01 August 2019

U.S. Ends Cold War Missile Treaty, With Aim of Countering China

My further thoughts, including some not quoted in this article: 

Russia wouldn’t fully honor INF. China wouldn’t join INF. Unilateral constraint was a losing proposition: China developed the world’s foremost force of missiles precisely within the ranges that INF would prohibit. So this increasingly antiquated treaty had no future.
One post-INF option for the U.S. is to reach agreements with allies and partners to allow the rapid introduction of missiles in various contingencies to support their defense. Even if peacetime politics precluded permanent deployment, more concerning scenarios could tip the balance in favor of local support.


David E. Sanger and Edward Wong, “U.S. Ends Cold War Missile Treaty, With Aim of Countering China,” New York Times, 1 August 2019.

Trump administration officials say that the treaty tied their hands on China and that Russia was not complying with it, but its demise raised fears of a new arms race.

WASHINGTON — The United States on Friday terminates a major treaty of the Cold War, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement, and it is already planning to start testing a new class of missiles later this summer.

But the new missiles are unlikely to be deployed to counter the treaty’s other nuclear power, Russia, which the United States has said for years was in violation of the accord. Instead, the first deployments are likely to be intended to counter China, which has amassed an imposing missile arsenal and is now seen as a much more formidable long-term strategic rival than Russia. …

President Barack Obama considered terminating the treaty when Moscow was first accused of violating its terms. …

In fact, the administration has argued that China is one reason Mr. Trump decided to exit the I.N.F. treaty. Most experts now assess that China has the most advanced conventional missile arsenal in the world, based throughout the mainland. When the treaty went into effect in 1987, China’s missile fleet was judged so rudimentary that it was not even a consideration.

Today hundreds of missiles in southeast China are within range of Taiwan…. Missiles at other sites can hit Japan and India, and there are Chinese missiles that can strike the United States territory of Guam and other potential targets in what American strategists call the second-island chain.

“Unilateral constraint was a losing proposition: China developed the world’s foremost force of missiles precisely within the ranges that I.N.F. would prohibit,” said Andrew Erickson, a professor of strategy at the United States Naval War College. “So this increasingly antiquated treaty had no future.”

Until now, the Trump administration has held off on testing new missiles that would violate the treaty; under its terms, even testing is prohibited. But that stricture lifts on Friday, and the first test of new American intermediate-range missiles is likely to begin within weeks, according to American officials familiar with the Pentagon’s plans.

The first, perhaps as early as this month, is expected to be a test of a version of a common, sea-launched cruise missile, the Tomahawk. It would be modified to be fired from the ground. (The treaty prohibited intermediate-range ground-launched missiles, but not missiles launched from ships or airplanes.) If successful, officials say, the first ground-launched cruise missiles could be deployed within 18 months or so — if the United States can find a country willing to house them.

That would be followed by a test of a new mobile, ground-launched ballistic missile with a range of 1,800 to 2,500 miles, before the end of the year. But that would be an entirely new missile, and it is not likely to be deployed for another five years or so….

…it is China’s rocket forces that have focused the attention of the Pentagon and the Trump administration. In 2017, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., then the head of United States Pacific Command, said in congressional testimony that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force controls the “largest and most diverse missile force in the world, with an inventory of more than 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles.” He pointed out that the United States capability lagged because of its adherence to the treaty with Russia, and that if China were a signatory, 95 percent of its missiles would be in violation. … … …