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memri
February 4, 2019 No.
7873

Russian Expert Rogov On The Suspension Of The INF Treaty: We Can Inflict An Intolerable Blow On The Americans

On February 2, during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow suspended the INF Treaty.

The Russian decision came in response to the American February 1 announcement that Washington would suspend its liabilities under the INF Treaty starting February 2 and would quit the agreement outright within six months if Moscow failed to comply with the agreement.[1]

During the meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin stated: "Our response will be symmetrical. Our US partners announced that they are suspending their participation in the INF Treaty, and we are suspending it too. They said that they are engaged in research, development and design work, and we will do the same.

"I agree with the Defense Ministry’s proposals to create a land-based version of the Kalibr launchers and work on a new project to develop a land-based hypersonic intermediate-range missile.

"At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we must not and will not let ourselves be drawn into an expensive arms race…"[2]

Commenting on the INF's suspension, Sergey Rogov, head researcher at the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of the US and Canada, said that a New Cold War had begun. He then stressed that even though an agreement is an important thing, facts are what matter the most. According to Rogov, the most important fact is that in Europe there are currently no American missiles with short flight times to strategic targets in Russia. At the same time, there are no Russian rockets that can strike the same targets in Europe.

However, warned Rogov, should the Americans deploy their new missiles near the Russian borders, a new situation would be created dramatically increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict.

Rogov reassured his audience that Russia can inflict an "intolerable blow" on the USs even with the currently existing weapons systems and this capability would be further buttressed once Russia's new strategic weapons systems entered the arsenal.

Below is the interview with Sergey Rogov, published by the Russian media outlet Moskovskij Komsomolets:[3]


Sergey Rogov (Source: Onznews.wdcb.ru)

We Effectively Find Ourselves In A New Cold War

Q: "Sergey Mikhailovich have the hands of judgment day moved noticeably towards midnight?"

Rogov: "It must be acknowledged that the arms control regime established in the Cold War years, is today on the verge of total collapse. The US decision on withdrawal from the INF is a very serious step. It attests that the US will probably refuse to extend the Start III treaty whose expiry date extends to 2021. In that case the relations between Russia and the US in the nuclear sphere will be unregulated for the first time in the past half century and not limited by any sort of agreement. This is a very dangerous situation."

Q: "An agreement is first of all a product of trust. But the Americans angrily accuse us of violating the INF; We have exactly the same claims against them. In general, did they ever consider the possibility in this accord that the sides would reach this level of distrust towards each other."

Rogov: "This is a completely incorrect approach. If trust exists, then an agreement is unnecessary. For example the US and England have no agreement on limiting nuclear weapons. It is precisely because no such confidence existed between the USSR and the US that it was necessary to create such a mechanism, such as the arms control regime. This also applies to current Russian-American relations where we effectively find ourselves in a new Cold War. It differs from the first, but it has many features in common."

Q: "The president [Putin] has forbidden the foreign policy and military agencies 'from initiating talks on this problem' until that time 'that our partners are ripe'. Is that a sensible decision?"

Rogov: "Russia on more than one occasion suggested to the US to conduct talks and discuss mutual claims. However, the Americans categorically refused this. It was simply demanded [of Russia] that the presumably agreement-violating rockets be destroyed. Under these circumstances, I frankly do not know what other decisions could have been devised. But attention should be drawn to one important circumstance and I am speaking of the mirror response to the actions by the American side so that we like the Americans, will conduct research and development on corresponding weapons. The president announced at the same time that we will not deploy these weapons neither in Europe nor in Asia, if the Americans do not do so. Effectively, this is a declaration of a unilateral moratorium. If the US gives a symmetric reply to this response, and will likewise not deploy its rockets of this class, then many elements of the regime established by the INF will be preserved in practice."

Q: "Meaning, irrespective of the agreement's rupture hope for compromise still exists?"

Rogov: "An agreement is of course an important things. Its significance lies not on paper but in the fact that today in Europe there are no American missiles with short flight times to strategic targets in the European territory of our country. And there are no rockets of ours that can strike the same targets in Europe. The preservation of this situation is possible in principle. However, for the while this is merely an assumption, and it is unknown what will happen in reality. Meanwhile, there are no indications that the US is prepared to respond [in kind] to such a moratorium."

Q: "In your opinion did Russia do everything possible to preserve this agreement?"

Rogov: "Generally speaking, we did what had to be done. However, of course one could have displayed greater activity, taken a more proactive position. Let us take for example the display of the rocket in the past 10 days in Kubinka [airbase] that according to the American assertion violates the terms of the agreement. [It was] an appropriate and long overdue measure. The display took place after a political decision was taken in Washington to withdraw from the agreement. Probably this could have been done earlier and shown not only at Kubinka, but also where the Americans assert a base of our prohibited rockets could be found. This could have included the Kapustin Yar test site where allegedly their launch to a distance exceeding 500 kilometers took place."

These Circumstances Can Create An Even More Dangerous Situation Than The Cuban Missile Crisis Of 1962

Q: "Perhaps for the sake of illustration it would have been appropriate to show the launch itself?"

Rogov: "Not everything is so simple here. The agreement entails various obligations by the parties. We determined our position with a demand from the Americans to show the Mark 41 [VLS] devices of the Aegis Ashore system deployed in Romania. But the Americans categorically refused to do so. Correspondingly, we too did not show anything extra. Although, I think that on this issue greater flexibility could have been demonstrated."

Q: "Announcing the launch of new military programs, the president at the same time declared 'We should not and we will not be dragged into a costly arms race for us'. To what extent is this commitment fulfillable?"

Rogov: "The American military budget is 700 billion dollars. It is 10 times higher than ours. In the coming week, the Trump Administration is likely to make a budgetary request for the coming fiscal year. It is fully possible that the US military expenditures will rise to 750 billion. Of course to maintain parity under such asymmetry, with our incomparably more modest economic and financial possibilities is quite complicated. The president has set the task of actualizing the necessary measures within the already approved military budget for 2019. That is we are talking about changing budget priorities. The 'pie' is not elastic: in order to find the means for developing a new weapon, it will be necessary to cut some programs. It is obvious, that restraining the growth of military expenditures will not be simple."

Q: "The promise to maintain parity, without getting dragged in to a crippling arms race, somewhat recalls the well-known Soviet slogan of the 1930s: 'with a little blood a mighty blow'. We unfortunately have not worked out getting around with 'a little blood'."

Rogov: "It is impermissible to repeat the mistake of the Soviet Union allowing itself to be dragged into a symmetrical arms race. In principle, maintaining strategic parity does not require a mirror image parity. The deterrent effect can be guaranteed when the capability exists to kill 50 million people in a second strike and the possibility of annihilating 40 or 30 million. These cannibalistic calculations – how many people is it necessary to kill for supporting parity – are predicated to a large degree on speculative reasoning. It is clear that deterrence works, when the other side understands that it will sustain intolerable damage. How to evaluate that is a very sticky problem. However, one can say with confidence that we can inflict an intolerable blow on the Americans with the currently existing weapons systems and even more with the receipt of new strategic weapons systems."

Q: "However, the risk of a nuclear conflict in any case of conflict has grown?"

Rogov:"If the Americans deploy their new missiles near the Russian borders, while we in response deploy ours, then the risk of that conflict undoubtedly rises sharply. In case American missiles are positioned on the territory of Poland and the Baltic States, their flight times to our facilities will be a matter of minutes. And the counterstrike – the Russian concept of nuclear weapons use, based today precisely on this framework will become impossible. There will be no time to evaluate what rockets were launched, along what trajectories, and against what targets. Hence, for both us and them the temptation will arise to declare a preemptive strike doctrine. And this can create an even more dangerous situation than the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962."

 

 

[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7872, Russia This Week – Focus On The INF Treaty – February 3, 2019, February 3, 2019.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7872, Russia This Week – Focus On The INF Treaty – February 3, 2019, February 3, 2019.

[3] Mk.ru, February 2, 3019.