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As landmark INF nuclear treaty closes in 30 years, will it survive?

Russia and the US both accuse each other of violating a treaty that eliminated a whole class of nuclear weapons

Alex Christoforou

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(Oriental Review) – Thirty years ago, on Dec. 8, 1987, the leaders of the USSR and the US – Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan – signed a treaty to eliminate intermediate- and shorter-range missiles (the INF Treaty).

While it was being actively implemented, 1,846 Soviet and 846 American nuclear-armed, land-based, ballistic and cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers were destroyed.

After completely eliminating these missiles by the summer of 1991, both sides were satisfied that they had been able to fulfill all the provisions of this important bilateral agreement.

But beginning in June 2012, the administrations of Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have become increasingly more insistent that Russia is violating this treaty.

Is this criticism justified?

Or is the very United States violating this treaty?

And if so, in what ways?

***

In December 1979, NATO adopted what was known as its Double-Track Decision. That alliance began preparations for a Western-European deployment of Pershing II ballistic missiles and Tomahawk ground-launched cruise missiles that were in their final stages of development, while simultaneously offering to begin negotiating with the Soviet Union on intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear forces. On Nov. 18, 1981, the United States declared its readiness to cancel the deployment of its Pershing II and Tomahawk missiles, if the Soviet Union would dismantle all its intermediate-range missiles in both the European and Asian parts of that country. But this would effectively mean a unilateral disarmament for the Soviets, since for every two Soviet SS-20 (RSD-10) missiles being deployed, the USSR would be retiring three SS-4 (R-12) and SS-5 (R-14) missiles.

Several Pershing II missiles prepared for launching at Fort Bliss McGregor Range, 1987.

Several Pershing II missiles prepared for launching at Fort Bliss McGregor Range, 1987.

And so Moscow turned down this proposal, but it initiated negotiations to dramatically reduce or to even completely discontinue all types of intermediate-range nuclear weapons (including the aircraft that carry them) and to suspend any updates on them while the negotiations were underway.

However, the United States declined that offer and in late 1983 began deploying new nuclear missiles in Europe, where the countries of the alliance already had 857 nuclear carriers in place, including 651 aircraft belonging to the US (the F-111, F-111A, and F-4, plus its carrier-based aircraft stationed along the borders of the European continent), as well as 64 ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads from the United Kingdom and 98 nuclear missiles and 44 bombers belonging to France, all of which could together carry more than 400 nuclear warheads.

At that time the Soviet Union only owned 938 examples of such weaponry. If the NATO nations stationed another 572 nuclear missiles on the European continent, at that point the arsenals of the alliance’s nuclear powers would be 50% larger than those of the Warsaw Treaty countries. Thus, the approximate parity in the two sides’ nuclear missiles would be substantially tilted in favor of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.

Consequently the Soviet Union called a halt to the negotiations that had already begun.

A new stage began when Mikhail Gorbachev reopened those talks upon being elected to lead the USSR. He was a proponent of measures to encourage global nuclear disarmament and in 1986 put forth a step-by-step plan to create a nuclear-free world.

The first round of negotiations on strategic nuclear weapons and intermediate-range nuclear missiles began in Geneva on March 12, 1985, but no specific agreements were reached.

The next round of negotiations was held in  Reykjavik (Iceland) in September of 1986. There the USSR announced that it was prepared to sign a separate agreement on intermediate-range missiles, under which Soviet and American missiles of this class would be removed from Europe within five years, with only 100 warheads mounted on such missiles to be retained in the Asian part of the USSR and in the US. At the same time, it was proposed that the USSR and the US agree to keep equal numbers of short-range tactical missiles, provided that neither side would deploy such missiles in Europe. Moscow also agreed “not to count” the nuclear weapons belonging to Great Britain and France. A decision on intermediate-range air carriers was postponed.

And so on Dec. 8, 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed the open-ended Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles. The two leaders exchanged not only the paper copies of the treaty itself, but also the pens with which they signed it. At the same time, two protocols were also signed (the Protocol on Procedures Governing the Elimination of the Missile Systems and the Inspection Protocol), in addition to the Memorandum of Understanding Regarding the Establishment of the Data Base for the Treaty.

During the negotiations that preceded the agreement, the Soviets were operating on the assumption that the Pershing II ballistic missiles were equipped with variable-yield, earth-penetrating warheads and high-precision guidance systems. This was a new innovation not previously seen on ballistic missiles of this type. The Tomahawk cruise missiles boasted improved guidance accuracy and were a difficult target for anti-aircraft defenses.

All this, along with the short flight times (8-10 minutes) of the American nuclear missiles deployed in Europe, posed a threat to Soviet central command posts, fixed intercontinental ballistic-missile launch sites, and other elements of the Soviet nuclear infrastructure inside the European part of the USSR. Moreover, Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles were not capable of reaching the US from their launch sites on the European continent, while their American counterparts could potentially land deep inside Soviet territory.

As recalled by the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Arms Control, Paul Nitze, Republican President Ronald Reagan was primarily motivated to sign the INF Treaty based on his fear of the serious threat posed to American and NATO installations in Europe and Asia by the Soviet SS-20 (RSD-10) missile, which had extended range capability and could accommodate up to three warheads each. [Department of State Bulletin. 1988. February. Vol. 88. Number 2131. p. 81.]

Soviet RSD-10 (Pioneer-3) missile complex, photo taken in mid-1980s.

Soviet RSD-10 (Pioneer-3) missile complex, photo taken in mid-1980s.

The Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles took effect on June 1, 1988, after being ratified by both parties and upon the exchange of instruments of ratification.

The Gorbachev-Reagan Treaty did not apply to sea-based or air-launched missiles, nor did it stipulate the destruction of the missiles’ nuclear warheads.

In addition to the physical destruction of the missiles of the two classes mentioned above, the two sides pledged to eliminate, no later than three years after the treaty took effect, the launchers and launch canisters, launch facilities and auxiliary equipment, missile vehicles and simulators, launch pads, and other equipment stationed at 43 sites in Russia, 66 sites in other Soviet republics (Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine) and in two of its Warsaw Treaty allies: at six sites in East Germany and one in Czechoslovakia, as well as at 32 sites in the US and in five Western European countries (Washington’s NATO allies of Belgium, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, and West Germany).

It should be noted that in 1984, three countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Great Britain, the US, and France) combined owned 50% more nuclear warheads on intermediate-range missiles and aircraft as did the USSR.

As a result of the INF Treaty , by May 28, 1991, 2,692 intermediate- and shorter-range missiles were destroyed: the Soviet Union destroyed 1,846, and the US – 846.

At that time, this arsenal represented only 4% of the world’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

Article VI of the treaty banned both the future production and flight-testing of any intermediate-range or shorter-range missiles, as well as the production of any stages or launchers of such missiles.

The INF Treaty made provision for a meticulous regime of verification. Each side had the right to conduct on-site inspections, both within the territory of the other country, as well as within the territories of the countries where the missiles targeted for destruction were currently deployed, and they were also permitted to use national technical means of verification. In order to conduct inspections within the territories of America’s NATO allies, on Dec. 11, 1987, Washington signed corresponding agreements with Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, and West Germany.

Over the course of 13 years of work, the two sides’ inspection teams conducted approximately 1,200 inspections of various types both inside each other’s countries, as well as in other states. On May 21, 2001, an agreement was signed in Moscow marking the completion of the regime of inspections under the INF Treaty. By mutual agreement, all inspections officially ended at midnight on May 31, 2001.

The INF Treaty was the first international treaty to formalize the complete and irreversible destruction of two classes of nuclear-armed missiles.

In October 2007, Russia proposed an initiative to add a global dimension to the provisions of the INF Treaty – suggesting, in other words, that that bilateral agreement be transformed into a multilateral treaty. It is a fact that such types of weaponized missiles are owned by a large number of states – as many as 32, according to American researchers. [Brad Hicks, George Galdorisi, and Scott Truver. The Aegis BMD Global Enterprise// Naval War College Review. 2012. Summer. pp.67-68].

At the UN Conference on Disarmament in February 2008, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov introduced a document, titled “The Basic Elements of an International Legal Agreement to Eliminate Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range (Ground-Based) Missiles, Opened For Broad International Accession” which could serve as a prototype for a future multilateral agreement. But the United States, which had initially backed this idea, quickly dropped its support. It was also rejected by Washington’s nuclear allies: Great Britain and France.

Although the 1987 treaty is termless, the parties have the right to withdraw from it, six months after giving such notice, if they decide that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the treaty have “jeopardized their supreme interests.”

But if the INF Treaty is beneficial for both sides, wouldn’t it be quite natural for both Russia and the US to scrupulously comply with all of its provisions?

To be continued…

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from OrthoChristian.com:

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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