Moscow (CNSNews.com) – Russia’s security chief has warned about a heightened risk of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia, following the breakdown of a major arms control treaty earlier this year.
Global nuclear stability is becoming increasingly more precarious, Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev wrote in the state-run Rossiskaya Gazeta Monday, blaming the situation on the U.S.
“The military-political security of Russia, as well as that of the whole world, is characterized today by increased risks and a decrease in predictability, which is due to the beginning of the collapse of the current architecture of strategic stability and the arms control system, as a result of unilateral U.S. actions and their desire to get rid of the international legal framework that limited their military capabilities,” he said.
Patrushev accused Washington of demonstrating a hostility to arms control over a long period of time. The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty this summer, as well as its possible exit from the Open Skies Treaty and the New Strategic Arms Reduction (New START) Treaty, all raised the likelihood of a nuclear war, he charged.
“All this negatively affects the predictability of the military-strategic situation, which includes leading to a lower threshold for the use of nuclear weapons and, accordingly, greatly increasing the risks for all of humanity.”
The U.S. withdrew last August from the 1987 INF Treaty, under which Washington and Moscow agreed to ban all ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that Russia was “solely responsible for the treaty’s demise” because of its deployment of the 9M729 nuclear-capable intermediate-range cruise missile, which he said violated the agreement.
“Dating back to at least the mid-2000s, Russia developed, produced, flight tested, and has now fielded multiple battalions of its noncompliant missile,” Pompeo said. “The United States first raised its concerns with Russia in 2013. Russia subsequently and systematically rebuffed six years of U.S. efforts seeking Russia’s return to compliance.”
Russia insisted that the 9M729 was compliant with the INF Treaty. In turn it accused the U.S. of violating the agreement by deploying its “Aegis Ashore” ballistic missile defense shield in central Europe.
Although that system’s Mark 41 Vertical Launch System is configured to fire standard SM-3 anti-missile interceptors, Russia says they could also be converted to launch offensive medium-range cruise missiles, which would have been outlawed under the INF Treaty.
In fact, Russian officials say the real motive for exiting the INF Treaty was so that it could openly deploy the Mark 41 VLS for offensive purposes. They pointed to the Pentagon’s August 18 intermediate cruise missile test, which used a Mark 41 VLS.
Patrushev himself made that argument in his column.
“Literally a few weeks after the termination of the Treaty, the American side conducted tests of intermediate-range missiles, indicating that Washington was preparing to withdraw from the agreement in advance,” he wrote.
More recently, the Trump administration has signaled that it may pull out of two other key treaties with Russia.
The first is the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, which allows the U.S. and Russia to fly surveillance aircraft over and photograph each other’s territory.
The second is the 2010 New START Treaty, which set the limit for nuclear warheads at 1,550 and capped the number of deployed missiles and bombers at 700, and the number of nuclear weapons launchers at 800.
President Trump has criticized the treaty as “just another bad deal” made by the Obama administration and has declined to say whether he would extend it. Last June, then-National Security Advisor John Bolton said it was “unlikely” New START would be renewed.
The treaty is set to expire in February 2021, unless both governments consent to extending it by a maximum of five years, until 2026. The U.S. and Russia could also negotiate a new document to replace it.