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The Treaty for the Suppression of Short Range and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Missiles, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, was an agreement between the United States and the USSR signed in Washington on December 8, 1987 between the U.S. President at that time, Ronald Reagan, and the General Secretary of the Communist Party in the URSS, Mikhail Gorbachev.

It specifically prohibits the production, testing, development, and deployment of offensive, ground-based cruise ballistic missiles equipped with any head (nuclear or conventional) with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. It was an excellent agreement of détente and disarmament that, without remission, has ended this month after the abandonment of the two principal signatories.

It represented, in its day, a significant advance for peace in Europe and between the two leading world powers at that time. Thanks to their launch, ballistic and cruise missiles, the so-called euromisils, were eliminated. Those missiles installed in military bases in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and in countries under the influence of the Soviet Union (USSR) from where European NATO members could be attacked.

The number of nuclear missiles of these suppressed ranges reached 1,846 in the USSR and 846 in the United States. Full compliance with its objectives was achieved in May 1991, when the deadline for this was June 1 of the same year.

A treaty that, unlike similar treaties on missiles or weapons of mass destruction (WMD), previous, contemporary and even later, had the best system of verification and inspection in force, until such inspections  ceased by mutual agreement in 2001 due to the complexity and cost involved.

At its signing, given the importance of the agreement and as a lure in search of a more significant number of signatories, it was thought to grant it indefinite validity; although, as is customary in this type of document on WMDs, any State Party may withdraw from it with only six months' notice.

It was a great success at the time because of the détente that it brought to the European Continent and between the two powers that, at that time, dominated and decided world security. Although today - contrary to what was thought - not having a massive adhesion and given that the Treaty was not exclusive for missiles with nuclear warheads, it can be assured that it was and still is a significant disadvantage for the signatories, since the countries which are not members of it are not obliged to comply with it or observe it.

The reality is that the text, although it was opened to the world, apart from the USA and the USSR, was only ratified a posteriori in 1994 by Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan when the USSR disappeared. This means that emerging countries that threaten the West, such as China, North Korea and Iran, as well as others - less aggressive towards this side of the world at the moment - such as India, Israel or Pakistan; since they are not members, they can possess quantities of missiles of this type close to 1,000 units each without any penalty. On the other hand, the Treaty does not include what is known as tactical weapons [1], very much in vogue worldwide [2], which has undoubtedly been another essential source of conflict.

After 30 years of validity, due to several covert or not so much covert, the Americans and Russians have been devising, generating, displaying and deploying a series of missiles, which, although very possibly exceeding the limits set out in the Treaty, they considered them to be defensive and, therefore, did not enter or count within the framework of the Agreement. Such is the case with the U.S. missile shield and missile systems [3] deployed in Europe.

This initiative was born as a complement to the already veteran U.S. plans for close defense against all types of missiles that could reach the U.S. [4] and to defend in turn a large part of the airspace of the European allies, as well as their forces deployed in the Old Continent. [5]

Those U.S. ´s initiatives and actions forced the deployment of Russian missiles Iskander-K against them. Missiles, which were installed close to the Russian border with Europe because they considered this shield to be an offensive weapon on the territory of the Russian Federation, as they understood it, and because their radar systems maintained continuous control over the activities of the Russian armed forces, which undoubtedly limited their capacity and the right to free movement on their territory.

Archival photo, published on September 19, 2017, shows the launch, during a tactical exercise, of an Iskander-K missile launched from a maneuver field near St. Petersburg.

Actions and reactions that, among other things, have originated years of disagreements and generated a multitude of mutual accusations of non-compliance with what has been previously agreed. The protests by some allies in NATO not covered by the aforementioned deployment, the legal and economic misunderstandings in the U.S. House and Senate, particular and disproportionate compensatory demands for its location in European countries [6] and Russian diplomatic pressures on the U.S. and/or its former allies in Eastern Europe forced Obama to change the initial plans on the shield's capabilities and until its deployment.

The aforementioned new plans for the system; much more effective, with more excellent coverage and less costly, became known in September 2009 as the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) [7]. This plan is based on fixed and mobile elements equipped with the North American AEGIS [8] system in a combined land-sea form (with a fixed base in Romania, extendable to two more in Greenland and the Azores Islands and 4 frigates sailing) coordinated by the NATO air defence and alarm command and control network and complemented by the existing national means of anti-missile defence, owned by each ally, deployed in their respective territories.

Initially activated and partially activated in 2016; it consisted of four phases for its completion, with the last of these being expected to be completed in 2020. Spain is involved in this deployment because it alternately hosts - for the rest of the crews and maintenance of the system - the four American frigates carrying the system at the joint Rota Naval Base [9].

The deployment of the system, like all military works and plans, is perfectible and, therefore, requires remodeling and maintenance, as is currently the case [10].

Besides, and after having been the cause of excuses and accusations for years, the real conflict started "official spark” that caused the U.S. withdrawal from the INF, is somewhat less manifest, disguised or even quite convoluted.

The Americans -already during the Obama Administration- often presented complaints and doubts to the Russian Federation about the degree of compliance with the range of the Russian Novator 9M729 missile, which is shown in the photograph and which in NATO is called SSC-8, which they claim is an offensive weapon with a range of more than 500 Km [11]; a claim, which of course, the Russians categorically deny.

Parallel to this type of action, no one can escape the fact that, although prohibited by the Treaty, both countries have been investigating and even testing various missiles such as -to mention just a few of them- the Russian hypersonic missile (AVANGUARD) [12] tested and presented to the public for the first time and successfully in December 2018. The U.S. has announced that it will "start building" missiles that were prohibited by the INF Treaty, once the INF Treaty was abandoned [13].

After some six years of tug-of-war, during some thirty bilateral meetings without reaching any agreement or turning point, President Trump announced on February 1 2019 that, the following day, he would abandon the Agreement because of the alleged violations of it by Russia[14], ignoring, of course, his anti-missile shield and other R&D&I activities in this field.

Violations date back to at least 2014 when Russia began deploying its 9M729 missile after several years of tests designed to try to circumvent the above limitations. On the other hand, Russia's response was immediate, and on February 2 Putin announced that he was also abandoning the treaty [15], although it was open to extending the Treaty to more countries and generating a new document that would satisfy all parties [16].

The U.S. actions following these announcements were a similar Russian reaction. As a result, the U.S. withdrawal became effective on August 2 and the Russian withdrawal on August 3. Withdrawals, which are not trivial, since both countries have their record - with varying degrees of repercussions and culpability - of abandoning relevant arms treaties whenever they have been interested or threatened.

Thus, in 2002 the U.S. unilaterally abandoned the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) [17], by decision of President George W. Bush in December 2001, taking advantage of the favourable outburst in U.S. public opinion and the political freedom of movement provoked by his "induced" declaration of fight against all types of terrorism and threat to his country after the 9/11 attacks. It was a significant Treaty because it limited the number of anti-ballistic missile systems used to defend specific locations against nuclear-powered missiles.

At the same time, and although it does not have the same scope and depth, in March 2015, Moscow abandoned the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces [18] (CFE), signed in 1990 and controlled by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) based in Vienna. A treaty which, although it had recently been weak[19], had for many years been one of the main pillars of détente in the Old Continent after the Cold War, together with the OSCE's Open Skies Treaty (of March 24 1992)[20], and which constitutes one of the most significant international efforts towards military transparency. The treaty was based on the old concept stemming from the 1955 Geneva Conference on "mutual aerial observation" previously agreed, declared and approved by the parties.

Russia's withdrawal from the CFE was an American excuse to aggravate the climate of mistrust between Moscow and NATO in the field of armaments, putting them all in the same bag, and to further boost the crisis dragged by Russia's intervention in Ukraine's political and territorial affairs after its political-military action in the most pro-Russian part of its territory and the forced recovery of the Crimea.

There was a climate of mistrust in NATO, which was manifested with the alarming and self-righteous declarations of the Organization itself in support of the United States in February 2019 after Trump's announcement of the abandonment of the INF. Sharing in this way, the American "fears" and giving him the reason for having taken such a decision, instead of having opted for another more energetic or effective solution [21] to save him.

The same has not happened with the E.U. in a vain effort, more symbolic than real "defending" the scenario where most of the missiles vetoed by the INF have their targets. Although the Union's capacity to exert real pressure and force is non-existent in this field, official statements on the matter have revealed a "respectful dissent" on the U.S. decision [22].

These tensions undoubtedly endanger the fragile renewal of the START III Treaty, also known as the New START. This agreement comes from the renewal of START II and SORT. It was subscribed in 2010, and entered into force in 2011 for ten years, extendable for a further five years. It sets limits at 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed means - the rest (stored or disassembled) do not count; 700 deployed means of delivery (intercontinental missiles, heavy bombers, and nuclear submarines), which can reach up to 800 if those not deployed are added.

It reduces on-site Verification Measures (inspections, reports, and exhibitions of material on request) and, in its day, meant the cession to the mentioned Russian pressures for the elimination of the -already mentioned- initially planned anti-missile shield in Europe (Poland and Czech Republic) by linking the strategic Offensive weapons to the Defensive ones in the same bag.

The reality is that this Treaty responded fundamentally to the imperative need to reduce materials due to: obsolescence, greater need for security in materials and facilities, the high cost of their maintenance and due to the global crisis at the time that required reducing defense costs. As a novelty, it should be mentioned that it requires that strategic weapons subject to the Treaty cannot be permanently deployed outside national territories and prohibits the transfer of technologies to third parties.

Despite the great initial advantages of START, Russian-American talks to extend the Treaty are now, despite appearances of good understanding, rather bogged down by reciprocal misgivings about the development of new weapons, growing and constant mutual mistrust, and by the absurd race of both to leave previous treaties as a sign of strength and independence for a misunderstood world leadership, where there are more and more aspirants to exercise it.

When the U.S. intention to abandon the INF Treaty became official, Putin warned of his intention to use weapons that had hitherto been banned, pointing to Europe (the locations of the allies) and the command and control nerve centers of the U.S. system [23]. However, he also assured that it would not be Russia that would act in the first instance and it would only be in response to an "American offensive" action.

It will be necessary to wait to see who decides to take the first step, and if the threats are real and effective. This situation of new tension could be interpreted or even translated into a second, duly increased edition of the last Cold War transferred to the 21st Century or, even, it could even be the starting line for a greater and more ferocious rush of more sophisticated, capable, speedy, accurate and lethal armaments than anything known up to now, given that there are currently not only two but several actors developing these armaments and that the transversality and repercussions of conflicts are very generalized and are more than assured.

While in the West we continue to try to find out the sex of angels, the world of proliferation continues on its course; despite much published and opinionated about North Korea and Iran, it will not do much good; because they follow and will follow theirs. Others like China, India, Israel, and Pakistan, on the quiet, achieve goals that were unthinkable a short time ago and will soon surpass the others.

We tend to say that nothing serious in this life, and also in terms of international repercussions, use to happen by chance. Neither is this situation; it is provoked by the interests and survival ends of its only signatories with a certain degree of capacity. I think it is time we understood that those Treaties, Agreements, and Covenants that served to stop the unbridled arms race between them, today, have an expiry date.

The disproportions and disadvantages of remaining tied to them may jeopardize the safety conditions of the old lions who, in their day, decided everything in the command; but, who are now discovering that either they change, or they will soon be removed from it and others will take their place.

[1] The tactical weapons are those destined to the destruction or disarticulation of the enemy in a way restricted to the battlefield or to the advanced rearguard, in such a way that they allow the continuation of the military activities themselves. Generally, the concept is used as an antonym for strategic weapons.


[3] The shuttles of the US AEGIS system in Romania and Poland, in addition to SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles, Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles can be placed

[4] Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) the BMDS system, that is, the ground defense of the global system that would counteract ballistic missiles in the intermediate phase of its trajectory.

[5] In 2006, the Pentagon proposed a "third leg" of the GMD in Europe. The proposal included the deployment between 2011 and 2013 of 10 GBI (Ground-based Interceptors) interceptors in Poland - interceptors that were not identical to those in Alaska and California -, an X-band fixed radar in the Czech R. and another transportable radar in a country near Iran, which was never identified, in addition to a system of command, control and support of infrastructure. The "third leg" should have the capacity to intercept at least five intermediate missiles (IRBM) against Europe or five intercontinental missiles (ICBM) against the United States from the Middle East. It guaranteed and covered the defense of western Europe, not the southeast, and defense against intermediate-range missiles from Iran was a secondary objective of the system, something that the system's own technology realized.

[6] At that time, the author of the work held the position of Defense Attaché in the Czech Republic and lived in first person those disagreements, strips and looseness.




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[18] Established from 1989 to 1992 precise limits on key categories of conventional military equipment - tanks and combat vehicles, artillery parts, combat aircraft and attack helicopters - in Europe (from the Atlantic Ocean to the Urals), and ordered the complete destruction of surplus weapons. The Treaty proposed equal limits for the two "groups of States", NATO and the USSR.

[19] Almost from the beginning, although increased in recent years, the materials (mainly Artillery pieces and tanks and fighter jets) were totally obsolete, obsolete and without any use.





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