The arms control game between the United States and Russia is intensifying

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 The arms control game between the United States and Russia is intensifying


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The escalating debate between the United States and Russia over the Guidance Treaty may undermine efforts to maintain one of the most significant nuclear arms control agreements between the United States and Russia.

The unilateral abolition of one of the most important arms control agreements in history by the United States will be very dangerous and will intensify tensions with the European Union.

Recently, senior U.S. government and military officials took turns to make conditions for the U.S. side not to withdraw from the Guidance Treaty, and put pressure on Russia to dismantle cruise missiles or adjust the range that the U.S. side designated as defaulting. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a message on January 19 that Russia would not accept the ultimatum issued by the United States on the China Guidance Treaty. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also recently warned European countries that the United States intends to abolish the Guidance Treaty, which will bring new risks to Europe.

Negotiations are hard to make progress.

The last round of negotiations on the Guidance Treaty between the United States and Russia ended in failure in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 15. The United States said that if it wants to retain the China Guidance Treaty, Russia must destroy the land-based cruise missile SSC-8 (9M729) developed by Russia. Before Russia resumes its implementation of the Guidance Treaty, the United States will suspend its treaty obligations on February 2 and start a six-month withdrawal process.

Andrea Thompson, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, said the talks aimed at rescuing the treaty did not make a new breakthrough and there was no sign that Russia would abide by it. She said that Russia only provided a so-called static display of cruise missile system, which could not verify the true range of its warhead. Moscow refused to allow proper inspection of the new Russian missile system that Washington claimed violated the China Missile Treaty.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov told the media after the negotiations on the Guidance Treaty in Geneva that Moscow was ready to save the Treaty, but the United States did not give due consideration to Moscows proposal and prevent a new arms race in Europe. He said Moscow would only increase the transparency of the 9M729 cruise missile issue if the United States responded to Russian concerns in a reciprocal manner.

The China Guidance Treaty, known as the Treaty between the Soviet Union and the United States on the Elimination of Mid-range and Short-range Missiles between the two countries, was signed by the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union on 8 December 1987. The China Guidance Treaty stipulates that the two countries no longer possess, produce or test land-based cruise missiles and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5500 kilometers.

The U.S. side determined that the range of the 9M729 cruise missile was about 2,000 kilometers, but this statement was denied by the Russian side. Russian Security Council Secretary Patrushev said recently that the range starting point stipulated in the Guidance Treaty is 500 kilometers, and the range of the 9M729 cruise missile developed by Russia does not exceed 476 kilometers. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Zaharova said earlier that the United States does not have any specific facts to prove Russias violation of the treaty.

Some arms control experts said that the U.S. and Russia are sticking to one word and the debate on the Guidance Treaty is escalating, which may undermine efforts to maintain one of the most important nuclear arms control agreements between the U.S. and Russia.

Divergences continue to deepen

On October 20, 2018, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Guidance Treaty on the grounds of Russias long-standing violation of the Treaty and its restrictions on the development of new weapons by the United States. On December 4 of the same year, U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo issued an ultimatum, saying that unless Russia resumes full implementation of the Guidance Treaty, the United States will suspend its obligations under the Treaty in 60 days.

In a meeting with foreign diplomats on 18 January, Riyabkov said that Russia would not accept the ultimatum issued by the United States on the China Guidance Treaty. Russias Foreign Ministry issued a message saying that the accusations made by the United States against Russia are groundless. Russia does not accept the ultimatum of the United States. The United States tries to cover up its violation of the treaty and eventually its intention to tear it up. Washington is destroying the cornerstone of global stability, which will have serious consequences for the entire international security system.

As early as during the Obama administration, the United States accused Russia of developing a missile with a range of 500 to 5500 kilometers. In 2017, it was proved that the 9M729 cruise missile violated the Central Missile Treaty. But then President Barack Obama chose not to withdraw from the treaty because European countries, especially Germany, had strong objections and feared that withdrawal would revive a new arms race. The last time the United States withdrew from major nuclear arms control treaties was in 2002, when President Bush announced his withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which became a major stimulus to the intensification of arms control differences with Russia.

At present, many Russian experts believe that the 9M729 cruise missile has not breached the contract. The United States is seeking an excuse for withdrawing from the Mid-Missile Treaty. Its purpose is to deploy more anti-missile systems in Europe to further upgrade Russias confrontation with European countries. If Europe suffers from greater security shocks, it may rely more on the United States and NATO umbrella.

Concerns about escalation

Dont tear up this treaty, said an editorial in the New York Times. Although the guided arms control treaty is not perfect, the unilateral abolition of one of the most important arms control agreements in history by the United States will be very dangerous and will intensify tensions with the European Union.

Daryl Kimberl, executive director of the American Arms Control Association, believes that tearing up the Guidance Treaty without an alternative plan could open the dangerous door to unrestricted military competition between the United States and Russia. Without the treaty, Washington would consider deploying new medium-range missiles in Europe and elsewhere, while Russia would consider increasing the deployment of 9M729 cruise missiles and other new systems, which would greatly increase the risk of misprediction between the United States and Russia in the crisis.

At present, NATO member states have expressed concern about the deployment of missiles by the United States in Europe. Jon Walstall, a former disarmament adviser to the National Security Council of the Obama administration, said that the withdrawal of the U.S. treaty would put Europe in a difficult position, which would be another grenade thrown by the U.S. into NATO to split its allies.

Kingston Reeve, Director of Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy of the American Arms Control Association, believes that the Guidance Treaty is on the verge of collapse. How to prevent the United States from deploying medium-range missiles in Europe and other regions has become a concern of many European countries. So far, no country has expressed its willingness to receive missiles with nuclear warheads deployed by the United States. At the end of last year, German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass stressed that Berlin would oppose the deployment of new medium-range missiles on European soil once the treaty collapsed.

Russia must resume compliance with the Treaty. NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg told Reuters recently that NATO needs to prepare for the failure of the Guidance Treaty, and he has asked the military to assess the consequences of the abandonment of the treaty. In a statement, EU Foreign and Security Policy Spokesman Maya Kochiyanchi said that the United States and Russia need to continue constructive dialogue in order to safeguard the Guidance Treaty because the world does not need a new arms race.

United Nations Secretary-General Guterres urged the United States and Russia on January 18 to retain the Guidance Treaty and start negotiations on the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Guterres made it clear at the press conference that it was very important to retain the Guided Mission Treaty, saying that the non-retention of the Treaty would have serious consequences and that it is very important to improve and retain the existing nuclear disarmament system as far as possible.

(Washington, Moscow, 21 January)

Source: Ma Chao-NBJ9865, Responsible Editor of Peoples Network-Peoples Daily