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Pentagon: Nuclear Cruise Missiles in Europe a Serious Option

  • Reviving a bogey-man of the past, the Pentagon ratchets up the rhetoric
  • Europe, especially Germany, would flip out if this was seriously pursued
MORE: Military

This article originally appeared at Sputnik

Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian P. McKeon made his threats during a joint hearing in Congress, marking what may be the most forceful rhetoric to ever emanate from the Obama Administration thus far.

<figcaption>Mostly manned rockets on display outdoors within the United States Space & Rocket Center. Photo: © Ke4roh</figcaption>
Mostly manned rockets on display outdoors within the United States Space & Rocket Center. Photo: © Ke4roh

“We don’t have ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe now obviously because they’re prohibited by the treaty,” McKeon said.“But that would obviously be one option to explore.”

He went on to add that Pentagon's options include deploying new defenses against cruise missiles; exploring whether to deploy American ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe, a step that would also be counter to the treaty; and building up other military capabilities.

It comes almost a week after House Resolution 758, the harsh Cold War-era legislation that passed the lower house of Congress last week, which urged the President “to hold the Russian Federation accountable for violations of its obligations” of the INF Treaty. 

All in all, the American government’s latest push against Russia is part of the larger anti-Russian ‘containment’ measures being implemented in this New Cold War, where Washington seeks to simultaneously pressure Moscow across the diplomatic, economic, and military fronts, all of which are in play with this issue. 

US: 1, Russia: 0

Looking more in-depth at the treaty, it’s easy to see why it’s always been to America’s advantage. It eliminated all ballistic land-based and cruise missiles with a range of between 500-5,000 kilometers and entered into force in 1988. It handicapped the Soviet missile deterrent more so than it did for the US due to the geographic considerations of fighting a theoretical war in Europe (the Soviets had more INFs and had a greater strategic use for them there than the US). However, it is understood that this concession was needed to herald an end to the decades-long Cold War. 

Afterwards, the concern over INFs didn’t dissipate, as new threats began to emerge in a post-Cold War Europe. NATO’s expansion eastward created unexpected challenges for the Russians, since although their hands were tied due to the INF Treaty’s limitations, no other European country (especially the new NATO members) was constrained by such legalities. 

The prospect always remained that these fears would become a horrible reality one day, and it certainly affected the thinking of Russia’s political and military decision makers. They assessed that Russia had prematurely surrendered a strategic capability, one that has now placed it on the defensive and opened new advantages for non-signatory states.  Still, Russia remained compliant with the Treaty. 

The Next Decade-Long Crisis

Now there’s talk of the US pulling out of the INF Treaty due to suspected Russian violations, or even of Russia doing so in advance out of protest and for strategic benefit, either of which would create another layer of crisis between the two Great Powers. Back in 2001, the US set the precedent when it unilaterally announced its intention to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to build the global missile defense shield project. 

This elicited a strong reaction from Russia, which has since then accused it of actually being aimed against its own nuclear missiles, which would upset the delicate balance between the two nuclear states and increase the odds of a successful US nuclear first strike in the future. For over a decade, this single (albeit critically important) issue has dominated the bilateral relationship, and it’s expected that the nullification of the INF by either side would have the same effect. 

A Post-INF World

More than likely, the US is trying to impel Russia into entering another arms race, just like in the previous Cold War, but this isn’t likely to succeed. Moscow has repeatedly said that it won’t fall for this costly trick and that the lessons of the past have properly been learned for the present. 

Manager of Stop NATO International Network Rick Rozoff told Sputnik News that the US is trying to test Russia's reserve — but that this "ultimately may be a catastrophic and even apocalyptic gambit on the part of the United States."

But aggressive rhetoric aside, there is an irony to this move. Because to punish Russia and force it to return to observing the Treaty’s conditions…the US will have to violate them themselves. Pot, kettle – you remember the saying.

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