Alwaght- Russian President Vladimir Putin in his latest reaction to his American counterpart’s comment of US withdrawal from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) said Moscow is ready to take strong retaliatory measures. He, however, said Russia is ready for dialogue with the US.
The INF treaty was signed in 1987 between the then US President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev. The agreement eliminated nuclear and conventional missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 and fully came into force in 1991. In compliance with INF, the Soviets destroyed 1752 and the Americans 859 of their missiles. The agreement remained in place even after the Soviet Union collapse, with Moscow insisting on adherence to it. But President Donald Trump intention to quit it is raising a level of tensions and challenges.
Trump’s controversial decision is paving the way for a huge crisis on the world stage, with many saying it is reminiscent of the period of the arms race between the US and the Soviet Union at the Cold War time. Trump’s remarks injected into the world arena a wave of tensions and concerns. The escalation is between Washington and Moscow, but Europe is automatically concerned as it sees its security on the line in case of escalation between the two powers.
Putin issues final ultimatum, while ready for talks
Trump’s violations have caused serious concerns to the Russian government and the Ministry of Defense. In the first move, Putin met with his senior defense officials and discussed the possible US withdrawal. He said Moscow was ready to talk to Washington to keep the accord alive. He, however, at the same time warned that the move will not be left “unanswered.”
“Russia is still ready to continue dialogue with the US on the bilateral treaty banning medium-range missiles, which has become one of the cornerstones of nuclear disarmament,” the Russian leader said at a government meeting in Sochi. “Still, the US should treat this issue with full responsibility,” the president said, adding that Washington’s decision to withdraw from the agreement “cannot and will not be left unanswered.”
He added that the situation is far from calm on the global stage. “In such situation, arms race should be prevented. At the same time, we need to make sure there is a balanced military capability development. His words are read as an ultimatum to the US and its European allies.
INF withdrawal, US measure to curb China
Assessing the US intention to leave INF treaty, many focus on the confrontation between Moscow and Washington, but do not take into consideration the American plan to curb the burgeoning military power of China. The INF is signed by Washington and Moscow while China is not a party to it. As a result, Beijing has managed to create a huge arsenal of various-range missiles with the capability to easily challenge Washington presence in the vicinity of China.
Washington’s plan is to deploy mid-range missile systems in the Pacific to check Chinese thriving military advancement. In fact, the INF scraping more than threatening Russia enables the US to pick a conventional arms race this time with China which is banned under this accord. The American experts maintain that once intermediate-range ballistic missiles are dispatched to the Pacific Ocean, Washington can put the brakes on the Chinese ambitions.
New Cuban Missile Crisis?
In addition to China and the European powers’ links to the potential arms race, a new missile crisis, the think tanks and research centers believe, will also involve the Caribbean and South America which is seen as the US backyard.
The research centers say Russia may decide to respond to the US by increasing its foreign military bases. In early November, the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel traveled to Moscow and talked to his Russian counterpart. Speculations followed that Putin seeks to reopen Lourdes Signals Intelligence Station near the capital Havana and set up new military bases on the Cuban soil.
Russia, however, dismissed such claims by the West. Sputnik news agency reported that Alexander Schetinin, the head of Russian Foreign Ministry’s Latin American desk, called the Western claims of Moscow intentions to reopen Cuba bases “unscientific fiction.”
As deployment of the intermediate-range nuclear missiles, including R-12 and R-14, by the Soviets in Cuba triggered what is known as Cuba Missile Crisis, now it is highly likely that a new missile crisis erupt. Despite Moscow officials’ denial of such plans, Russia may decide to establish a new military base in Cuba if a new race is started.
INF withdrawal and Europe security twist
Leaving the Cold War-era treaty will have consequences to the European countries. After Trump publicized his pullout plan, Europe reacted by strongly blasting the intention. The Europeans believe that any renewed American-Russian arms race will be detrimental to them.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned that Washington’s plans to withdraw from the decades-old nuclear arms agreement will have “serious consequences” for Europe.
“It seems to us that not everybody in Europe understands that this decision will have serious consequences for Europe either, and to put it more accurately, for Europe in the first place," Shoigu said.
Following the warning, EU leaders more seriously mull the idea of European army. French President Immanuel Macron in a radio program in early November stressed the need for EU to have its ”real European army” to protect the Continent from, according to him, Russia, China, and even the US policy risks.
The idea unleashed a level of tensions between the EU and the US and even Britain. Washington argues that EU is ungrateful for several-decade protection by Washington. Britain supports this argument. The British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson maintained on Tuesday building an army to rival NATO is an “absolutely crazy idea.” He also criticized Paris and Berlin for failing to meet a demand by the US to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.
France allocates 1.8 percent and Germany 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product to its defense budget. London allocates 2 percent. Trump has been pressing EU powers to spend more on NATO.
All in all, the US INF withdrawal will endanger the global peace and stability. This will trigger world responses to Trump’s warlike policies.