for the Mk. 41 to incorporate the Tomahawk cruise missile or a follow-on variant of the SM-3 or the SM-6 Typhoon, which are surface-to-surface missiles at ranges (reaching Moscos) that would violate the INF treaty.

(Removal of these missiles from Poland and Romania was one demand Russia made in draft treaty proposals to the U.S. last December. After the U.S. rejected it, Russia intervened in Ukraine.)

As had been the case with the ABM treaty, the U.S. had grown tired of the restrictions imposed by the INF treaty. U.S. military planners were anxious to field a new generation of INF weapons to counter what they perceived to be the growing threat from China, whose ballistic missile arsenals were not constrained by the treaty.

The ABM and INF treaties had become inconvenient to the U.S. not because of any actions undertaken by their treaty partners, the Russians, but rather due to an aggressive, expansive notion of U.S. power projection that mooted the purpose of the treaties altogether.

Arms control treaties are not meant to facilitate the expansion of military power, but rather restrict it. By viewing treaty obligations as disposable, the U.S. was eschewing the entire philosophy behind arms control.

Moreover, the tactics employed by the U.S. to undermine the credibility of the INF treaty revolved around fabricating a case of alleged Russian violations built around “intelligence” about the development of a new Russian ground-launched cruise missile, the 9M729, which the U.S. claimed proved that the new missile was in violation of the INF treaty.

That the intelligence was never shared with the Russians, further eroded the viability of the U.S. as a treaty partner. When the Russians offered up the actual 9M729 missile for physical inspection to convince the U.S. to remain in the INF treaty, the U.S. balked, preventing not only U.S. officials from participating, but also any of its NATO allies.

In the end, the U.S. withdrew from the INF treaty in August 2019. Less than a month later, the U.S. carried out a test launch of the Tomahawk cruise missile from a Mk. 41 launch tube. The Russians had been right all along — the U.S., in abandoning the ABM treaty, had used the deployment of so-called new ABM sites as a cover for the emplacement of INF-capable ground-launched missiles on Russia’s doorstep.

And yet the U.S. pays no price — there is no accountability for such duplicity. Arms control, once a bastion of national integrity and honor, had been reduced to the status of a joke by the actions of the U.S.

No Trust Left

With no common language, there can be no common vision, no common purpose. Russia continues to seek arms control agreements which serve to restrict the arsenals of the involved parties to prevent dangerous escalatory actions while imposing a modicum of predictable stability on relations.

The U.S. seeks only unilateral advantage.

Until this is changed, there can be no meaningful arms control interaction between the U.S. and Russia. Not only will the New START treaty expire in February 2026, but it is also unlikely the major verification component of the treaty — on site inspections — will be revived between now and then.

Moreover, it is impossible to see how a new arms control agreement to replace the expired New START treaty could be negotiated, ratified, and implemented in the short time remaining to do so. There is no trust between Russia and the U.S. when it comes to arms control.

With no treaties, there is no verification of reality. Both the U.S. and Russian arsenals will become untethered from treaty-based constraint, leading to a new arms race for which there can be only one finishing line — total nuclear war.

There is a long list of things that must happen if meaningful arms control is ever to resume its place in the diplomatic arsenals of either the U.S. or Russia. Before either side can resume talking to one another, however, they must first re-learn the common language of disarmament.

Because the current semantics of arms control is little more than a lexicon for disaster.

December 20, 2022 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

21 Years Ago Today: US Rips Up ABM Treaty With Russia, Starting Slow Slide Toward Current Crisis

Samizdat – 13.12.2022

Tuesday marks the 21st anniversary of the decision by then-US President George W. Bush to quit the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a landmark 1972 agreement which limited the anti-ballistic missile capabilities of the US and the USSR (and later Russia). The move became the canary in the coalmine of trouble in relations between Russia and the US.

“I have concluded the ABM Treaty hinders our government’s ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attack,” President Bush said, speaking to reporters at the White House Rose Garden on December 13, 2001. “Today I have given formal notice to Russia… that the United States of America is withdrawing from this almost thirty year old treaty,” he said. Six months later, on June 13, 2002, the agreement was history.

The ABM Treaty, signed by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and US President Richard Nixon in May 1972, limited Moscow and Washington’s ability to build ballistic missile interceptors, and was designed to slow the expansion of the superpowers’ arsenals of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, and to prevent either country from trying to gain an advantage over the other which would upset the global strategic balance.

What Did Russia Say and Do at the Time?

Vladimir Putin, then just starting his first term as president, told his US counterpart that Moscow was not surprised by the US decision, but considered the move an “erroneous one,” given that the treaty had served as a “cornerstone” of world security and stability.

A month before that, on November 13, 2001, during a state visit to the US, Putin informed his hosts that Russia and the US had “different points of view about the ABM Treaty,” but would “continue dialogue and discussions… to develop a new strategic framework that enables both of us to meet the true threats of the 21st century as partners and friends, not as adversaries.”

Publicly, Washington maintained at the time that terrorists, or so-called “rogue states” like North Korea or Iran (which the Bush administration labeled as members of an ‘Axis of Evil’) might create or obtain missiles to attack America or its allies.

Behind the scenes, Moscow suspected that the US was bluffing, and that the true purpose of new expanded American missile defenses would be to disarm Russia’s nuclear deterrent, which at the time was one of the only remaining factors standing in the way of total US global hegemony and the ‘new world order’ declared by President Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, in late 1991.

To prove it, Putin and Sergei Lavrov (who became Russia’s Foreign Minister in 2004), concocted a diplomatic maneuver to test Washington’s sincerity. In July 2007, on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Germany, Putin threw Bush a curve ball by proposing the deployment of a joint missile defense system in Azerbaijan. The plan outlined the use of an X-band radar in the post-Soviet republic to guide anti-missile interceptors, and, if approved by the US, would confirm that Washington’s missile shield plans really were aimed at so-called “rogue states,” not Russia.

“This will make it impossible – unnecessary – for us to place our offensive complexes along the borders with Europe,” Putin said, referring to US plans at the time to create a series of radar systems in the Czech Republic, along with missile interceptors in Poland.

The Bush White House politely declined the proposal. “This is a serious issue and we want to make sure that we all understand each other’s positions very clearly,” Bush told Putin.

In April 2008, at a meeting in Sochi – their final one before Putin stepped down as president and became Russia’s prime minister, and less than a year before the end of Bush’s presidency, the leaders failed to come to an agreement on missile defenses. “This is an area we’ve got more work to do to convince the Russian side that the system is not aimed at Russia,” Bush said, speaking to reporters. “I want to be understood correctly. Strategically, no change has taken place in our… attitude to US plans,” Putin responded.

(Re)Birth of Russia’s Hypersonics Program

Still recovering from the catastrophic geopolitical and economic fallout of the collapse of the USSR, and watching closely as NATO expanded into Eastern Europe in several waves between 1999 and 2004, Moscow appeared to have gained the vague impression that behind the US rhetoric of friendship and partnership, Washington had not truly given up on its vision of Russia as an adversary after 1991.

In September 2020, during a meeting with Gerbert Efremov, the former director and chief designer at the legendary NPO Mashinostroyenia rocket design bureau – responsible for the creation of some of Russia’s new hypersonic weapons, Putin revealed that the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty was the singular moment which prompted Moscow to develop these cutting-edge armaments, which the USSR had tinkered with at the twilight of the Cold War.

“America’s withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 forced Russia to start developing hypersonic weapons. We had to create these weapons in response to the deployment of the US strategic missile defense system, which would have been able to neutralize and render obsolete our entire nuclear potential,” Putin said. Russia’s hypersonic designs, gave Russia, for the first time in its modern history, “the most modern types of weapons, superior in terms of their force, power, speed and, very importantly, in terms of accuracy, compared to all which existed before them and exist today,” Putin said.

Putin returned to the fateful US decision on the ABM Treaty in remarks in October 2021, saying that Washington’s move opened a Pandora’s box of a new global arms race, and demonstrated that America was not looking to defend itself, but trying to “receive strategic superiority, effectively eliminating the nuclear potential of a potential rival.”

“What should we have done in response? I have spoken on this subject many times,” Putin said. “We could have either created a similar system, which would cost immense amounts of money, and it would be unclear in the end if it would work effectively or not. Or we could have created a different system which would definitely overcome missile defenses. I said that we would do this. The response from our American partners was that ‘our missile defenses are not directed against you, do whatever you want, we will proceed from the fact that your projects are not against us.’ We built our systems. What claims do they have against us now? Now they don’t like them,” Putin said.

Russia unveiled a series of new strategic weapons systems in 2018, with the arms, including the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, the Kinzhal aero-ballistic air-to-surface missile, the Sarmat ICBM, and the Poseidon nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed autonomous torpedo, designed to assure that even if Washington did successfully build a missile shield, Russia would still be able to retaliate to hypothetical US aggression.

What Other Treaties With Russia Has the US Unilaterally Ripped Up?

The ABM Treaty wasn’t the only security agreement with Moscow that Washington had unilaterally quit in recent years. In 2018, the United States pulled out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – an agreement banning the deployment of ground-based strategic missile in the 500-5,500 km range. In 2020, the US left the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies – which allowed 35 partner nations to perform military reconnaissance overflights over one another’s territory using specialized aircraft. Moscow was forced to follow suit in 2021.

What’s Left?

In January 2021, the incoming Biden administration agreed to renew the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), an arms control treaty which obliges the two countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed warheads. The Trump administration intended to let the clock run out on the agreement, demanding that China’s modest nuclear arsenal be added to any strategic treaties. The Biden administration agreed to extend it to February 2026.

With the collapse of the ABM Treaty, the INF Treaty and the Treaty on Open Skies, New START is now the last major security treaty between Russia and the United States. But there are two other international agreements, the Outer Space Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which both Moscow and Washington are parties, whose future has also been threatened by US behavior.

The resolution was merely a political declaration, and no means exist to enforce it. However, in 2008, Russia and China recommended a binding agreement – the Proposed Prevention of an Arms Race in Space (PAROS) Treaty – outlining specific measures to ban the deployment of space-based weaponry, anti-satellite spacecraft and other technologies which could be used for military purposes, in orbit. Successive US administrations have spurned the proposed treaty, and in 2019, the Trump administration formalized the creation of a new branch of the US military called ‘Space Force’, signaling that Washington will has no plans to rein in its space-based military activities.

Space Force, and other US efforts to militarize space (such as the deployment of large networks of dual-use commercial communications and surveillance satellites), may be a violation of the Outer Space Treaty, a 1967 agreement signed by 112 countries, including the United States, which prohibits the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in space, restricts the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes, and forbids military bases, weapons testing and military exercises in space.

US scholars of international law have outlined a series of arguments on how the US may be in violation of the Outer Space Treaty, ranging from former President Trump’s statements about the need to assert US “dominance” in space, to Washington’s designation of space as a new “war-fighting domain.”

“These assertions violate major Outer Space Treaty principles, including the prohibition of establishing sovereignty in space and using space only for peaceful purposes. The creation of the US Space Force can also be seen as a ‘threat of force’ based on its history of aggressive and dominant remarks,” explained Rachel Harp, an associate member of the University of Cincinnati Law Review.

Finally, there is the Chemical Weapons Convention, another arms control treaty to which both the United States and Russia are parties, but where question marks remain regarding Washington’s commitment to the agreement. While Russia completed the destruction of the last of its Soviet-era chemical weapons in September 2017, under the watchful eye of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the United States has consistently revised deadlines to destroy its own chemical arms stockpiles.

Washington originally promised to eliminate the last of its deadly chemical agents by 2012, but now promises to do so by late 2023. With nearly 650 tons of chemical agents and munitions remaining in its arsenal, the United States now has the largest declared chemical weapons stockpile in the world.

December 13, 2022 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ukraine crisis, sponsored by US hegemony and war profiteers

New US “lethal aid” for Ukraine, courtesy of US taxpayers and their weapons industry beneficiaries. (U.S. Embassy in Ukraine)
By Aaron Maté | January 26, 2022

The US-Russia standoff over Ukraine has sparked bellicose threats and fears of Europe’s biggest ground war in decades. There are ample reasons to question the prospects of a Russian invasion, and US allies including FranceGermany’s now-ousted navy chief, and even Kiev itself appear to share the skepticism.

Another potential scenario is that Russia draws on the Cuban Missile Crisis and positions offensive weapons within the borders of Latin American allies. Whatever the outcome, the crisis has underscored the perils of a second Cold War between the world’s top nuclear powers.

If the path forward is unpredictable, what got us here is easy to trace. The row over Ukraine is the outgrowth of an aggressive US posture toward Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago, driven by hegemonic policymakers and war profiteers in Washington. Understanding that background is key to resolving the current impasse, if the Biden administration can bring itself to alter a dangerous course.

US principles vs. power constraints

Russia’s central demands – binding guarantees to halt the eastward expansion of NATO, particularly in Ukraine, and to prevent offensive weapons from being stationed near its borders – have been publicly dismissed by the U.S government as non-starters.

In rejecting Russian concerns, the Biden administration claims that it is upholding “governing principles of international peace and security.” These principles, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says, “reject the right of one country to change the borders of another by force; to dictate to another the policies it pursues or the choices it makes, including with whom to associate; or to exert a sphere of influence that would subjugate sovereign neighbors to its will.”

The US government’s real-world commitment to these principles is non-existent. For decades, the US has provided critical diplomatic and military cover for Israel’s de-facto annexations, which have expanded its borders to three different strips of occupied territory (the West Bank, Gaza, and Syria’s Golan Heights). The US is by far the world leader in dictating policies to other countries, be it who their leaders should behow little to pay minimum-wage workers; or how to share energy supplies.

The Biden administration continues to subjugate sovereign countries to its will, whether it’s “neighbors” like blockade-targeted Cubacoup-targeted Venezuelasanctions-targeted Nicaragua; or far-away countries like US military-occupied and sanctions-targeted Syria. Biden just recently embraced the longstanding Monroe Doctrine of a US sphere of influence by declaring Latin America to be the United States’ “front yard.”

When not making sanctimonious public pronouncements, US officials are quietly able to acknowledge the real principles that guide their actions. According to the Washington Post, one US official specializing in Russia “believes the Russians are still interested in a real dialogue.” Russia’s real aim, this official says, is “to see whether Washington is willing to discuss any sort of commitment that constrains U.S. power.”

The official added: “The Russians are waiting to see what we’re going to offer, and they’re going to take it back and decide is this serious. Is this something we [the Russians] can sell as a major victory for security, or is it just, from their point of view, another attempt to fob us off and not give us anything?”

If their public statements and actions are any guide, the Biden administration is so far opting for the latter.

Rather than focus on diplomacy, the United States’ reliable British client has been trotted out, Iraq WMD dossier-style (or Steele dossier-style, or Syria dirty war-style), to lodge the explosive allegation that Russia is plotting to install a new leader in Ukraine via a coup. While declaring that the obedient Brits were “Muscular” for shouldering the war-mongering allegation, the New York Times quietly acknowledged that they also “provided no evidence to back up” their claims.

After warning of a “false flag” operation by Russia in Ukraine, the US pulled off a stunt of its own by recalling its embassy personnel out of stated concern for their safety. Unlike the dutiful British, other US allies failed to get the memo, including the EU, which declined to follow suit and even took a pointed swipe at attempts to “dramatize” the situation.

When US officials and allied media voices permit themselves to drop “Wag the Dog” theatrics and entertain the possibility of constraining US power, the Ukraine crisis no longer appears so dangerously intractable.

In the New York Timesveteran national security correspondent David E. Sanger allows that it is “possible” that Putin’s “bottom line in this conflict is straightforward”: obtain a pledge to “stop Ukraine from joining NATO” as well as one that the US and NATO “will never place offensive weapons that threaten Russia’s security in Ukrainian territory.”

On these issues, “there is trading space,” Sanger concedes. Given that “Ukraine is so corrupt, and its grasp of democracy is so tenuous… no one expects it to be accepted for NATO membership in the next decade or two.” Accordingly, Russia could be offered “some kind of assurance that, for a decade, or maybe a quarter-century, NATO membership for Kyiv was off the table.”

In Sanger’s view, the real and “complex” issue is not Ukraine’s NATO status, but “how the United States and NATO operate” there – specifically, by flooding the country with weapons. Since 2014, Sanger writes, the US and NATO allies have provided “Ukraine with what the West calls defensive arms, including the capability to take out Russian tanks and aircraft”, a “flow that has sped up in recent weeks.” Russia – for reasons apparently foreign to Sanger – believes that these “weapons are more offensive than defensive” and “that Washington’s real goal is to put nuclear weapons in Ukraine.” An agreement to address these concerns, an unidentified US official concedes, would be “‘the easiest part of this,’ as long as Russia is willing to pull back its intermediate-range weapons as well.”

Unmentioned by Sanger is that Russia has repeatedly signaled such a willingness, including just last month: Russia’s proposed draft treaty with NATO — issued with the stated aim of resolving the Ukraine standoff — proposes that all sides “not deploy land-based intermediate- and short-range missiles” in any area that allows them “to reach the territory of the other Parties.” Also unmentioned is that such deployments were previously banned under the INF Treaty, the Cold War-era pact that the Trump administration abandoned in August 2019, to the resounding silence of Democratic lawmakers and allied media outlets more invested in pretending that Trump was a Russian puppet than in addressing his actual Russia policies.

In a bid to preserve some of the INF Treaty’s safeguards, Putin immediately offered a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe – a proposal swiftly rejected by both Trump and NATO. (Trump’s response was again duly ignored by Russiagate-crazed media outlets and politicians, for the obvious narrative inconvenience.)

Much like its refusal so far to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal – another critical security pact torn up by Trump — the Biden administration has thus placed itself in a dangerous geopolitical standoff rather than embrace diplomacy around proposals that US officials either deem as reality anyway (Ukraine not joining NATO) or that they were once party to (the Trump-sabotaged INF treaty).

NATO expansion, from the Cold War to a Ukraine coup

If the Biden administration is now willing to accept “real dialogue” over an outcome that “constrains US power” on the Ukraine-Russia border, it will have to eschew guiding US principles since the end of the Cold War.

When he agreed to the reunification of Germany, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was “assured in 1990 that the [NATO] alliance would not expand,” Jack Matlock, Reagan and Bush I’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, recently noted. But upon entering office, Bill Clinton broke that pledge and began an expansion spree that has pushed NATO to Russia’s borders. In 2008 – against the reported advice of advisers including Fiona Hill – President George W. Bush backed a NATO declaration calling for Ukraine and Georgia’s eventual ascension.

The constant expansion of NATO has led to what the scholar Richard Sakwa calls a “fateful geographical paradox”: NATO, Sakwa says, now “exists to manage the risks created by its existence.”

Sakwa’s maxim undoubtedly applies to Ukraine, where the threat of Russia’s neighbor joining a hostile military alliance sparked a war in 2014 that continues today.

The standard narrative of the origins of the current Ukraine crisis, as the New York Times recently claimed, is that Ukrainians revolted in street protests that ousted “pro-Russian leader” Viktor Yanukovych, “prompting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to order the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and instigate a separatist war in eastern Ukraine.” In reality, the US backed a coup that overthrew Ukraine’s elected government and sabotaged opportunities to avoid further conflict.

The immediate background came in the fall of 2013, when the US and its allies pressured Yanukovych to sign a European Union association agreement that would have curtailed its ties to Russia. Contrary to how he is now portrayed, Yanukovych was not “pro-Russian”, to the point where he even “cajoled and bullied anyone who pushed for Ukraine to have closer ties to Russia,” Reuters reported at the time.

To sign the EU deal, Ukraine would have to accept the harsh austerity demands of the IMF, which had publicly criticized Ukraine’s “large pension and wage increases,” and “generous energy subsidies.” The agreement also contained a provision calling on Ukraine to adhere to the EU’s “military and security” policies, “which meant in effect, without mentioning the alliance, NATO,” as the late scholar Stephen F. Cohen argued.

The EU proposal, the New York Times observed in November 2013, was the centerpiece of its “most important foreign policy initiative”: an attempt to “draw in former Soviet republics and lock them on a trajectory of changes based on Western political and economic sensibilities.”

In the words of Carl Gershman, the then-head of the CIA-tied National Endowment for Democracy, “Ukraine is the biggest prize.” In Gershman’s fantasy, Ukraine’s entry into the Western orbit would redound to Russia as well. “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents,” he wrote. “… Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

Although it would have been a boon for DC neoconservatives, accepting the EU’s insistence on “increasing the retirement age and freezing pensions and wages” would have meant political suicide for Yanukovych. Putin capitalized by offering a more generous package of $15 billion in aid and gas subsidies, a deal that contained “no immediate quid pro quo for Russia,” the New York Times noted. To lure Yanukovych, Russia even dropped a proposal, opposed by Ukraine’s Maidan protesters, that Ukraine join a Russian-led customs union.

Putin’s Ukraine offer, the Times added, was one of “several foreign policy moves that have served to re-establish Russia as a counterweight to Western dominance of world affairs.” In the eyes of the Western domineers, the prospect of a Russian “counterweight” was an intolerable act. The US responded by ramping up support for the Maidan protests in Kiev and helping to sabotage an agreement with Yanukovych to hold new elections.

Any pretense that the US was acting as an honest broker was obliterated in early February 2014 when Russia released a recording of an intercepted a phone call between then-senior Obama official Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. The US diplomats not only selected who would be Ukraine’s next Prime Minister — Arseniy Yatsenyuk – but decided to exclude their EU allies from the process. “Yats is the guy,” Nuland declared, before adding: “Fuck the EU.”

A major tipping point in the conflict came two weeks later, on February 20th, when nearly 50 Madain protesters were massacred by snipers. The Ukrainian opposition immediately accused government forces, sparking a series of events that led to Yanukovych’s flight from the country two days later. Exhaustive research by the University of Ottawa’s Ivan Katchanovski argues that the massacre was in fact “perpetrated principally by members of the Maidan opposition, specifically its far-right elements.”

Faced with the possibility of losing Russia’s most important naval base at Sevastopol to a US-backed coup regime, Putin responded by seizing the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Russia also provided military support to Ukrainians in the country’s Donbas region hostile to the new coup government, sparking an ongoing war between the opposing sides.

In Washington, the annexation of Crimea is widely seen as an expansionist act of aggression; even, according to Hillary Clinton, akin to “what Hitler did back in the 30s.” In Crimea, Russia had the support of the majority of the population, if polls are to be believed. The same for the Russian population, across the political spectrum. “For [Russian] politicians, not vocally supporting, let alone questioning, the annexation of Crimea is practically akin to political suicide – even for liberals,” a European Union think tank observed in 2014. Even “Anti-Putin nationalists… are enthusiastic backers of Putin’s territorial grab.” (For over 200 years Crimea had been a territory of Russia, until Nikita Khrushchev assigned it to Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union.)

A negotiated solution to the Donbas war has been in place since the signing of the Minsk II accords in 2015, as Anatol Lieven of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft has repeatedly stressed. The prospect of NATO expansion appears to be the pact’s main obstacle to implementation. Minsk II calls for granting autonomy to the Donbas region in return for its demilitarization. But Ukraine has “[refused] to guarantee permanent full autonomy for the Donbas”, Lieven writes, out of fear “that permanent autonomy for the Donbas would prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and the European Union, as the region could use its constitutional position within Ukraine to block membership.”

In Lieven’s view, this could change with one critical shift: “If the United States drops the hopeless goal of NATO membership for Ukraine, it will be in a position to pressure the Ukrainian government and parliament to agree to a ‘Minsk III’ by the credible threat of a withdrawal of US aid and political support.”

War in Ukraine, profit in Washington

As a result of the US drive for yet another NATO-aligned military outpost on Russia’s borders, Ukraine has been decimated. The war in the Donbas has left nearly 14,000 dead. Ukraine’s “conflict with Russia,” Denys Kiryukhin of the Wilson Center observes, is one of the major factors that “accounts for the mass outmigration of Ukrainians since 2014.” The Donbas war has encouraged a rise in far-right militancy inside Ukraine, including the notorious neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, which has directly cooperated with the US military.

The United States’ European allies are also feeling the impact of Washington’s entanglement with Russia over Ukraine. The current standoff is threatening Russia’s energy exports, which account for about one-third of the European Union’s gas and crude oil use.

“It’s going to be an incredibly hard sell in any European country, to say that you have a 10 times higher energy bill and we feel as though our supply is not plentiful enough, because of Ukraine,” Kristine Berzina of the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, a US and NATO-funded think tank, told Axios.

The picture is much rosier for those living through the war from Washington.

“You’ve got a lot of people who see profit in this conflict… and that’s the arms industry,” retired Army colonel Douglas Macgregor, a senior Pentagon advisor under Trump, told me in a recent interview. “And the defense industrial complex sees this as an opportunity to spend a great deal of money on a whole range of armaments that they otherwise might not be able to sell.”

The arms industry has made no secret of its enthusiasm for the opportunities of NATO expansionism and the post-Maidan Ukraine market.

US arms manufacturers “stand to gain billions of dollars in sales of weapons, communication systems and other military equipment if the Senate approves NATO expansion,” the New York Times reported in March 1998. Accordingly, these arms manufacturers have made “enormous investments in lobbyists and campaign contributions to promote their cause in Washington.” At the time, the “chief vehicle” for their cause was a group called the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO. The group’s president, Bruce L. Jackson, carried out double duty: by day, the Times observed the previous year, “he is director of strategic planning for Lockheed Martin Corporation, the world’s biggest weapons maker.”

As Andrew Cockburn of Harper’s noted in 2015, Jackson’s committee was firmly bipartisan, ranging “ideologically from Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle… to Greg Craig, director of Bill Clinton’s impeachment defense and later Barack Obama’s White House counsel.” (Craig later became embroiled in a Ukraine corruption scandal, though he was acquitted on all charges.) Explaining his committee’s staying power in Washington, Jackson told Cockburn: “‘Fuck Russia’ is a proud and long tradition in U.S. foreign policy. It doesn’t go away overnight.”

Nor do the profits that result. Reporting in July 2017 that military stocks had reached “all-time highs,” CNBC noted that “NATO concerns about Russia are seen as a positive for the defense industry.”

So is the ongoing war in Ukraine, where the US has shipped $2.7 billion in weapons since 2014, along with 200,000 pounds of fresh “lethal aid” in recent weeks and more promised via new spending bills.

US government officials across the spectrum routinely laud these weapons shipments as “critically needed, congressionally approved military aid” to a “very fragile country fighting Russian aggression” (Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal, speaking on Democracy Now! in 2019).

Putting aside the guiding imperial and profit-driven motives, the main impact of pouring US military hardware into the Donbas conflict is to prolong it. Writing in Foreign Policy, two analysts with the Pentagon-tied think tank Rand Corporation, Samuel Charap and Scott Boston, argue that “The West’s Weapons Won’t Make Any Difference to Ukraine.” The “military balance between Russia and Ukraine is so lopsided in Moscow’s favor,” they write, that more new weapons from Washington “would be largely irrelevant in determining the outcome of a conflict.”

The authors also dispel another widely accepted bipartisan myth, that the US has been helping Ukraine resist “Russian aggression.” In reality, Russian-backed militants in the east “are mainly armed with small arms and light weapons, along with some artillery and Soviet-era armor.” Although Russsia has armed and trained its Donbas allies, “Ukraine has mainly not been fighting Russia’s armed forces” there. Instead, “the vast majority of rebel forces consist of locals—not soldiers of the regular Russian military.” The Russian military has “never used more than a tiny fraction of its capabilities against the Ukrainians,” with major military components, such as Russia’s air force, “[not] involved in the fighting at all.”

The authors also remind their US audience of another overlooked reality: the costs of a full-blown war in Ukraine “will be disproportionately borne by Ukrainians.” Should an insurgency develop, as the Biden administration is mulling, the conflict will reach a stage where “thousands—or, more likely, tens of thousands—of Ukrainians will have died.”

Those promoting such an outcome have made clear that they value NATO expansion and the attendant arms industry windfall over the lives of Ukrainians, Russians, and any others placed in the crossfire. The Biden administration can avoid ending many more lives if it can interrupt hegemony and war profiteering for a different set of principles.

January 27, 2022 Posted by | Militarism, Video | , , , , | 2 Comments

Moscow won’t deploy controversial 9M729 missiles in European Russia if NATO reciprocates: Putin

By Jonny Tickle | RT | October 26, 2020

Russia will delay deployment of its much-debated 9M729 missiles in the European part of its territory, as a goodwill gesture, if NATO takes reciprocal steps. Monday’s proposal comes after the US withdrew from the INF treaty.

“Given the unrelenting tension between Russia and NATO, new threats to European security are becoming evident,” Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a statement posted on the Kremlin’s website.

Signed in 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) banned land-based missiles with a range of more than 500km. According to Putin, the agreement was vital for ensuring international security and strategic stability, and the US’ withdrawal was a mistake which risks provoking a missile arms race.

In October 2018, American President Donald Trump announced that his country would withdraw from the treaty, blaming supposed Russian non-compliance. In particular, Trump accused the Kremlin of creating a missile that is effective over the legal limit of 500km, named 9M729. Steven Pifer, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, once estimated that its range is 2,000 kilometers. Pifer is now the director of the Arms Control Initiative at the Brookings’ lobby group, which is funded by Gulf states, amongst other donors.

As part of his stated attempt to de-escalate, Putin also revealed that he wishes to take further steps to minimize the negative consequences of the collapse of the INF Treaty, including an agreement for mutual inspections of missile systems. The president also reiterated Russia’s previous promise not to deploy ground-based INF missiles until US-made missiles of similar classes are deployed.

On the controversial 9M729 missiles, Putin maintained they are in “full compliance” with the previously existing INF treaty, but still offered not to position them in Europe.

“The Russian Federation, nevertheless, is ready, in the spirit of goodwill, to continue not to deploy 9M729 missiles in European Russia, but do so only provided NATO countries take reciprocal steps that preclude the deployment of the weapons earlier prohibited under the INF Treaty in Europe,” the statement read.

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Russia wants to extend ‘New START’ nuclear arms control deal but not at any cost – deputy foreign minister

RT | August 18, 2020

Moscow wishes to prolong the New START Treaty but not if the US demands unreasonable concessions, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said, adding that the Russian and American positions on the issue remain quite different.

Russia is ready to extend the treaty without any preconditions BUT Washington is still hesitating in agreeing to that, Ryabkov said following another round of nuclear arms talks with the US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea in Vienna.

The high-ranking diplomat hailed some progress in the negotiations by saying that both sides took a more constructive stance and stuck to “intensive, in-depth and business-like discussions,” according to Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov.

Yet, Moscow and Washington’s priorities in the talks appear to still “differ significantly,” Ryabkov noted. He said that the US continues to leave the door for talks open but he cannot say that its position has changed in favor of extending the accord.

“They [the US] evade an answer … to the question whether they are ready to prolong the treaty without preconditions,” Ryabkov told journalists, adding that Washington is still very much interested in making China join the talks on strategic stability. Russia, in turn, would very much like the UK and France – US allies and nuclear powers themselves – to sit down at the negotiating table as well.

Billingslea meanwhile told journalists that Washington has informed Moscow about its terms in extending the treaty that expires in February. The US said it would consider prolonging it if Russia’s “build-up” of shorter-range nuclear missiles not covered by the current agreement is addressed.

“Russia understands our position. And what remains to be seen is if there is the political will in Moscow to get this deal done. The ball is now in Russia’s court,” the US official said.The issue of short-range nuclear ballistic missiles was covered by another treaty – the INF – signed by Washington and Moscow back in the 1980s. The accord effectively banned such ground-based missiles altogether. Yet, the Trump administration unilaterally left it in 2019, citing the same alleged Russian build-up, only to later test their own ground-based cruise missile just after the agreement expired.

Moscow’s attempts to save the deal by even allowing the US military inspectors to see the missile they said violated the treaty for themselves were effectively snubbed by the US.
Also on Russia unveils evidence on missile that US claims violates INF Treaty, Washington snubs briefing

The New START Treaty, which remains the only standing pillar of international nuclear arms control after the expiration of the INF due to America’s exit, came into force in 2011. It limits the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and strategic bombers, of which the US and Russia can have up to 700 each. The number of deployed warheads was capped at 1,550, while the countries pledged to maintain no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers.

The fate of the crucial agreement has been in limbo for a year and a half since no talks were held on its extension despite the nearing expiration date. Hopes resurfaced back in June when Moscow and Washington agreed to hold arms control consultations in Vienna. Yet, according to Ryabkov, the dates of new consultations have not yet been set following the Tuesday meeting since both sides still want to analyze each other’s positions.

August 19, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Trump insists on a Putin visit to US

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | August 11, 2020

The US President Donald Trump’s remark on Monday that a G7 summit is no longer on the cards for the month of September leaves many questions unanswered. We do not know the circumstances in which Trump felt that he is “much more inclined to do it (G7 summit) sometime after the election”. Again, Trump was delightfully vague on giving a timeline, which is understandable since a G7 summit now hinges entirely on the outcome of the November election.

Trump didn’t explain, either, why a G7 summit hasn’t materialised in September, which would have given him some boost on the world stage — and given a much-needed fillip to his campaign. This is the second time Trump has been unable to host a G7 summit. In June, the allies, especially Germany, point blank refused — Angela Merkel regretted apparently due to preoccupations related to the pandemic.

If the postponement in September is also due to the European allies’ lukewarm attitude, it becomes a snub to Trump personally. All he’d say was “We haven’t sent out invitations. We’re talking to them.” If Trump falls by the wayside in the November election, the European allies may be even less inclined to troop to Washington before Joe Biden assumes office in January. Trump’s insistence on inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to the G7 summit, which he repeated yesterday, has not gone down well in the European capitals.

In sum, Trump’s inability to hold a G7 summit highlights Europe’s overall disenchantment with him. Trump’s foreign policy legacy during his first term is ending on a dismal note, calling attention to the damage he has inflicted on the transatlantic partnership.

Perhaps, Trump gets one more chance to redeem his foreign policy record on this template if only the US-Russia arms control talks make headway. The first formal bilateral talks between the US and Russia on space security since 2013 took place in Vienna on July 27 alongside the second round of the nuclear arms control working group meetings. The renewal of new START, which is expiring in coming February, is a low-hanging fruit.

Meanwhile, the Vienna talks also touch on the erstwhile Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), which is of utmost concern to the European countries. Russia has called for revival of discussions on extending the INF Treaty and Washington has held open the possibility that the negotiations in Vienna would include an INF Treaty extension. One way Trump could overcome the European resistance to inviting Putin to a G7 summit in the US could be by linking it to an event connected with arms control, especially the INF Treaty.

Russia sees arms control as a useful tool to manage its military competition with the US by making it less dangerous and costly. As for European countries, the INF Treaty has been historically the only operational bilateral instrument of nuclear arms control with Russia with focus on Europe’s security and stability. Moreover, the INF Treaty was the cornerstone of European security and its signing in 1987 by the US and the former Soviet Union was a harbinger of political “winds of change” in the East-West relationship.

Equally, Trump also appears to be serious in pursuing forms of cooperation with Russia that would accommodate both countries’ interests. Oil price and terrorism are two such issues; arms control could be another. On arms control, there is also a rare “bipartisan consensus” in the US as regards the renewal of the new START.

Having said that, Trump is unpredictable and the commencement of arms control talks cannot by itself persuade Moscow to lower its guard. Thus, on August 7, Russian Foreign Ministry reacted to the Pentagon announcement of July 29 regarding more US deployments to Poland. A statement in Moscow warned that “such actions escalate tensions in Europe. We have emphasised more than once that attempts to deter us by force and intimidate our country will receive a befitting and timely response.”

On July 29, at a press conference at the Pentagon, Defence Secretary Mark Esper had announced a “plan on rotating forward the lead element of the Army’s newly established V Corps headquarters to Poland, once Warsaw signs a Defense Cooperation Agreement and burden sharing deal, as previously pledged. There are or may be other opportunities as well to move additional forces into Poland and the Baltics.” Interestingly, a week later in an interview with Fox News, Esper added that the deployment to the east to (Poland and the Baltics) aimed to serve as a more effective ‘deterrent’ against Russia. He said moving troops eastward is only logical because “the border has shifted as the alliance has grown.”

On August 7, the official military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) reacted strongly by issuing a stern warning to the US that Russia will perceive any ballistic missile launched at its territory as a nuclear attack that warrants a nuclear retaliation. This is in line with the revised Russian military doctrine enunciating the new nuclear deterrent policy allowing “first use”, which envisages the use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack or an aggression involving conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence of the state.”

Moscow has ruled out Putin’s participation in a G7 summit that excludes China or has any anti-China orientation. Having said that, Trump would be betting that given the Kremlin’s keenness to make progress on arms control — extension of new START, in particular — Putin might be open to a visit to the US to formalise any agreements, once the hurly burly of the November election in America is done. Trump’s remarks yesterday hint at such a possibility when he said Putin is an “important factor”. Moscow has taken due note of it.

Trump’s calculus aims at animating the US-Russia-China triangle with a view to isolating China. Putin, on the other hand, will sequester the Russian-Chinese entente from collateral damage, if any. On August 9, Russian Foreign Ministry issued an unusual statement conveying solidarity with China “on the situation around the Tiktok social media app’s operation in the US”.

Beijing, meanwhile, is nonchalantly reiterating its position that “it is not yet the right timing” for China to join the nuclear disarmament talks in Vienna. And, Putin and  Chinese President Xi Jinping were the first world leaders to congratulate Alexander Lukashenko on his re-election as Belarusian president.

August 11, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment

US uses arms control summit with Russia for China-bashing, derails talks needed to prevent new arms race

By Scott Ritter | RT | June 22, 2020

While promoting the possibility of bilateral agreements with Russia, the US was only interested in staging a cheap propaganda photo-op attacking China, making the prospects for New START look bleak.

Hope sprang eternal when, less than two weeks ago, the United States and Russia agreed to engage in much-needed arms control negotiations to be held in Vienna, Austria on June 22. Senior delegations of the two countries were led by Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Two issues pertinent to global security were anticipated to be on the agenda—stability in Europe in a post-INF world (the foundational agreement for modern arms control, signed in December 1987 and which remained in force until the US withdrew in August 2019), and the extension of the New START treaty, the last remaining arms control agreement between the US and Russia which is set to expire in February 2021.)

However, while the New START treaty is a bilateral agreement between the US and Russia, the US made it clear that any extension must take into account China’s strategic nuclear forces. It’s a condition that all but kills any chance of the New START treaty being extended, since a completely new treaty vehicle would need to be negotiated on a trilateral basis. The insistence on a trilateral framework played a major role in the decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the INF Treaty as well, something that does not portent well for the future of New START.

Even before the June 22 arms control summit, China made it clear that it would not be participating in talks, making any discussion of the extension of the New START treaty appear dead on arrival. The US, however, insisted that the talks go forward, raising the prospects that at least some progress could be made bilaterally between it and Russia.

In the end, however, cheap propaganda trumped substantive discussions, with the US, knowing full well China was not attending, setting out Chinese flags along an empty conference table for a photo that was later tweeted out by Billingslea, accompanied by a caption that read, “Vienna talks about to start. China is a no-show. Beijing still hiding behind #GreatWallofSecrecy on its crash nuclear build-up, and so many other things. We will proceed with #Russia, notwithstanding.”

The flag incident quickly drew the ire of the Russians. Ambassador to Austria Dmitry Lyubinsky said there “could not have been any Chinese flags at Russian-American consultations on strategic stability,” posting a flag-less picture on Facebook.

Billingslea’s tweet was countered by one from prominent Chinese journalist Chen Weihua, who criticized the US predilection for withdrawing from multilateral agreements such as the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris Climate accords, before pointing out that “China has 300 nukes in contrast to 6,000 by US and Russia. So unless you agree to come down to 300 or even 500, you’re not making sense.” While not a Chinese official per se, Chen’s viewpoints are considered to closely track with official policy.

In the end, the Vienna summit was a bust, a one-day exchange of previously-held views which resolved no outstanding issues and left little hope for any breakthrough in the future. So long as the Trump administration continues to insist on Chinese presence at the negotiating table as a precondition for any new agreements, there is zero chance for progress in arms control talks with Russia, or China. This makes any extension of the New START treaty impossible, and a new nuclear arms race with Russia and China inevitable.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

June 23, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Gorbachev Blasts US for ‘Striving for Military Supremacy’ Amid INF Treaty Debacle

By Lilia Dergacheva – Sputnik – 17.12.2019

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty effectively put an end to the Cold War US-USSR tensions, becoming one of the key security pillars in the nuclear post-war world. However, with the fate of the treaty in jeopardy, the world may slide into a new arms race – something that Mikhail Gorbachev believes is grave and fatal.

Speaking to the Japanese newspaper Asahi, former and only USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev has accused the US of striving for military supremacy.

“What’s behind the United States’ decision to withdraw from the INF is their striving to free themselves of any obligations with respect to weapons and obtain absolute military supremacy”, he explained at length.The politician, who served as general secretary of the former Soviet Union and played a key role in bringing the Cold War to an end by reaching accords with the US on the reduction of nuclear weapons, considers such an aim to be dangerous and unattainable.

“That is an illusory aim, an unfulfilled hope. Hegemony by one single country is not possible in today’s world. The result would be destabilisation of the global strategic situation, a new arms race and all the randomness and unpredictability of global politics”, 88-year-old Gorbachev told the newspaper in an interview in Moscow, shortly after the US announced its intention to backtrack on the deal.

“The main thing is to act so as not to allow the world to slide towards an arms race, to a confrontation, and to hostility”, Gorbachev said.

“We have to stop working on pipe dreams, and engage with realpolitik. We don’t need an apocalypse! We need peace!” he exclaimed emotionally.”Despite everything, I believe that this is still within our capabilities”, he expressed his fervent hope, adding that otherwise, the security of every country, “including the US”, is at stake.

He reminded the interviewers about the two sides’ work on the INF Treaty, bringing up what the US and the Soviet Union agreed on during their first meeting in Geneva – that “a nuclear war is not acceptable and there will be no winners in a nuclear war”.

“We announced that we had to get rid of nuclear weapons. This is something I am still praying for”, stressed Gorbachev, having earlier expressed his concerns to Wall Street Journal reporters about the pitfalls of nukes, stressing that they may be launched by mistake or end up in terrorists’ hands.The politician lamented that out of the three major pillars of global strategic stability – the ABMT, INF, and START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) – only one is left, “but even the fate of the New START, which was signed in 2010, is becoming unclear”, Gorbachev stressed.

On Thursday, the United States successfully tested an INF-banned ground-based intermediate-range missile in California. According to the Defence Department, the missile flew more than 498 kilometres (310 miles) before it was downed just over the ocean.

The INF Treaty, signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987, was terminated on 2 August 2019, at the US’ initiative, with America having formally suspended its obligations under the deal six months prior. The treaty will expire in February 2021, but its extension is strongly doubted due to the US’ position on the matter.

Russia and the United States have traded barbs, accusing each other of violating the 1987 deal, which barred any ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometres (310 to 3,417 miles).

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Pentagon Test Fires 2nd INF-Banned Missile Over Pacific Ocean

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 12/14/2019

A week after Russia’s President Putin said he is ready to extend the New START nuclear arms reduction pact with the United States “without preconditions” by year’s end, in an attempt to save it after the recent collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, the Pentagon has conducted another test of a previously banned ballistic missile.

Thursday’s test-firing marks the second missile to be tested which would have fallen under the INF ban, which the Trump administration withdrew from earlier this year. The first test had taken place in August, during which time Putin said Russia will be forced to deploy banned missiles if the US does.

Video footage of this week’s test, like the one in August, was made public. The ground-launched missile reportedly few over the Pacific Ocean.

“The Department of Defense conducted a flight test of a conventionally-configured ground-launched ballistic missile at approximately 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time, today, Dec. 12, 2019, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver said.

Carver indicated the missile tested “terminated in the open ocean after more than 500 kilometers of flight. Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities.” Crucially, the INF Treaty had specifically banned land-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

The other interesting element to the timing is that it came a mere two days after a rare visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the White House, where arms control treaties were reportedly discussed with President Trump.

Few other details of the launch were given, per the AP:

The prototype missile was configured to be armed with a non-nuclear warhead. The Pentagon declined to disclose specifics beyond saying thew missile was launched from a “static launch stand” at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and landed in the open ocean.

A statement by Defense Secretary Mark Esper has many worried the new tests and collapse of arms control treaties could trigger a new arms race with Russia.

Esper was asked at a briefing Thursday specifically about the possibility of placing US missiles in Europe, long a “worst-fear” scenario which the INF protected against. He responded:

“Once we develop intermediate-range missiles, and if my commanders require them, then we will work closely and consult closely with our allies in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere with regards to any possible deployments.”

For Moscow’s part, addressing a Russian defense meeting last week, Putin made an apparent appeal to the West, saying that he hopes to avoid a new arms race with the US and its allies, and vowed to in good faith refrain from deploying intermediate and shorter range missiles there where there are none.

“Russia is not interested in triggering an arms race or deploying missiles where there are none,” Putin said. He also invited the US and European countries to join a Russian proposed moratorium on such new deployments and weapons. So far only France has greeted the proposal positively. Indicating the offer is conditional, he warned, “No reaction from other partners followed. This forces us to take measures to resist the aforesaid threats.”

December 14, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Russia dials back peace talks with Japan

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 23, 2019

Russia-Japan territorial disputes surged at a meeting of foreign ministers of the two countries, Toshimitsu Motegi and Sergey Lavrov, at Nagoya, Japan, on November 22 on the sidelines of a G20 foreign ministers’ gathering.

Lavrov publicly threw cold water on the Japanese spin that Tokyo is engaged in “persistent talks” with Russia on a peace treaty bringing the two countries’ World War 2 hostility to a formal ending.

Lavrov emphatically stated that any forward movement on a peace treaty will have to be within the ambit of the Russia-Japan 1956 joint declaration, which, as he put it, “clearly states that first Russia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over all our lands, including those territories, are recognised, thus recognising the results of World War II, and then everything else will possibly be discussed.”

In plain terms, according to Lavrov, Moscow may consider discussing a peace treaty only after Tokyo unequivocally recognises Russian sovereignty over Kuril islands and territories that came under Russian control in the Far East during World War 2.

Japan’s stance, on the contrary, can never converge on that point. Wouldn’t Moscow have known it already? Of course, Lavrov has only reiterated a consistent Russian stance.

Tokyo has been baiting Moscow with the proposition that a peace treaty will open the door to large-scale investments by Japanese companies for the development of the Russian Far East (which is a national priority for the Kremlin.)

Tokyo has also been smart, projecting Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong but pragmatic statesman who is willing to make territorial concessions to attract Japanese investments.

But it takes two to tango and up to a point Moscow acquiesced with the Japanese enthusiasm that the two countries could be settling the Kuril issue — although making territorial concessions will be a highly emotive issue for the Russian public opinion.

Moscow probably pinned hopes that a relaxed climate of relations might wean Tokyo away from the US strategic orbit — although the likelihood of Japan shaking off the US security umbrella will remain zero for the conceivable future.   

At any rate, that tango has ended and realism prevails, with the regional security climate in the Far East visibly darkening with the recent US cruise missile tests and the Pentagon’s plan to deploy new missiles in Japan following its exit from the INF Treaty (which had banned the  intermediate-range missiles previously.)

Moscow is alert to the emergent threats to its strategic assets in the Russian Far East due to the US deployment. Importantly, Tokyo appears to be open to the proposed US missile deployments, which would further cement the US-Japan military alliance.

Unsurprisingly, Moscow has linked the regional security scenario to its territorial disputes with Japan. To quote Lavrov, “The military alliance with the US, of course, represents a problem when it comes to taking Russian-Japanese relations to another level. I will remind you that when the 1956 declaration was being coordinated, the USSR said back then that everything may be implemented, and this declaration may be fully implemented only in the context of discontinued US military presence on Japan’s territory.”

Lavrov added, “Japanese colleagues have received a list of Russia’s specific security concerns which emerge because of the increasing and strengthening Japanese-US military-political alliance. So our Japanese colleagues promised to react to those concerns. We will wait for their response and continue discussions.”

Lavrov also chose the G20 FMs’ forum at Nagoya to present Russian concerns over the security climate in the Far East. He said, “As for the US behaviour in the world, including in the Asia-Pacific region, in its relations with Japan, the United States does not hesitate to publicly acknowledge that Russia and China are the main threat to it and that all its military alliances with Japan, Australia and the Republic of Korea will be built proceeding from these threats and challenges.

“But, of course, we pointed out at a meeting with the Japanese foreign minister that this ran counter to the assurances, which Japan gives us that the Japanese-US military and political alliance is not aimed against the Russian Federation.” (TASS

Meanwhile, Russia is speeding up the construction of military dormitories on the Southern Kuril Islands. A spokesman for Russia’s Eastern Military District said this week that military personnel would settle into the dormitories on Iturup and Kunashir by the end of 2018 and that more dormitories would be built and commissioned in 2019.

The Eastern Military District, which was formed in 2010 under a presidential decree, is headquartered at Khabarovsk in Siberia near the Chinese border and is one of the four operational strategic commands of the Russian Armed Forces.

The new US missile deployments in the Far East are of common concern to Russia and China. In August, Russia and China sought a meeting of the UN Security Council over “statements by US officials on their plans to develop and deploy medium-range missiles”.

Last month, Putin disclosed that Moscow is helping China build a system to warn of ballistic missile launches. Putin said “this is a very serious thing that will radically enhance China’s defence capability”. Since the cold war, only the US and Russia have had such systems, which involve an array of ground-based radars and space satellites. The systems allow for early spotting of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

China will find Lavrov’s remarks at Nogaya to be very reassuring. It is a safe bet that the Russia-Japan normalisation will be an excruciatingly slow process, which in turn works fine for China in geopolitical terms. Lavrov also had a meeting with Wang Yi, Chinese Councilor and Foreign Minister, at Nogaya.

November 23, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Secret NATO Military Exercises in Germany Drill Nuclear War Scenario – Report

By Oleg Burunov – Sputnik – 19.10.2019

NATO allies are holding secret military exercises in Germany, which aim to drill a nuclear war scenario, the German newspaper Kronen Zeitung reports.

During the drills, codenamed “Steadfast Noon”, the military personnel utilise warplanes which could be equipped with nuclear weapons in the event of a war.

The Luftwaffe is represented in the drills by Tornado fighter jets from the 33rd Tactical Squadron; it is stationed at Buchel Air Base where the US-made B61 nuclear bombs are currently stored.

In case of an emergency, the B61 warheads will be installed on the Tornadoes as part of Germany’s “nuclear participation” in a NATO mission to counter an adversary, according to Kronen Zeitung.

Collapse of INF Treaty

The newspaper claims that “the danger of a nuclear war scenario is currently much higher than in the past three decades” due to the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the US and Russia this summer.

The two countries have repeatedly accused each other of violating the Cold War Era treaty, and after announcing in February 2019 that it would suspend its participation in the arms control treaty, the US formally withdrew from the accord on 2 August.

Russia says allegations that it violated the INF Treaty are unsubstantiated and accuses the US of violating the treaty by deploying defence systems in Europe with launchers capable of firing cruise missiles at ranges prohibited under the agreement.

Signed in 1987, the INF Treaty required the two countries to eliminate and permanently refrain from the development of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometres (310 to 3,417 miles).

October 19, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Three Arab-language media interview Russia’s President Putin

RT | October 13, 2019


Moscow is supporting Damascus to ensure that extremists never reach Russia’s borders

Damascus has to take responsibility for the country’s political and social problems, but these internal issues would not be resolved by allowing Syria to be overrun by extremists, Putin told RT Arabic, explaining Russia’s rationale for entering the conflict there in September 2015.

“We came to Syria to support the legitimate government… It does not mean that they do not have internal problems… It does not mean that the current leadership is not responsible for what is going on there. They are, but it does not mean that we were to allow terrorist organisations to capture Syria and to establish a terrorist pseudo-state there.”

“We still remember what happened in Russia’s North Caucasus region not that long ago,” Putin said, referring to the bloody conflicts in Chechnya and making the case for protecting Russian borders from terrorism spill-over.

“We could not allow militants to move to former Soviet republics. We do not have hard borders or a visa regime with them. We could not allow militants to infiltrate Russia from there.”

Supporting “rebels” in the Middle East and North Africa, like Washington and its Gulf and European allies has routinely done, has had disastrous effects for global security, Putin pointed out. The invasion of Iraq led to an insurgency that later created Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS), he said, and NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” in Libya created a “chaos and confusion” that is still seen today.

‘Syria must be free of foreign military presence’

Russia will be least affected if US exit from INF treaty brings back arms race, Putin says

A renewed arms race between the US and Russia would be bad for the world but Moscow won’t be dragged into excessive military spending, as it has already developed next gen weapons of “unmatched” capabilities, Vladimir Putin said.

The Russian president discussed Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at a joint interview with RT Arabic, UAE-based Sky News Arabia and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya broadcasters.

“I do understand the US concerns. While other countries are free to enhance their defenses, Russia and the US have tied their own hands with this treaty.”

However, Putin pointed out that “it was not worth ruining the deal,” which helped the US and Russia by precluding the fielding in Europe of ground-based missiles with a range of between 500km and 5,500km, and which remained the cornerstone of security on that continent since 1987. “I believe there were other ways out of the situation,” he added.
Also on Russia offers NATO a moratorium on missile deployment, but won’t sacrifice its own security to prove its goodwill

The New START Treaty, which came into effect in 1994 and limits the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers possessed by the two countries, is the final element that could “prevent us from falling back into a full-scale arms race,” Putin warned.

That deal expires in 2021 and, “to make sure it is extended, we need to be working on it right now,” he said.

But if an arms race couldn’t ultimately be avoided, the President assured interviewers that “Russia will be the least affected party because… we already have the next generation of weapons, and these are unprecedented, with unmatched capabilities. We have done our homework. We do not need to rush now and can calmly think of what can be done next.”

An arms race is a bad thing, and it will not be good for the world. However, we will not be dragged into exorbitant budget-spending games.

The reason for Russia obtaining those state-of-the-art weapons, despite being only sixth globally in terms of military spending – behind the US, China, Saudi Arabia, UK, France and Japan, is “focused research on priority areas,” he explained.

Read/watch the full interview here.

October 13, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment