US to deploy nuclear missiles in Europe as early as February

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday  that the US had given Russia 60 days to comply with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty or it would no longer abide by the agreement and could produce, test and deploy new missiles in NATO member states.

“The United States today declares it has found Russia in material breach of the treaty and will suspend our obligations as a remedy effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance,” the Secretary of State said.

The ultimatum could foreshadow a new arms race, with serious consequences for Europe. The INF treaty has kept nuclear-armed missiles off European soil for nearly three decades. If it breaks down, the US nuclear missiles could be returned to Europe as early as February.

Pompeo made the announcement following the meetings with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. He outlined longstanding US allegations of Russian violations of the cold war-era treaty with the development and deployment of a new ground-launched cruise missile known as the SSC-8.

The SSC-8 (Novator 9M729)  is a Russian ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) labeled a “missile of concern” by the United States after allegedly being test launched from a road-mobile launcher in violation of the INF Treaty. Moscow claims the missile is fully compliant with the INF Treaty and not capable to fly beyond the 500 km (310 mi) INF range limit. The SSC-8 is reported to be a ground-launched variant of the Russian naval cruise missile SS-N-27 Sizzler (3M-54 Kalibr) and mounted on the same road-mobile launcher as the SS-26 Stone (the 9K720 Iskander-M) short-range ballistic missile system.

 

In a separate statement, the NATO foreign ministers supported Pompeo and formally concluded Russia to be in material breach of the treaty with its development of new ground-based missile systems and urged Moscow to come back into compliance under the terms.

“Allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security. We strongly support the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty,” the NATO foreign ministers said.

Moscow ones again denied these new accusations made by the Secretary of State and his European colleagues. “Russia is following the provisions of the INF treaty and the American side knows this well,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to Pompeo.

Previously, Russia has also accused the US of violating the treaty by deploying Mk 41 launchers capable of firing cruise missiles as well as SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles in Romania and Poland. Deploying of land-based cruise missiles is strictly prohibited by the INF treaty as well as development, production, testing and deployment of ballistic missiles with ranges of 500 – 5,500 km (310 – 3,420 mi).

 

EU officials make last-ditch effort to save INF treaty

European diplomats are seeking to act as intermediaries between Moscow and Washington in the hope of salvaging the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Force (INF) treaty, a cold war-era arms control agreement that Donald Trump has threatened to scrap, The Guardian reports.
However, the diplomats involved are not confident of success in the effort to save the INF treaty. Although they have the support of senior officials in the US defense and state departments, they face opposition from the White House, particularly from the national security adviser, John Bolton.
Nor is it clear whether Moscow is interested in a deal. The collapse of the INF would leave the Russian military free to deploy short- and medium-range nuclear missiles along its borders with NATO amid the US deployment of the missile defense shield in Europe.
It would be hard for the US to benefit militarily from the treaty’s demise, as it would need European allied states to offer launch sites for its missiles – and it is far from clear what country except Poland, already pledged to deploy the Missile Defense base near Redzikowo in Pomerania, would offer its territory and thus make itself a target.
Yet Trump’s abrupt declaration at a political rally in Nevada on 20 October that he was going to pull the US out of the treaty, without informing allies, has focused criticism on Washington rather than Moscow. European officials have asked for time to make a last-gasp attempt to rescue the treaty, which they see as a key pillar of arms control in Europe.
Trump will meet Vladimir Putin and the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires at the end of November, but it is not clear that the issue will be raised. Bolton told Putin when they met in Moscow in October that Trump had made up his mind to dump the treaty, which has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for more than three decades.
The US has been accusing Russia of violating the treaty for more than four years, through the development and deployment of a new ground-launched medium-range missile. Nevertheless, Trump’s declaration of intent on October 20 to pull the US out of the treaty marked a sharp break in US policy, which until then had been to ratchet up pressure on Russia, in part by the US announcing plans to develop its own counterpart missile, to use as a bargaining chip.
Russia has denied its new weapon violates the INF restrictions banning nuclear missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500km. It also accuses the US of breaking the treaty on the grounds that launchers for interceptors in the Aegis ground-based missile defense system in Romania and soon to be deployed in Poland, could be used for an offensive cruise missile.

 

Washington to Exit Nuclear Missile Treaty in 2019

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 was signed into by President Trump on August 13, 2018. The NDAA includes one-year moratorium on implementation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) between Moscow and Washington. The official version of this step is “to return Russia to verifiable compliance with the Treaty.” We cannot say this decision was a bombshell.

In March 2018 it became clear that for the first time since the end of the Cold War the Pentagon was mulling either a new submarine- or surface ship-based nuclear cruise missiles and low-yield nuclear ballistic missiles. The decision was taken to deter Russia and chill its ambitions in alleged deployment of ground-launched cruise missiles that violates an arms-control treaty between Russia and USA. And even then, there were voices in the Capitol who spoke for agreement’s exit, as the United States needed more medium-range and short-range ballistic missiles in order to respond decently to Moscow’s challenges.

One should note that these mysterious Russian missiles were firstly mentioned in the New York Times article, dated back to Feb. 14, 2017. The media outlet referred to a source in the White House who also had its own source in the CIA. Nevertheless, the article did not give any information about number or type of the missiles; only the dislocation of two battalions “of the prohibited cruise missiles.” According to the New York Times, one was located at Russia’s missile test site at Kapustin Yar in southern Russia near Volgograd, and the other was located at operational base somewhere in central Russia. A short time later there were versions that those were the Club-M Multi-Purpose Mobile Coastal Missile Systems; otherwise Russia had no other systems with similar characteristics. Sounds grotesque, doesn’t it? And it sounds even more grotesque when you need to pull out of a treaty which postpones doomsday of the mankind.

However, it seems that the Pentagon’s generals, who need more funds in Fiscal Year 19, considered the same way. To receive additional funds American military once again decided to develop medium-range and short-range ballistic cruise missiles, prohibited by the Treaty, and the “Russian missile threat” which remains glaring topic of western media, already talked everybody under the table.

A four-star Navy admiral Philip Davidson said: I believe the INF treaty today unfairly puts the United States at a disadvantage and places our forces at risk because China is not a signatory.

Trump’s decision looks logic taking into account such statements.

So, here are two main reasons why Washington may exit the nuclear treaty and start developing its nuclear potential in 2019:

  1. China has expressed no interest in joining the INF Treaty, and this is an unacceptable option for the United States.
  2. Russia was first to violate the agreement.

If the first reason, with some assumptions, appears justified, then within the context of continued Washington’s Treaty violations, accusations against Moscow look questionable.

First, it goes about the use of a whole range of medium-range and short-range ballistic missiles as targets. For example, Hera target missile with its operational range of 680 miles is widely used during anti-missile system testing. Thus, American industry preserves its scientific and technical potential in the area of prohibited arms, as well as its army gain experience of its operation. All this may be useful in 2019 when the Pentagon will have new prototypes of intermediate-range and short-range ballistic missiles along with experienced personnel.

Secondly, the deployment of the Mark 41 Vertical Launching System (Mk 41 VLS) in Poland is a direct violation of the INF Treaty. It takes a few hours to replace SM-3 with the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) and reprogram launch control system. The ability to deploy sea-launched cruise missiles on a ground-based platform is what the CIA blames Russia for. However, Washington did the same in 2008 after it reached the Ballistic Missile Defense agreement with Warsaw. This happened 4 years before the Russian 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles were accepted for service.

 

Battle for Arctic Region

As climate change pushes the cold and ice a little farther north each year, it is spurring talk of a gold rush for the Arctic’s abundant natural resources, prized shipping routes and business opportunities in tourism and fishing. The Arctic, including the fabled Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific, is among the last regions on earth to remain largely unexplored.

 

Yet industry experts, researchers and veterans of the Far North say there remain many obstacles to reaping the riches once blocked by the ice. Conservationists also oppose the large-scale extraction of Arctic resources, fearing that the fragile environment will be irreparably harmed.

 

The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that up to 30 per cent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 per cent of oil waiting to be found are inside the Arctic Circle. Even if only a fraction of these fossil fuels are tapped they could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

 

Coal, diamonds, uranium, phosphate, nickel, platinum and other precious minerals also slumber beneath the icy surface of the Arctic. And the growing need for sophisticated batteries to power electric cars and handheld devices likely will drive demand for rare earth elements, lithium and cobalt found in significant amounts in the Arctic regions of Russia, the Nordic countries and Greenland.

 

It’s a far cry from the Cold War, when the only ships crisscrossing the frigid straits were nuclear submarines patrolling the frontier between East and West. The new battle for the Arctic and its resources is being fought by geologists and legions of lawyers.

 

 

North Korea’s Nuclear Program Distracts Us From Kim Jong Un’s Bigger Threats

As pressure mounts between the U.S. and North Korea, there’s good reason to worry. U.S. intelligence agencies have underestimated Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, and President Donald Trump and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un have relentlessly traded insults in recent months, increasing tension between the two countries.

But the regime isn’t suicidal; Kim’s missile tests and big rhetoric are the equivalent of a magician distracting onlookers. We should worry instead about much more subtle North Korean threats.

First, North Korea is an increasing cybersecurity threat. Reports suggest that North Korea was behind the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack that essentially shut down Britain’s national health care system for a brief period. North Korea has also successfully hacked South Korea’s military, and stolen war plans for targeting Kim’s regime in case of war. In the U.S., North Korea was accused in 2014 of hacking the Sony Corporation, but it has also targeted the New York Federal Reserve.

Recently, the Department of Homeland Security, along with the FBI, issued a public warning of ongoing cyberattacks directed at critical infrastructure in the U.S. While North Korea is not currently implicated in the infrastructure attacks, this is certainly a future possibility. U.S. intelligence told a Senate committee last year that Pyongyang “remains capable of launching disruptive or destructive cyber attacks to support its political objectives.” And South Korea has claimed that North Korea has “developed a 6,800 strong unit of trained cyberwarfare experts.” In fact, in 2016, North Korean hackers accessed classified joint U.S.-South Korea military plan.

Second, the assassination of Kim’s half-brother with VX nerve agent in Malaysia should remind us that North Korea has had an active chemical weapons development program since the 1950s. North Korea is one of only six countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, and South Korea has consistently reported that North Korea has a large chemical weapons stockpile. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, a U.S. nonprofit, has also claimed that North Korea “is thought to be the among the world’s largest possessor of chemical weapons, ranking third after the United State and Russia.”

Finally, North Korea also has an active biological weapons program, of which anthrax, forms of the plague and possibly even hemorrhagic fevers are a part. According to the Harvard University Belfer Center, North Korea has worked with 13 different types of pathogens.

The anonymity of these actions, too, is worrying. Cyber-threats and chemical and biological weapons development all provide the possibility of plausible deniability of any attack. With nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, everyone knows when one is tested or fired. But cyber-, chemical or biological attacks can be subtle and sneaky, and can cause death and destruction without a clear suspect to blame.

A cyberattack that took out all or part of the electrical grid of another country could cause widespread chaos and destruction. A chemical weapons attack, while nowhere near as damaging as a nuclear or large-scale cyberattack, could be deployed with some level of anonymity in almost any location with minimal resources. What if, instead of using VX in an assassination, they had released it into the airport? What if, instead of using a chemical weapon to kill Kim’s step-brother, the attackers had infected him with a form of the plague and let him board a plane? Who would be able to identify the source of the infection, the “patient zero”?

The international community is partially to blame for the potential threat of North Korea’s more subtle but no less damaging threats. A lack of international political will to deal with these types of threats abounds. The United Nations Security Council, for example, has repeatedly failed to approve sanctions against the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons, and, in November, the Security Council also allowed the joint U.N.-Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons investigative effort in Syria to expire.

North Korea poses a threat, not because it has nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, but because the world is dazzled and distracted by North Korea’s nuclear magic tricks. With every nuclear test, every missile launch, every statement of fiery rhetoric, North Korea is showing that one hand is full of apocalyptic dangers. Our concern should not be what the North Korean magician is willing to show us, but why he is willing to show to us.

We should remember to pay attention to what is up his other sleeve.

Russia fully restores its presence in the Arctic

Russia has fully restored its presence in the strategic areas of the Arctic Ocean by creating a special force in the Arctic, the chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, said on Tuesday.

“Creation of the Arctic group has allowed for restoring Russia’s presence in strategically important areas of the Arctic Ocean and guaranteeing the safety of economic activity in the region,” Gerasimov said at the Defense Ministry’s board meeting on Tuesday.

He recalled that in 2014 Russia created a united strategic command of the Northern fleet, an air force and air defense army within the Fleet’s structure and a special Arctic mechanized infantry brigade for performing combat missions in rigorous climatic conditions.

“Over the past five years the Northern Fleet obtained twenty three ships, including the strategic submarine The Yuri Dolgoruky and the multirole nuclear-powered submarine The Severodvinsk. The guided missile cruiser The Marshal Ustinov has been upgraded and the nuclear-powered missile guided cruiser The Admiral Nakhimov is being upgraded at the moment”, the general noted.

The coastal defense forces received three battalions of the missile systems Bal and Bastion.

In the Arctic region, Gerasimov recalled, military airdromes are being built and upgraded on Franz Josef Land, the Novosibirsk islands, Cape Schmidt and near the city of Anadyr.

Venezuela Crisis: Washington is to Use Colombian Militants to Topple Maduro

Political turmoil and large-scale wave of protests hit Venezuela this year as the result of the discontent with state leaders’ policy, deficiency of essentials and a mass population impoverishment against the background of drop in oil prices – a crucial resource for this mineral-rich Latin American country. The opposition tries to seize power in Venezuela with broad political support of the USA. The term of the current head of state Nicolás Maduro ends in 2018, but protests organizers, as well as their American curators, do not want to wait, they demand to hold the elections immediately.

The White House makes all efforts to drive the “Bolivarian” regime from power in Venezuela. Latin America is a traditional sphere of influence of the USA since the end of the 19th century, and Washington extremely painfully reacts to loss of positions in its “backyard”. Taking into account the Venezuela situation, the main stake for Washington are oil fields since the American business lost access to them as a result of reforms of the president Hugo Chávez.

It should be noted that the Venezuelan question is under special control of the Secretary of State Tillerson, one of the most influential figures of an oil lobby. During the management of ExxonMobil “Texas T-Rex” proved to be the real predator able to take any measures for achievement of goals. For example, the similar situation has happened in 2011 when the company has begun oil development in the Iraqi Kurdistan counter with opinion of the Barack Obama Administration.

Such Rex Tillerson’s animal grasp should be expected also in a situation with Venezuela. The Secretary of State commenting the hearings in the House of Representatives on the difficult situation which had developed in recent months in Venezuela declared that “the USA has to continue pressure upon Caracas, and also give support of local opposition in this connection the White House needs to take steps through various organizations”.

The recent tour of the vice-president Mike Pens across Latin America also indicates the high priority Washington gives to “the Venezuelan question”. The trip resulted in the coalition of Latin American countries created for political support of Washington efforts to topple President Maduro. Colombia, Argentina, Panama and Chile act as the US allies.

In turn, CIA director Mike Pompeo affirmed (link) the dialogue the agency leads with Colombian and Mexican authorities within the work against the Venezuelan government. The chief of CIA obviously dissembles, claiming that contacts with the Latin American partners are limited only to political consultations. Groups of the Colombian fighters are thrown in the country to carry out provocations against police officers during protests and organize murders of oppositionists in order to create an occasion to accuse Maduro’s government of use of lethal weapon against own people.

Interior Minister Nestor Riverol announced the arrest of several Columbians in Tachira state bordering on Colombia. They were dressed as Bolivarian national guards of Venezuela and took part at street clashes between the protesters and police (link). Moreover, the governor of Tachira state José Gregorio Vielma Mora reported about elimination of the Colombian fighters’ camp and added that the number of detainees reached 120 people (link).

 Washington has always comprehensively supported oppositional groups in the countries of Latin America with “inconvenient” regimes without hesitating in the choice of methods. Mercenaries recruited among political refugees and citizens of neighboring countries have always been one of the most widespread tools of the CIA arsenal if the Hawks wanted to change the government in such a country. As we can observe today, the style of CIA is invariable.

The situation in Venezuela is aggravated to a limit. The American oil business strongly intends to return the positions lost during the presidency of Chávez and Maduro. The USA will do everything to change power in Caracas and disrupt the upcoming presidential elections in Venezuela in 2018. Participation of fighters from Colombia against Maduro serves as the evidence of the White House intention to plunge this Latin American country into chaos of political turbulence and civil war.

European Prudence Would Lessen U.S.-Russia Nuclear Tension

Recent years have witnessed the destructive and provocative activity of the United States in the field of missile defense limited by the Cold War-era agreements. The deployment of U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System in Eastern Europe has increased tension between Washington and Moscow. This step of the White House pushes the Kremlin to taking the measures which impact the European security dramatically. The USA and Russia are like two boxers in the ring and there is no ability to break a clinch. Even worse that Europe is between these fighters and takes all punches both from the left and from the right.

The American vision of the conflict

According to the Pentagon officials, the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System was designed to protect Poland and other members of the Alliance from any type of (ballistic) missiles deployed outside the Euro-Atlantic region, such as the Iranian ones. However, despite the Iranian deal in 2015, the U.S. missile defense program wasn’t cut or shut down. On the contrary, Washington continued developing and increasing its capabilities in this sphere. Besides, the number of military exercises and missile trainings in Europe has also risen up sharply. It can be assumed that such military exercises are rather aimed at deterrence of Russia than any other potential country. But there have been increasingly frequent statements among the U.S. officials that the Ballistic Missile Defense System in Europe doesn’t pose any threat to Russia. However, it doesn’t take an expert to realize such statements are completely divorced from the reality. Every effort of Washington to build up its nuclear capabilities on the European mainland is based not on the policy of nuclear deterrence or protection, but on strengthening its positions in the world to conduct the dialogue with Russia from a position of strength. Such measures extremely undermine world stability and welfare.

The Russian vision of the conflict

In return, Russia strongly stands for its interests on the world stage. The ongoing military exercises and deployments of missile defense systems along its borders left no doubt for the Russians that NATO’s actions led by the U.S. are directed against their country. The experience of WWI and WWII has clearly demonstrated the unpredictability, self-abnegation and in some ways insanity of the Russians. There’s no doubt that the Kremlin would take extreme measures and apply a whole nuclear arsenal, even if the “Motherland” suffered from this. There is a well-known saying in Russia “Russians don’t surrender”. Conducting the dialogue with such opponents from a position of strength is useless and even dangerous. It looks like the White House doesn’t understand this fact.

The European solution of the conflict

Still, the prudence of the European community, perhaps, plays the key role in dealing with the situation. In a failed attempt to preserve the title of a dominant state, America uses all its media resources for conducting a knowingly false propaganda in order to convince the international community and the Russians themselves that the NATO infrastructure including U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System next to Russia’s borders is not an issue at all. Russia in its turn just responds to all incoming threats appropriately, thereby defending its position and keeping its territorial integrity safe, and it will not change its decision. Ultimately, slowly but surely things are going to the unleashing the WWIII – the final war waged with weapons of mass destruction. If Eastern European leaders have to recognize the mythic nature of such a phenomenon as “the Russian aggression” and demand Washington to remove the missiles defense systems from its territory, then the humanity has still got a chance to survive.

Goran Lompar is a free journalist and postgraduate at University of Donja Gorica, Montenegro.

Washington Threatens Global Security by Violating INF Treaty

Washington violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by deploying the Mark 41 Vertical Launching Systems in Poland in Romania.

 The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is the abbreviated name of the Treaty between the USA and the USSR on the elimination of their intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles signed in 1987 also known as the INF Treaty. The INF Treaty implies the elimination of all nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (310–620 mi) (short-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (620–3,420 mi) (intermediate-range). The treaty did not cover sea-launched missiles.

The Mark 41 Vertical Launching System (Mk 41 VLS) is a shipborne missile canister launching system which provides a rapid-fire launch capability. The very fact that the US uses a shipborne missile launcher on the surface automatically violates the INF Treaty and may trigger unpredictable consequences for the world stability.

The Mk 41 is capable of firing short-range and intermediate-range missiles. However, it can also carry long-range missiles such as Tomahawk which operational range is up to 2500 km (1553 mi).

 

15 years since ABM treaty cancellation

 

On December 13, 2002, President George W. Bush announced that the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in six months. Although the United States and the Soviet Union agreed in 1972 that the treaty should be of “unlimited duration,” the treaty included a provision for either party to withdraw if “extraordinary events” jeopardized their “supreme interests” and required six months’ notice of an intent to withdraw, including a statement of the “extraordinary events.” The day of Bush’s announcement, the United States sent the required notice to Russia, as well as to Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

Why did George Bush want to scrap it? He wanted to build a national missile defense system, claiming that the greatest nuclear threat to the US is not posed by Russia but missile attacks launched by “rogue states” or terrorist groups.

But in fact this just caused total loss of arms control system which lead to Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs. This gives an excellent example to other states including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and some others to possibly develop their nuclear powers in case of need. Nowadays nothing is controlled when we talk about arms.

Some experts consider this action to be a part of arms producing companies promotion. This way USA give them a vast field of activity including development, production and selling of new arms to the state in order to support dozens of military base creation projects. Again we can see close ties between the governing power and the management of gun producing companies. War machine is fed by Bush’s decision to create “new missile protecting shield” across the World.