By Manlio Dinucci
This article, published Feb. 2 in Rome by Il Manifesto, was translated by Workers World Managing Editor John Catalinotto.
The “suspension” of the INF Treaty [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty], announced Feb. 1 by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, starts the countdown that, within six months, will lead the United States to definitively withdraw from the treaty. Already today, however, the United States considers itself free to test and deploy weapons of the category prohibited by the treaty: nuclear missiles with an intermediate range (between 300 and 3,300 miles), based on the ground.
This category included nuclear missiles deployed in Europe in the 1980s: Pershing 2 ballistic missiles, deployed by the United States in Western Germany, and cruise missiles launched from the ground, deployed by the United States in Britain, Italy, Western Germany, Belgium and Holland, with the pretext of defending European allies against SS-20 ballistic missiles deployed by the Soviet Union on its territory.
The Treaty on Intermediate Nuclear Forces, signed in 1987 by Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, eliminated all missiles of this category, including those deployed at Comiso in Sicily.
Military experts in Washington started re-discussing the INF Treaty when the United States saw its strategic advantage over Russia and China diminish. In 2014, the Obama administration accused Russia, without providing any evidence, of having tested a cruise missile (acronym 9M729) of the category prohibited by the treaty. In 2015, Washington announced that “faced with the violation of the INF Treaty by Russia, the United States is considering the deployment of ground-based missiles in Europe.”
The plan was confirmed by the Trump administration: In 2018 Congress authorized the financing of “a program of research and development of a cruise missile launched from the ground by a mobile platform on the road.”
For its part, Moscow denied that its cruise missile violated the treaty and, in turn, accused Washington of having installed in Poland and Romania launch ramps of interceptor missiles (those of the “shield”), which can be used to launch cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.
In this context, the geographical factor must be kept in mind: While a U.S. nuclear missile with an intermediate range, deployed in Europe, can strike Moscow, a similar missile deployed by Russia on its territory can strike the European capitals, but not Washington. If the scenario were reversed, it would be as if Russia were deploying intermediate range nuclear missiles in Mexico.
The U.S. plan to destroy the INF Treaty has been fully supported by NATO’s European partners. The North Atlantic Council declared on Dec. 4 that “the INF Treaty is in danger because of Russia’s actions.” It accused Russia of deploying “a destabilizing missile system.”
The same North Atlantic Council declared yesterday [Feb. 1] its “full support for the action of the United States to suspend its obligations with respect to the INF Treaty” and ordered Russia to “use the remaining six months to return to full compliance with the Treaty.”
EU sinks treaty too
The European Union also contributed to the sinking of the INF Treaty and, at the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 21, voted against the resolution proposed by Russia on “Preservation of and compliance with the INF Treaty,” which was rejected by 46 votes to 43, with 78 abstentions.
The European Union — of which 21 of its 27 members are members of NATO (as is Britain, which is on its way out of the EU) — has thus fully aligned itself with the position of NATO, which in turn has aligned itself with that of the United States. In essence, therefore, the European Union has also given a green light to the possible installation of new U.S. nuclear missiles in Europe, including Italy.