Russia to design new intermediate range missiles in 2 years
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
Tuesday, February 5
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia will develop land-based intermediate range missiles within two years, the nation’s defense minister said Tuesday, a statement that comes in response to the U.S. decision to abandon a key nuclear arms pact.
The U.S. has formally notified Russia over the weekend of its decision to suspend its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty over alleged Russian violations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by saying that Moscow would also abandon the pact.
Russia has rejected the U.S. claim that it has built and deployed a cruise missile that violated the treaty’s ban on land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles). But Shoigu said Tuesday such weapons need to be designed now, charging that the U.S. has already started developing such weapons.
He said at a meeting with senior officers that a land-based version of the navy’s Kalibr cruise missile and a new land-based hypersonic missile must be built in 2019-2020.
Shoigu added that adapting the Kalibr for use with ground forces will allow to “significantly reduce the time required for building new missiles and the amount of funds.”
He noted that the Kalibr has proven itself during the Syrian campaign, when it was launched at targets in Syria from Russian navy ships in the Caspian and the Mediterranean Seas.
Shoigu made the statement following a meeting with Putin over the weekend, at which the Russian leader instructed the military to work on developing new land-based weapons that were previously forbidden by the INF treaty.
Putin emphasized that such new weapons won’t be deployed unless the U.S. does so.
“Russia will not station intermediate-range weapons in Europe or other regions until similar U.S. weapons appear in those regions,” he said.
Afghan official: Taliban hit army base, kill 26 troops
By RAHIM FAIEZ
Tuesday, February 5
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban launched a pre-dawn attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 26 members of the security forces, a provincial official said, the latest brazen assault by insurgents amid stepped-up efforts to resolve the country’s protracted war.
The raid on the base in northern Kunduz province came as representatives of the Taliban were to hold meetings in Moscow with prominent Afghan figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, opposition leaders and tribal elders — but not Kabul government officials.
The insurgents have refused to negotiate with Ghani’s government, calling it a U.S. puppet. The Taliban have been staging near-daily attacks, inflicting heavy casualties on the embattled Afghan army and security forces. Both sides in the conflict say they want to strike hard militarily to bolster their position at the negotiating table.
In the Kunduz attack, the Taliban stormed the base, located on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Kunduz city, around 2 a.m., said Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the provincial council. There were at least 23 soldiers and three members of the local police force among those slain.
According to Ayubi, 12 troops were wounded in the Taliban onslaught, which lasted for over two hours until reinforcements arrived at the besieged base and the attackers were repelled.
“Day by day, the security situation is getting worse in and around Kunduz city,” said Ayubi, adding there are fears the city could again fall into the hands of the Taliban as it did briefly on two occasions in recent years — in September 2015 and in October 2016.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement to the media saying the Taliban were behind the Kunduz attack, claiming the insurgents had overrun three police checkpoints as the attack unfolded.
Earlier Tuesday, Afghan officials reported two more Taliban attacks that left 21 people dead, including 11 policemen killed when the insurgents stormed a checkpoint in northern Baghlan province’s Baghlani Markazi district.
The checkpoint attack in Baghlan took place on Monday night and triggered a firefight that lasted for almost two hours, said Safder Mohsini, head of the provincial council. Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all weapons and ammunition from the checkpoint before reinforcements arrived, he said.
“They arrived there late, fought back and managed to get the checkpoint under control,” he added.
Earlier Monday, the Taliban targeted a local pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people there, including a woman, said Sediq Azizi, the provincial governor’s spokesman. Four people were also wounded in that attack, in Dara-I Suf district, he said.
According to Azizi, the Taliban targeted local villagers, including women and children. As the area is very remote, the villagers have their own militia to defend their homes from the insurgents.
The Taliban claimed both Baghlan and Samangan attacks.
Far from the Afghan warzone, a two-day meeting in the Russian capital between the Taliban and Afghan figures, which started Tuesday, is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving the 17-year war. That process has accelerated since the appointment last September of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
But the meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has criticized the gathering.
Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, said Monday that the Afghan government should be at the center of any peace talks, adding that Kabul “would prefer the Moscow meeting had a different shape.”
Still, Fawzia Koofi, a lawmaker and women’s rights activist, said her participation in the talks was a good first step, even though she was one of only two women among the more than 20 Afghan figures who traveled from Kabul to Russia.
“It is an imbalance, but we want to participate in every single meeting and face the Taliban, and the Taliban should have the courage to face the women of Afghanistan,” she said at the outset of the talks
Associated Press writer Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.
Opinion: Another ‘Undeclared’ N. Korean Missile Base? Ho-Hum
By Donald Kirk
SEOUL — The revelation of another “undeclared” North Korean missile base should send shock waves through all those concerned about the safety and security of the region, notably South Korea. Actually, however, it’s hard to find ordinary people too worried about the latest report by esteemed experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
The reasons for such widespread insouciance are familiar to all of us who have been following the ups and downs of the North Korean nuclear threat for the past few years or decades. The overwhelming sense is that it can’t happen here, that Kim Jong-un may posture all he wants, but honestly he’s not going to press the button on one of those things and send it hurtling into space carrying a real live warhead, is he?
The answer to that question is probably not, but then there are other reasons it’s real hard to get people too worked up about just another missile base. We’ve heard all that stuff before. We’re getting missile-and-nuke fatigue. Yes, we know they’ve got these bases, we know they conducted nuclear and missile tests as recently as the year before last, and we don’t seriously trust them to shut down what they’ve got no matter how many summits Kim has with President Donald Trump and President Moon Jae-in.
But really, those who give more than a moment’s thought to the CSIS report might ask, what’s all the hype about a place named Sino-ri, 212 kilometers north of the Demilitarized Zone having been “undeclared.” Huh?
“The Sino-ri base has never been declared by North Korea,” declare the indisputably knowledgeable Victor Cha, Joseph Bermudez and Lisa Collins near the beginning of their “expose” of the base. Nor, they add ominously, does it “appear to be the subject of denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea.”
These bases, they tell us, “would presumably have to be subject to declaration, verification and dismantlement in any final and fully verifiable denuclearization deal.”
Those naughty North Koreans! Imagine them not letting everyone know about that base — one of about 20, we’re told, that they’ve never “declared.” Look, seriously, this news is interesting, but you don’t have to be a certified expert to know the North Koreans not only haven’t declared a lot of what they’ve got, what they’re doing, what they’ve done and will do, but have not the slightest intention of doing so.
None of which means President Trump should simply say, “Mr. Kim, much though I ‘love’ you, I’m damned if I’m gonna sit down with you again if you don’t come clean with me.”
Nor does it mean President Moon should say to Kim, “If you don’t answer all those crazy questions the Americans keep bothering you with, how can I welcome you in Seoul or guarantee you won’t have to hear the shouts of the flag-waving rightists who hate both of us?”
But how could Trump and Moon not make a huge issue of these secret “undeclared” bases whenever they meet Kim again? Well, maybe they should, but there’s a deeper issue. Talks, negotiations, take on a life of their own. There’s something to be said for momentum. It’s not that North Korea will ever give up the distinction of being the world’s ninth honest-to-goodness nuclear power. It’s obvious they won’t.
It’s just as obvious Kim isn’t going to fire or explode anything for real. He knows perfectly well all hell would descend on him if he did. Less obvious, more difficult to explain, is that these summits add to the dynamism of incipient change. Beneath the seeming non-concern lingers a sense that South Korea is too enormous, too huge an industrial powerhouse, and North Korea is really too needy.
Something’s got to give. The dam on inter-Korean relations has to burst. Millions are looking to the North, waiting for the opening to get in there. Some are eagerly eyeing real estate north of Seoul, up to the DMZ, as a base for future operations. In the meantime, as long as the Americans and South Koreans don’t make stupid concessions, fall for showy appearances such as an end-of-war declaration or, God forbid, a “peace treaty,” summitry is needed to keep up the momentum.
That’s reason enough for these leaders to talk to each other even if one of them insists on draining his economy and resources with useless nukes and missiles while begging for all the help he can get.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspapers and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
OPINION: On China, the US Public Stands Apart
by Mel Gurtov
Why isn’t the American public as agitated about China as are the Trump administration, the mainstream media, and even many China specialists? In a recent article, Daniel Drezner, a political scientist at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, raises this question, noting that the public seems strangely at odds with everyone else when it comes to the so-called China threat.
Polls show that China ranks well below Russia, North Korea, and Iran when people are asked about their international concerns. Terrorism and protecting American jobs rank highest in priority. Yet Trump’s national security team identifies China, along with Russia, as the chief threats to the United States. The media seem to agree that the “China challenge” to US global leadership, militarily and not just economically, is a great and growing concern. A number of China watchers who normally urge cautious engagement with Beijing now see an aggressiveness that needs to be forcefully countered.
So why isn’t the US public convinced? I’d say it comes down to contact in various forms. First, and most obviously, Americans are far more likely to meet or observe people of Chinese descent—regardless of their status or country of origin, including Chinese-Americans—than Russians, Iranians, and North Koreans.
And I think it is fair to say that those contacts are overwhelmingly favorable: Chinese are seen as being accomplished, hardworking, polite, and focused on family. Second, Americans use “made in China” products all the time; “China” is familiar to everyone mainly as a thriving commercial entity. When Americans worry about China, it is mainly (seven of ten polled) that Trump’s trade war will hurt their pocketbooks, not that China will act aggressively toward Japan or Taiwan.
Third, despite the administration’s official designation of China as a security issue, both the administration and the media devote much more attention to threats from Russia, North Korea, and Iran than they do to China. Yes, there’s the South China Sea dispute and some bad publicity about the Belt and Road Initiative, but these have far less saliency for Americans than does Russian election interference, North Korea’s nukes, or Iran’s meddling in the Middle East.
So the explanation of the “mystery” of the US public’s perception of China is in plain sight. That doesn’t mean, however, that the perception will remain positive. Historically, sudden changes in American perceptions of China have occurred fairly regularly.
If the trade war continues unresolved, if another military incident involving US and Chinese forces occurs, if Xi Jinping’s suppression of human rights becomes even more blatant, or if China’s worldwide economic initiatives and cyber hacking become too aggressive, perceptions could turn very negative. But so long as China is perceived by the US public mainly in economic terms, with due appreciation of the benefits to the US and the world of China’s rise, it is unlikely to generate the same heat other countries bring out.
And that’s a good thing, because the current wave of official and media hostility toward China is not conducive to dispute resolution and a search for common ground. Quite the opposite: these forces are pushing for a new Cold War, encouraging those in China who think likewise. As I have argued many times, China should be treated as a competitor, not a threat, with an understanding that diplomacy and deeper engagement, not force or pressure, is the best way to deal with areas of friction between our two countries.
祝我所有的中国朋友猪年快乐: Happy Year of the Pig to my Chinese friends!
Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.
A nuclear treaty between Russia and the US is falling apart – can it be saved?
February 5, 2019
Author: Jeffrey Fields, Associate Professor of the Practice of International Relations, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Disclosure statement: Jeffrey Fields receives funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Partners: University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Feb. 1 that the United States would withdraw from its nuclear weapons treaty with Russia.
Since the Obama administration, the U.S. has accused Russia of being in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which prohibits the U.S. and Russia from developing a certain types of ballistic and cruise missiles. A day after Pompeo’s announcement, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would also suspend its participation in the treaty.
The treaty is not dead yet. The announcements serve as the six month’s notice required by the treaty before parties can withdraw. There is still time to reconcile differences.
But I don’t think that will happen.
I worked on issues related to arms control and nuclear nonproliferation at both the State Department and Department of Defense.
Here’s why a resolution is unlikely.
Cold War context
In the 1970s, the Soviet Union began placing missiles in strategic locations within its territory that could each carry three nuclear warheads a distance of about 2,500 miles.
These SS-20 missles were in a category of weapons called “intermediate-range ballistic missiles.” The missiles could strike almost all 29 member states of the North Atlantaic Treaty Orgnization with the exception of the U.S. and Canada.
At the time, NATO did not have a way to address the new threat through diplomacy with the Soviets. Nor did they have equivalent missiles capable of striking strategic locations in the Soviet Union from Western Europe.
The U.S. sought to reassure NATO allies and deter a nuclear Soviet attack on Western Europe. In the early 1980s, it placed the Pershing II ballistic missile, as well as other missiles in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and West Germany.
The move was designed in part to counter the Soviet missile threat, and also persuade the Soviets to negotiate to limit the number of intermediate and short-range missiles on both sides in Europe and the Soviet Union.
Terms of the treaty
Negotiations between the U.S. and Soviet Union began in 1979 in the late stages of the Carter administration. The aim was to limit the number of intermediate-range missiles each could deploy. The negotiations carried over into the Reagan administration with various proposals on how many missiles each side could have and where they were be allowed to be placed.
In 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev proposed eliminating all short- and intermediate-range missiles. This led to the landmark INF Treaty that banned the entire class of missiles. The treaty was signed by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev on Dec. 8, 1987.
Both sides agreed to eliminate all existing cruise and ballistic missiles that could be launched from the ground (as opposed to from the sea or sky) and had a range between roughly 300 and 3,400 miles. They also pledged to “not have such systems thereafter.”
Before the treaty’s implementation deadline in 1991, the U.S. and Russia destroyed more than 2,500 missiles covered by the treaty.
Nuclear powers beyond Russia
The United States first became concerned with Russian compliance with the treaty in 2014, when it alleged that Russia had tested a missile that violated the range restrictions of the treaty. Russia denied the accusation.
Meanwhile, countries such China, Iran or North Korea, are not constrained by any treaties related to developing missiles that can carry nuclear weapons. These countries have continued to develop or are considering developing such missile technology.
Russia began to fear in the mid-2000s that the treaty was constraining its military options.
Some analysts have argued the U.S. should abandon the INF Treaty for this same reason – not because of Russian noncompliance, but because it limits U.S. military options vis-à-vis China. The treaty prohibits the U.S. from putting ground-launched, short-range missiles in places like Japan. Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton is a firm proponent of this approach.
Prospects for the treaty don’t look good.
Russia has long denied being in violation of the treaty. The Trump administration is skeptical of arms control in general and has plans to continue modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Unbound by the treaty, the U.S. could develop new nuclear weapons systems in East Asia to counter Chinese military advances. The treaty’s demise seems likely. What follows depends on several variables, especially the outcome of the U.S. 2020 presidential election.
Joshua M. Pearce, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michigan Technological University: The data is just too overwhelming – it is no longer rational to maintain a nuclear weapons stockpile that can cause significant harm to your own country if you use it. Both Russia and the US are far over their pragmatic limits – it is long past time adults on all sides (US, Russia and China, along with the other nuclear states) stopped irresponsible government policy towards nuclear weapons.