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19 Dec, 2018 14:06

‘Anti-US rallies in Europe, China & Russia pushed closer’: Ditching INF may backfire, analysts say

‘Anti-US rallies in Europe, China & Russia pushed closer’: Ditching INF may backfire, analysts say

Washington may see its imminent withdrawal from a key arms control treaty with Russia as shedding loathed restrictions. But consequences of the move may be detrimental to US interests, military experts told RT.

The fate of the Cold War-era agreement, which bans the US and Russia from having land-based intermediate-range missiles, seems to be sealed now. The INF is likely to follow the lead of another key arms control treaty, which banned development of anti-ballistic missile technologies by the two countries and was scrapped under the George W Bush administration.

The looming dismantlement of the INF comes after years of bickering between Washington and Moscow over which side violates it letter and spirit. US complaints focused on a missile developed for the Iskander M launcher, which it claims was tested with a range longer than allowed by the treaty.

Also on rt.com US confirms pullout from INF treaty, Moscow will respond if missiles placed in Europe – deputy FM

Moscow denies this and has its own set of complaints about the Americans, including the development of AEGIS Ashore, the land-based version of the US Naval ABM system that uses a launcher compatible with intermediate-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The site already operating in Romania can be converted in less than an hour to fire at Russian territory, pointed out Aleksey Leonkov, a military expert and writer.

The Americans are not blameless. Tomahawks fired from land can hit anything in Russia at a distance of up to about 2,500km. That is a direct violation of the treaty.

After abandoning the INF, the US may theoretically renew production of relatively cheap land-based nuclear-capable missiles and deploy them in Europe. The threat of an accidental nuclear exchange between European NATO members and the Soviet Union was the main reason why the treaty was signed in the 1980s in the first place.

Ivan Konovalov, director of the Center of Strategic Conjuncture, says European nations willing to host US nukes again may face a backlash from the public.

“Any country hosting such missiles will be targeted by Russian strategic forces, unfortunately for those countries. I believe there will be demonstrations or even panic among voters there,” he told RT. “When Americans deployed their weapons in Europe, some of them nuclear, in the 1980s, there was massive public outcry.”

Also on rt.com Russia will easily design new missiles to defend itself if US pulls out of INF – Putin

He added the situation now is somewhat different from the 1980s, because today Russia has naval and air-launched intermediate-range cruise missiles, unlike the Soviet Union. It gives Moscow the capability to exert pressure on the US directly rather than on its European allies, should an escalation happen.

The INF is still salvageable, believes Vladimir Batyuk, a senior fellow with the Moscow-based Institute of the USA and Canada. It could be replaced with a new bilateral agreement or even a multilateral deal, which would include countries that have intermediate-range land-based missiles.

Those include not only China – to which the US pointed a finger when justifying their pullout from the treaty – but also India, Pakistan, Israel and Iran. But convincing them will be difficult.

“Their intermediate-range missiles were created as deterrence to their regional adversaries. India and Pakistan also became nuclear nations to deter each other. They see it as part of a regional nuclear balance, not the global one,” he told RT.

Winning these countries’ support would be hard, but if there was political will to do it, it would be possible.

Konovalov said US efforts to scrap the treaty without offering a substitute may backfire, because countries like China will see development of land-based intermediate-range missiles by the US as a threat to their national security. The US “will be pushing those nations into the hands of Russia,” he believes.

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