Monday, March 06, 2017

Shall We Propose a New INF Treaty?

Stratfor notes that the 1987 INF treaty restricts the development and deployment of shorter range "theater" nukes that Russia really needs to deter a strengthening China that has theater missiles that can strike Russia.

Do read it all.

The issue is the SSC-8 cruise missile that Russia has based it in Kapustin Yar and one other unnamed location inside Russia.The range is unclear, so I don't know if the missiles there would pose a threat to the Chinese or Western Europe. And that's a test facility, so the unit may not remain there. Obviously I have no clue about the other site.

Under the INF treaty, Western Europe benefits from a lack of such Russian missiles aimed at them; and Russia benefits from a lack of such missiles based in Europe aimed at Russia.

On balance, I figured we should want to keep INF--if we can convince Russia to observe it.

One thing Stratfor raises that I hadn't considered was that a stronger China threatens American forces in the Pacific with these theater missiles (which I knew) that because of the treaty we can't build up in response (it hadn't occurred to me that we might want to respond in kind).

Perhaps America and Russia could revise the INF treaty to allow development of these missiles with a longer range than currently allowed to be useful for theater use (which Russia really needs to deter China) but not for intercontinental use; and focus the revised treaty to a limit on deploying such missiles only in Europe.

Sure, Russia and America could aim such theater weapons at each other given the nearness of Russia's Far East to America's Alaska, but the primary result would be to allow Russia and America to aim them at China.

Yet the lack of American bases in the western Pacific that makes them vulnerable to Chinese theater missiles also restricts where we can deploy our own theater missiles, no? Doesn't responding in kind to China by basing missiles on our few bases just increase China's need to hit them harder and early in a war?

On the whole, I think I'd rather keep the INF in some form. But if Russia insists it needs to escape the limits because of China, we have room to revise it, I think.

This would be an American-Russian agreement that I could live with. Even Democrats looking for Russkies under White House beds could get behind a nuclear weapons limit, no? Or have they gone full Doctor Strangelove on us?

And such a treaty would also be a nice point of friction between Russia and China. So bonus.