Russia Threatens New Mid-Range Missiles If US Exits Arms-Control Treaty

The Kremlin is stepping up threats to deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles if the U.S. goes ahead with plans to withdraw from a Cold War-era arms-control treaty.

At the same time, Russia says it will not allow the U.S. to inspect a missile which Washington says is already violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

On Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov dismissed the notion that the government would allow the U.S. to inspect the missile in question, saying that doing so would expose Russia’s broader military arsenal to U.S. prying.

“Give them an inch and they'll take a mile,” he told the Kommersant daily newspaper. “The United States will continue to demand that we show almost any military equipment they do not like.”

Ryabkov said that would result in Russia disclosing sensitive military information to the country that tops the list of external threats in its military doctrine.

And he added that allowing such inspections would go beyond Russia’s INF obligations, and would not be “justified from either the political or technical perspective.”

The INF Treaty, which entered into force in 1988, outlawed all ground-launched cruise or ballistic missile with ranges between roughly 300 and 3,400 miles.

The U.S. has been challenging Russia since 2013 over its development of a cruise missile named SSC-8 (Russian designation 9M729). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said recently the SSC-8 has been flight-tested and is now being deployed in “multiple battalions.”

Launched from Russian territory, the SSC-8 would not directly threaten the U.S., but could pose a conventional or nuclear threat to U.S. allies in Europe, with little early warning. With NATO’s blessing, the U.S. early this month gave Russia 60 days to return to compliance, failing which the U.S. will begin the process of withdrawing from the treaty.

Ryabkov disputed that the SSC-8 has been tested at a range exceeding the INF limits, and said the Americans “have not provided a single concrete piece of evidence of our guilt.”

He told the paper it was hard to determine whether the “mysterious intelligence” of the U.S. was “fabricated or erroneous.”

On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. claims were a “trivial pretext” to withdraw from the treaty.

If the U.S. made good on the threat, he said, then Russia would easily be able to manufacture and deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles.

Speaking at a Defense Ministry Board meeting in Moscow, Putin said Russia has already developed powerful airborne and sea-based cruise missiles which could be converted easily to land-based variants, “if need be.”

“If what they are trying to scare us with happens, we will have to give a fitting reply,” he said.

Putin cited the sea-launched Kalibr and air-launched Kh-101 cruise missiles – which Russia has launched in Syria, respectively from warships and submarines in the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, and Tu-160 strategic bombers.

And he also pointed to the new, hypersonic Kinzhal (Dagger) air-borne missile, which he first unveiled in a state of the nation speech last March, and which Russia says is the first of its kind in the world.

Putin compared Russia’s mid-range missile capabilities to those of the U.S. Tomahawk – the sea-launched cruise missiles used during Trump’s two punitive strikes in Syria following chemical weapons attacks.

“They are rather outdated,” he scoffed of the U.S. weaponry. “According to our military experts, actually, their use in Iraq and Syria showed that their efficiency is around 30 percent. Of course, they need to be improved.”

Putin also revisited Russia’s argument that it is the U.S. which has violated the INF, by deploying ballistic missile defense (BMD) facilities in central Europe.

“They are the ones violating the treaty with the deployment of Aegis systems in Romania. They are also planning to place them in Poland,” he said. “This is a direct violation.

(The Pentagon says the Europe-based BMD shield complies with the treaty, and is moreover designed to protect against the threat of missiles launched by Iran, not Russia.)

Putin also used the opportunity to grumble at his predecessors’ decision to enter into the INF Treaty in the first place. It was signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan in 1987.

“The United States had sea- and air-based missiles, while we did not,” he recalled. “Therefore, from the point of view of the Soviet Union, this was unilateral disarmament,” he said. “God knows why the Soviet leaders decided to go ahead with unilateral disarmament. However, it was done.”

( Source )