US media reported that Congress is preparing several bills, the provisions of which would require the Pentagon to violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and Russia.
According to Politico, the Senate will soon debate a provision in its version of the defense policy bill, which would set aside $65 million and also require the military to reintroduce a missile with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The bill in the House of Representatives will point out that while the new missiles would be conventional, they, along with nuclear missiles, would still be considered banned under the nuclear disarmament agreement.
“Encouraged by the signing of the new anti-Russian sanctions, American lawmakers are going straight ahead. It was earlier reported that the State Department and the Pentagon are planning to supply Kiev with lethal arms. But the new initiative [concerning the INF Treaty] is going to have record-breaking negative consequences,” political commentator and analyst Ilya Kharlamov wrote in an op-ed for RIA Novosti.
The INF Treaty is an unlimited duration agreement signed between the US and the Soviet Union. It was signed by US President Ronald Raegan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987 and came into effect on June 1, 1988.
The treaty prohibits the production, tests and deployment of ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles, with ranges of 500-1,000 km (short-range) and 1,000-5,000 (medium-range). It also eliminated all launchers and ground-based missiles with a range of 500-5,500 km. By summer 1991, the USSR eliminated 1,846 missiles systems while the US – 846 systems. The treaty was implemented in 1991 with inspections carrying on until 2001.
According to Kharlamov, the agreement marked the first real disarmament step by the two powers and contributed a lot to global stability and security. But now the US establishment wants to jeopardize this milestone achievement for the sake of immediate political gains and in the interests of the American defense industry.
“If this is aimed at making America great again then it looks menacing for the whole world, especially for Washington’s allies in Europe. The White House has not endorsed the initiative so far. But Congress will push Trump to take new measures to ‘deter’ Russia. If he refuses to do so this may be interpreted as evidence of Trump’s alleged ties to the Russian government,” Kharlamov suggested.
Meanwhile, commenting on the report, the Kremlin said that Russia remains committed to the INF Treaty and expects the same from its partner.
“Russia remains committed to its obligations under this treaty, despite some claims which were voiced before. Of course, we expect that our partners under this agreement will adhere to their international obligations in this context,” Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalist, adding that the president of the two countries did not discuss the issue.
The US announced an initiative on revising the INF Treaty for the first time in February in order to stop alleged Russian violations of the agreement. The Intermediate-Range Forces Treaty Preservation Act was proposed by Republican Senators Tom Cotton, Ron Johnson and Marco Rubio and supported by Republican members of the House of Representatives, Ted Poe and Mike Rogers, who introduced the bill to the lower chamber.
In turn, Russia has repeatedly said that Moscow remains committed to the deal and that Moscow has never violated the agreement.
Moreover, in February, Trump expressed doubt that the key strategic deals between the US and Russia, including the INF Treaty and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), are profitable for Washington.
In an interview with Reuters, Trump said, “I am the first one that would like to see everybody – nobody have nukes, but we’re going to fall behind any country even if it’s friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.”
According to Politico, advocates of the new bill believe that the move would be a response to Russia’s alleged violations of the bilateral accord. At the same time, opponents say that it could increase the chance of a nuclear confrontation at a time when relations between Washington and Moscow are at their lowest level since the end of the Cold War.
Plekhanov suggested that despite the opposition to the initiative in Washington the majority of US lawmakers advocate for a more hardline approach on Russia.
In addition, the US eyes developing a next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which costs an estimated $85 billion.
“Of course, this would be a honeypot for American defense companies. The current geopolitical situation also favors this idea. The defense industry would have lucrative contracts while Washington policymakers would have the chance to drag Russia into a new arms race,” Kharlamov concluded.