Russia and US Schedule Arms Control Talks in the Nick of Time as Missiles Continue To Be Deployed

Russian newspaper Kommersant
reported
on Tuesday that Kremlin and White House officials have scheduled arms
control talks in Geneva for the 28th of July.

Putin and Biden agreed to discuss the nuclear buildup going on across the world
during their first summit together last month, which by all accounts, public
and private, was an amicable one. Despite Biden telling Putin face to face that
he didn’t believe he had a soul, and saying to reporters earlier this year that
he was a “killer,” spokesmen from the White House said the meeting went well.

Putin himself commented
later
that Biden “doesn’t’ miss anything, I can assure you,” referring
to what he described as an inaccurate portrayal by “our press, and even
the American press” that Biden is perhaps suffering dementia of a sort.

That relationship is vital to the
current predicament which the owners of 80% of the world’s nuclear arsenal
find themselves in. Despite immediately
extending
the New
START Treaty
which caps the numbers of operational missiles and delivery
systems each country can have in the field, new Standard Missile-3 (SM-3s)
interceptor missiles, which are not restricted in New START and operate
within a
once-illegal strike range
, are being deployed into eastern NATO countries
by land, and at least 5 SM-3-armed warships to the Black Sea by water, presenting
modern challenges to the 70-year stalemate.

Indeed, in statements made by Vladimir
Putin in a recent television appearance, the Russian president noted that
the now-12 SM-3s stationed in Romania, with another 12 perhaps being installed
in Poland, would need only 15 minutes for these supposedly-defensive missile
batteries to place an armament in downtown Moscow.

If the reader notices this is like
a reverse of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Putin did not hesitate to point that
out, asking hypothetically what America would do if Russia placed their
deterrent capabilities on the Canadian side of Lake Eire. Pentagon Spokesperson
John Kirby wrapped the missile positioning in claims of Russian aggression,
saying to reporters recently that “Russia’s new hypersonic missiles could
potentially lead to destabilization and pose a significant risk because
they can carry a nuclear charge.”

Russia’s Avantgarde “hypersonic
glide” cruise missile demonstration
in 2018 scared Congress into forking over at
least two-hundred million
for the parallel development of these weapons
as part of their new $7 billion 2021 Pacific Defense Initiative (PDI) signed
into law as part of Trump’s final defense budget.

All this building up and repositioning
is happening in a time where the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the
Treaty on Open Skies
, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty,
three of the four pillars of the nuclear parity, were all terminated by
American presidents over the last 20 years.

Global NATO

Chances are low that any meaningful
reduction in the risk of conflict between the great powers will arise out
of these talks. Despite a
joint-issued statement,
that should be praised, made by both presidents
that a nuclear war “cannot be won and must never be fought,” recent NATO
actions have put incredible strains on Moscow’s ability to go along with
any deal that hinders their own national defense.

It should be noted that among the
highest ranking Russian politicians, including former President Mikael Gorbachev
who ended the Cold War and the Soviet Union, there is a concrete belief
that NATO lied and or broke the promise they made to the fledgling Russian
Federation that in order to acquire true peace and an amicable open Europe,
NATO would not include any country east of Germany.

This has been played down in the
decades since by western leaders, but
investigative reporting by the German paper Der Spiegel

“concluded that there was no doubt the West did everything it could
to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question
for countries like Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia.”

While the SM-3s stationed in Poland
and Romania are part of the “missile curtain” and operate as a kinetic weapon,
meaning they must physically strike something to destroy it and have no
detonation whatsoever, veteran journalist covering NATO/Russian relationships,
Rick Rozoff, told WaL that the only assurance the Kremlin or Russian
people have that they aren’t or can’t be armed with nuclear warheads is
because the U.S. says they aren’t or won’t be. But state
media reports
that Russian weapons inspectors have never been allowed
to visit the sites.

“To the best of my knowledge there’s
been no attempt to offer Russia an inspections regime,” says Rozoff. “It’s
simply a matter of taking somebody on good faith.”

However Rozoff points out that the
ability to deter or prevent a nuclear strike, at some point becomes an offensive
weapon, because even if the SM-3s are never made to carry a nuclear armament,
their purported ability to disable outgoing weapons from Russia could potentially
allow enough cover for a NATO first strike, breaking the old stalemate of
Mutually-Assured Destruction.

Furthermore, the capacity of these SM-3s to be mounted on naval warships, and
the number of such warships produced could easily, and perhaps purposefully,
create a dangerous sense of security in terms of missile defense around NATO
and the US

“The US currently has 62 of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and
22 of the Ticonderoga-class frigates, so altogether 84 of these ships
that can fire [SM-3s], and more ordered,” says Rozoff. “That’s just the US,
that doesn’t include NATO or the East Asia allies, so you’re talking about as
many as 100 warships.”

“I know that the US destroyers can carry up to 55 Tomahawk cruise missiles,
if it’s a comparable amount, then you’re talking about as astronomical amount
of interceptor missiles that could fend off any retaliation after a perspective
US/NATO first strike.”

The US has at the very
least 194
of the naval-going SM-3s since ordering
48
in the FY2022 Defense Authorization.

Analysis: “Like a ball of fire”

“Like a ball of fire” were the words
used by Putin to described the Avantgarde hypersonic-glide cruise missiles,
prefacing that they are “…absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile
defense system.” Their ability to avoid any interception is based around
the “gliding” maneuvers they can perform in mid-flight.

In analysis
from WaL, based on the reporting
of journalist Andrew Cockburn
and defense analyst Pierre Sprey, one of the masterminds behind the extremely
successful F-16 fighter jet, physics of mid-air maneuvering, heat shielding,
and atmospheric reentry currently place major limitations on the radar and payload
these weapons can carry.

If their payload was a nuclear one, they would need sophisticated radar to
allow for navigation during the maneuvers that make it un-targetable, as well
as a robust heat shielding nose cone, and and a slim lightweight design to allow
for sufficient range to strike the US

Not one of these things are possible
or can result in the abilities the weapon is supposed to have, according
to Sprey and Cockburn, who reported every effort by DARPA to develop these
weapons have failed.

“They seem to be more a conception
than a reality, but they are taken seriously,” says Doug
Bandow,
senior research fellow and foreign policy expert at the Cato
Institute. Pentagon press man John Kirby, as written above, stated it is
the Pentagon’s belief that these missiles could carry a nuclear charge.

If that’s true and they do believe
that, even though they’ve not demonstrated that capability before themselves,
then it logically follows that the policy of NATO encirclement of Russia
is based on the assumption that enough of these SM-3s could be deployed
as to successful knock the Avantgarde missiles out of the sky before they
reach the east coast. A true gamble.

“Dimitri Peskov, suggested that the hypersonic missiles are meant to be in
retaliation of the US missile shield in Eastern Europe,” said Rozoff. “If so,
I have to assume this is a deterrent factor.”

“There’s a point where they [Russia]
get very nervous if they believe their second strike capability is threatened,
that became the issue with Reagan’s missile defense proposal, that the Soviets
were nervous that it might actually be possible, in which case they would
be vulnerable to an American attack,” says Bandow. “So they undoubtedly
look at any military buildup around them in the worst possible standpoint.”

Any hope for arms control?

“We have to remember that Soviet
Russia had a friendship treaty with Germany up until June 22nd when millions
of troops poured over its borders. In the early 1800s Russia signed a treaty
with Napoleon, that declared they would not attack each other, and sure
enough the Grande Armée came into Moscow,” says Rozoff, suggesting that,
previous agreements with NATO notwithstanding, Russia has had a long history
of being on the betrayed end of treaties.

“If the objective is to strike somebody
with impunity, then you can sign all the treaties you want – in fact the more
such treaties you sign the more you’re probably going to lull them into
a false sense of security,” he added.

There’s currently
a massive nuclear modernization effort, started in 2009
by Barack Obama,
and accelerated under Trump, that was guessed at costing $1 trillion, but
could run as high as $3 trillion, which has been buoyed by Biden’s reduced
emphasis on counterterrorism in order to pivot more strongly to great power
competition, as it’s called.

“The ultimate response would be
to build up strategic forces and basically walk away from any limits at
all and decide that the only way to be certain of protecting themselves
is going back to the old Soviet Union,” says Bandow, contemplating the end
result if no successful arms controls are established. “I don’t think they
really want that.”

“This is an issue where both the US and Russia have reasonably coincident interests;
neither side particularly wants a nuclear buildup. I don’t believe this is an
issue where the US is going to feel bound by munitions contracts, but I think
this is the moment to nip it in the bud.”

Andrew Corbley is founder and editor of World
at Large
, an independent news outlet. He is a loyal listener of Antiwar
radio and of the Scott Horton Show. Reprinted with permission from
World
at Large
.

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Mike Rivero