On October 20, U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a key Cold War arms deal with Russia, after accusing Moscow of violating it.
Russian expert Pavel Felgenhauer argued in an article, titled "A signal has been given to the missiles" that Trump, by announcing his withdrawal from the INF Treaty, awarded a gift to the Russian "war party." The Russian expert explained that the US does not now possess, nor will it possess in the immediate few years, any operational land-based intermediate-range missiles for deployment. "In other words, withdrawal from the INF treaty today does not give the US any special military advantages," Felgenhauer commented.
Russia, in contrast, is ready for an "immediate" response to a termination of the INF treaty. "[In Russia,] there are Х-101/102 LRCM, Kalibr, and Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems — and they all exist in nuclear and non-nuclear warhead versions. A couple of battalions of Iskander-K launching stations (called Novator 9M729 or SSC-8 in the West) have been tested and, as the Pentagon claims, deployed. It was this violation of the treaty that the West accuses Russia of," Felgenhauer explained.
Felgenhauer criticized Trump's move, stating that he provided Russia with both the pretext and the opportunity to deploy nuclear weapons. "Russian cheap and low-vulnerability nuclear and non-nuclear Iskander-K or SSC-8 LRCM will have the American and their allies' bases in Europe and the Middle East in the crosshairs, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) will be aimed practically exclusively at the US," Felgenhauer concluded.
Below are excerpts from Pavel Felgenhauer's article:
Pavel Felgenhauer (Image: Moscow-baku.ru)
Putin Claims That The US May Deploy A Few Tomahawk Long-Range Cruise Missiles On The Aegis Ashore Launching Stations Of The US Anti-Missile Bases In Romania And Poland
"In the course of his election campaign, during an improvised press conference on the runway of the Elko airport (Nevada), Donald Trump, against the advice of the Pentagon and the State Department, announced his decision to withdraw from the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF treaty). It was the conclusion of this treaty in 1987 that started mass nuclear disarmament and scaling down of the standoff known as the Cold War.
"Only a couple of weeks ago, during a press conference in Brussels, in the NATO Headquarters, answering a direct question about the future of the INF treaty, the head of Pentagon James Mattis roundly condemned Russia, which, according to the general opinion of NATO allies, 'blatantly, irresponsibly, and unacceptably' violated the INF. Mattis said that he would suggest possible response options to Trump, but so far, the NATO defense ministers' meeting decided to put pressure on Moscow jointly, to make it see sense and comply with the treaty. The primary reason for this demonstrative peacefulness of the American Defense Department is quite pragmatic: the Pentagon does not have, nor will it have in the immediate few years, any ready for deployment land-based intermediate-range missiles, either cruise or ballistic.
"That is, withdrawal from the INF treaty today does not give the US any special military advantages.
"Nevertheless, John Bolton, the US national security adviser, managed to insist on the necessity of US withdrawing from the INF, according to reports from Washington.
"Trump explained the reasons to journalists, as best as he could: 'We have honored the agreement, but Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement… They do weapons that are prohibited to us, so we're going to pull out'.
"Basically, the weapons banned by the INF will be produced later, said Trump.
"In order to withdraw from the treaty, an official note must be presented six months in advance stating that the higher interests of state and the extraordinary circumstances demand it, which is, of course, a pure formality.
"In Washington, many (not only Bolton) are against the INF not so much because of Russia as because of the fact that the treaty does not apply to China, up to 90% of whose entire ballistic nuclear missile potential is concentrated in land-based intermediate-range systems. Trump told journalists that he is ready to conclude a new agreement instead of the INF, but with Russia and China simultaneously; it is highly unlikely, however, that one can manage to get the Chinese to the negotiations table, and especially to get them to sign a document that will eliminate 90% of their missiles.
"Since 2007, various Russian military leaders and President Vladimir Putin have on a regular basis publicly called the INF treaty unfair and unequal, almost treacherous, because there were twice as many Soviet missiles destroyed in the 1980s as American ones.
"In October 2007, Putin declared that Russia will find it 'difficult to keep within the framework' of the INF treaty, because 'other countries' (especially China) continue to develop missiles banned for the US and Russia.
At that time, the idea of a 'global' INF was promoted by Moscow, naturally, as a pretext for a possible denunciation. Now this pretext is used by Trump (Bolton).
"Moscow decided not to denounce the INF – either in 2007 or later – but Putin continued to criticize the treaty publicly; in particular, in October 2017, he promised that, if the US withdraws, 'our response will be immediate and reciprocal'.
"The Russian military and Putin personally claim that the US may, in violation of the INF, surreptitiously put a couple of Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles (LRCM) instead of SM-3 interceptors into the Aegis Ashore launching stations of the American anti-missile bases in Romania and Poland.
"Of course, there is no evidence to suggest that this kind of substitution is being prepared; by the way, it makes no practical military sense. American arsenals do not have Tomahawks with nuclear warheads, and the non-nuclear variants must be launched by the hundreds, if not thousands, to do any serious damage. Barack Obama, a staunch proponent of complete nuclear disarmament, gave orders, and in 2012 the last nuclear BGM-109А Tomahawk missiles were decommissioned, and their nuclear warheads dismantled.
A Constant Threat Of A Sudden 'Big War' Will Emerge
"In Russia, in contrast, there are Х-101/102 LRCM, Kalibr, and Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems — and they all exist in nuclear and non-nuclear warhead versions. A couple of battalions of Iskander-K launching stations (called Novator 9M729 or SSC-8 in the West) have been tested and, as the Pentagon claims, deployed. It was this violation of the treaty that the West accuses Russia of.
"Putin told the truth: everything is ready in Russia for an 'immediate' response to a termination of the INF, and it will be relatively inexpensive in itself. It is many times cheaper to deploy LRCM on modified Iskander systems or on some other similar truck than to build a frigate, or a corvette, or a submarine, or a heavy bomber, as a LRCM carrier. The crew is a lot smaller, and truck (or launching pad) maintenance is much cheaper, and concealing it is easier than a cruiser or a frigate. One can hide it under a bridge, or in a hangar, or anywhere else.
"In destroying the INF treaty, it seems that Trump has played, at Bolton's suggestion, right into the hands of the Russian 'war party' — he took the public blame for denouncing the treaty at a moment when the Pentagon has nothing to deploy, whereas our Defense Ministry has both the pretext and the opportunity. Russian cheap and low-vulnerability nuclear and non-nuclear Iskander-K or SSC-8 LRCM will have the American and their allies' bases in Europe and the Middle East in the crosshairs, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) will be aimed practically exclusively at the US.
"Putin will again be able to demand of the West to 'heed his words' and start bargaining for real about lifting sanctions, Crimea, Ukraine, and other problems.
"It is the same demand that was articulated on March 1st in the message accompanied by the demonstration of a cartoon with nuclear super-weapon. Then, the collective West was not impressed; maybe today, a couple hundred SSC-8 will change the atmosphere in Europe? Maybe they will listen and turn away from the bad American master who put them in harm's way?
Putin shows off new super weapons in March (Rt.com)
"One can also increase the range of the ballistic Iskander – a little, by up to 20%, but hardly more. One can try and reproduce a slightly upgraded version of the Soviet two-stage intermediate-range ballistic missile Pioneer UTTH (SS-20), which was liquidated as part of the INF, simultaneously deploying our own mass ABM system on the basis of the S-500 Prometey. One can try to achieve absolute military superiority, to show the European West its proper place. One can drain a lot of money out of the state budget. The Western military (defense industry) will, naturally, do the same.
"A constant threat of a sudden 'big war' will emerge. Mutual accusations will pile up, and manifestly hopeless attempts to come to an agreement will be made. A potential enemy will become simply an enemy. A new generation of American nuclear ballistic missiles and land-, sea-, and air-based LRCM will be ready, which will be placed in Poland, Romania, the Baltic states, and later, possibly, in Georgia and Ukraine. Flying time to Moscow and anywhere else will be several minutes, and self-guided maneuverable low-signature reentry vehicles with the strike accuracy of less than a meter will be used.
"In a best case scenario, when yet another historical cycle is finished, a new boss in the Kremlin will sign another INF treaty to replace the lost one. All other scenarios will be much worse."
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7727, Russia This Week – Focus On The INF Treaty – October 24, 2018, October 24, 2018.
 Novayagazeta.ru, October 22, 2018.