By Aleksandr Zapolskis
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard

cross posted with

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The supreme legislative body of America coordinated and approved the text of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2018 financial year (in the US it doesn’t coincide with the calendar year). At first sight it is an absolutely routine affair. In any country that has an army, the budget for expenses on it passes through the procedure of official coordination and approval. However, its contents becoming public unconditionally demonstrates that all of American’s current rhetoric about the growth of Russia’s military aggression in reality only serves as a way of masking the US’ own steps, which were thought up and planned more than 15 years ago.

I.e., when Russia was still in a deep knockout after the collapse of the USSR and tried in every way to be incorporated into the western system of the world, even at the price of downgrading its status to the level of a very junior partner, and when international security was reliably ensured by a system of treaties, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. But Washington decided to reject them already back then.

However, let’s return to NDAA-2018. American common and political psychology is based on messianism and the certainty of its belonging to the “side of Good and Light”, which demands public proof of its own correctness that is often provided by directly defaming the opponent. In this case, according to article 1244, Trump is obliged to present convincing proof to Congress that Russia doesn’t violate (!) the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty no later than January 15, 2019. Exactly like this – proving a negative. Presumption of innocence? What nonsense do you speak of?

If the president doesn’t convince senatorial commissions (at least the budgetary and national security ones), the guilt of Russia will be considered as unambiguously proven, thereby giving America the legitimate right – of course, only as a compelled countermeasure – to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and to start developing their own short-range and intermediate-range missiles.

Information about the Russian cruise missile 9M729 project, designated by NATO as SSC-8, provided by the American intelligence community forms the basis of this accusation. According to intelligence agencies it has a range of up to 2,500 kilometers, therefore Russia has unambiguously violated the conditions of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

However, difficulties with objective proof traditionally appeared. Besides three extremely muddy and doubtful even by American legal standards pictures of “something being launched from the ground”, the accusation isn’t backed up by other facts.

The irony of events is that 9M729, designated in a number of sources as “Novator”, indeed existed. Only not as an independent project, but as a research element of a project aimed at improving the 9M728 missiles of the “Iskander M” system, which possesses a range of 50 to 500 kilometers and completely conforms with the treaty’s conditions. However, American hawks believe that in reality the operative-tactical systems of the Russians can shoot five times further “if the missile is fully fuelled”. Well, or let Moscow present full detailed technical documentation for “Iskander M” and for the entire range of its armaments…

Although it shouldn’t be excluded that American satellites photographed certain stages of the flight or launch testing of the 3M54 “Kalibr” sea-based cruise missile project, which also completely conforms to the requirements of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The vice-chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Army (an analog of Russia’s General Staff) and four-star General Paul Selva admits this fact, but not loudly or insistently.

In a word, all these accusations (and legislators also demand from Trump to prove that all these latest Russian “Sarmats”, “Poseidons”, and “Avangards” don’t violate another treaty – START-3) look like outright defamation. This is because the true reason lies in something else. The military-political leadership of the US in the first half of the 2000’s became aware of the tendency of America’s nuclear triad to become obsolete.

And this indeed became a problem. And a complex one too. If Trump doesn’t manage to “justify the Russians“, NDAA-2018 provides the acceleration of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and Long Range Stand Off Weapon (LRSO) programs and also the assignment of money for the development of new low-capacity warheads for the land “Minuteman-3” ballistic missile, which, by the way, forms the basis of the land components of the US strategic nuclear forces, and which Congress directly forbids Trump from somehow reducing.

Purely for reference: the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent program (GBSD) provides the development of new silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, which will replace the Peacekeeper until 2070−2075. What’s interesting here is the following: firstly, the US Air Force started to consider the requests of “Northrop”, “Boeing”, and “Lockheed” already in the summer of 2016 and started to formulate the technical requirements of the competition since August, 2015 – approximately one year after RAND analysts published a large piece of research proving the unacceptability for the US of decreasing the quantity of silo-based missiles below 300 units. That’s why in the GBSD it was planned to develop 400 units for $62 billion (for the period from 2015 to 2044), $14 billion of which was earmarked for research and development, and $48.5 billion – for purchasing the missiles themselves. Although it is very unlikely that they will be able to stay within the budget.

Unlike GBSD, the LRSO program officially is apparently “America’s answer to the Russian ‘Kalibr'”, because it concerns the creation of an intermediate-range cruise missile (up to 5,000 km). It’s just that the US Department of Defence announced in December, 2012 the competition in which these missiles are being developed by “Lockheed Martin” and “Raytheon”, who received the next tranche of $900 million each for the next 54 months, and started to prepare for it in general since January, 2011.

And all of this is happening because since the beginning of the first years of this century the Pentagon has faced three insuperable problems. Its allegedly insuperable power in reality was created in the 1970’s and has considerably faded over three decades – against the background of the “main enemy’s” successes in the development of its air defense/missile defense possibilities. Besides this, the termination of the production of the components base has strongly increased the service cost. Well, and the most important thing: the US doesn’t produce weapons-grade plutonium any more, and there is reason to believe that by the present moment they have already critically lost the technology itself. But the laws of physics are relentless. The half-life period limits the warranty period of service of nuclear warheads to 20-25 years. Then it is required to re-equip warheads, which in the conditions of a “raw materials” shortage results in, conditionally, two new ones from three old ones.

The package of US strategic nuclear forces modernisation programs and the declared purpose of reducing the capacity of warheads are explained by precisely this circumstance. Having found themselves in front of the inevitability to either reduce the quantity of warheads or to decrease their capacity, Generals chose the latter option in the hope of compensating for the force of the explosion by a growth in the guarantee of arriving at the target and the accuracy of any hit.

In turn, politicians at the turn of the century strongly wanted to somehow reduce the price of the entire triad by transitioning the technical part to the modern component-software base, including with the wide use of cheap commercial civil solutions. This is because to this day this same “Minuteman” loads combat tasks from 5-inch disks, due to the rarity of the more expensive terabyte hard drives.

But the system of international agreements that developed throughout the second half of the 20th century was on the way to its desired aim. It is impossible to include a new overland cruise missile because its development is forbidden by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but they need it very much because the entire geopolitical strategy of the existence of the American state is crucially based on the guaranteed opportunity to defeat any pig-headed enemy in a military way, including by means of the strategic nuclear forces. Whereas improving air defense/missile defense systems reduced the probability of success to a critical level. The recent American cruise missile raid on Syria clearly confirmed the validity of these fears. And after all, the Russian missile defense systems practically weren’t used in any way…

As is known, when a gentlemen plays by the rules and stops winning, they immediately prefer to break them. This is exactly what the US does now, hypocritically trying to discover a convenient reason for self-justification. Who else in the Western world can be guilty of aggression if it’s not Russia?!

“And on the way to peace lies Russia”

However, if to speak seriously, this question in reality isn’t so straightforward and unambiguous. No matter how one treats nuclear weapons as such, it is impossible to not recognise that its existence is the only thing that stops the planet from falling into World War III at least since 2014, and even since the events of August 2008. I stress – at least, because the chances of NATO strategists “solving the Russian issue” has been repeatedly estimated since 2003-2004, when it became clear that the “Chechen war” won’t lead to the state disintegration of the Russian Federation. Only Russian strategic nuclear weapons that are capable of turning the whole world, together with the US, into one big nuclear dump with a guarantee prevented these plans from being realised.

However, the observance of the developed system of contractual restrictions has now reached a critical point that technically obliges the US to reduce the size of all their nuclear potential. Including the strategic nuclear potential, being a fundamental element of national security. They can’t opt for this also because of geopolitical and economic reasons. Only the existence of the strategic nuclear forces allows America to use its army to push forward its geopolitical interests in other countries without risking retaliation on the territory of the US. And without the American army abroad, the entire financial pyramid of dollar domination crumbles, causing the country whose level of debt is 120% of GDP to instantly become as bankrupt as Greece.

So Trump still hasn’t spoken in front of Congress with proof, but the result of the procedure is already rather precisely predictable. Russia will be unambiguously found guilty, and the US will be acquitted as the side on the defence. Moreover, it will be successful since it will be possible to immediately show the people “a result that is almost ready”, which appeared literally from thin air “thanks to the undoubted scientific-technical superiority of America”.

Whether or not the world will become safer, it is difficult to say. Formally, the overall balance of nuclear forces will remain, thereby providing the effectiveness of the nuclear deterrence in general. But it is necessary to recognise that the rejection of public agreements is fraught with the unpredictable development of research and development capable of leading towards scientific developments that will indeed destroy the balance of forces. And then their possessor can have an insurmountable temptation. A big nuclear war is, of course, very horrifying, but when the alternative is the “great depression 2.0” capable in general of destroying the US as a State, the criteria for evaluating the acceptability of the degree of damage strongly changes.

But the most important thing: it will for sure launch a new arms race. Moreover, in its most expensive and budget consuming nuclear segment. Including for our budget too, because we will be obliged to respond to their successes with our own. In short, for the umpteenth time “our foreign partners” force Russia to act according to old wisdom: Si vis pacem, para bellum. But it is us [Russia – ed] who is the aggressor, of course…


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