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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/12/19

What happens when a treaty that's working is cancelled: The Insanity of a Hypersonic Nuclear Cruise Missile Arms Race

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By Dave Lindorff

Nuclear Explosion, Chicago [1902x1080] - art0on
Nuclear Explosion, Chicago [1902x1080] - art0on
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The Bush, Obama and Trump administration have broken two very important promises, or treaties, with Russia and it's going to be very costly and dangerous for us and for the world thanks to them.

The first broken promise was the decision by President George W. Bush to ignore the documented promise made by President Reagan to Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev that if he took down the Berlin Wall and allowed the Eastern European nations under Russian domination to go their own ways politically, the US would not seek to bring any of them into NATO.

Bush in in first term of office, invited seven former Russian satellite states -- Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Estonia and Latvia -- two of them, Lithuania and Estonia, actually bordering Russia itself, to join NATO.

After his own state department helped fund and organize a coup that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine in 2014, President Obama then provocatively held out the possibility of Georgia, another country formerly part of the Soviet Union, and sharing a long border with Russia, joining NATO, and began providing arms to Ukraine.

All of this was quite understandably perceived as a serious threat by Russia, especially when the Obama administration began providing US military equipment to countries bordering Russia or its ally, Belarus, and conducting joint military operations even in border countries like Estonia and Lithuania, and began sending military supplies to Ukraine when it was engaged in actual fighting with ethnic Russian secessionists in the eastern part of that country.

{Just recall the hysteria a few months back when Russia flew just two aging long-range bombers to an airbase in Venezuela! There were Congressmembers and news pundits warning darkly that the hulking planes might be carrying nukes, as if two planes would launch a war.)

Compare that to President Trump, who has upped the ante in Ukraine by providing lethal weapons to that country to aid its fight with Russian-armed secessionists in the Donbass region, has also put US forces in those border countries near Russia, set up anti-missile batteries along the Russian border, and most seriously, cancelled the Reagan/Gorbachev Intermediate Force Nuclear Treaty that since 1987 had eliminated America's intermediate range nuclear missiles, both Pershing II ballistic missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles, from Europe.

The Trump administration also has begun plans, long on the drawing board at the Pentagon, to base hundreds of the Air Force's new F-35A stealth fighter-bombers along Russia's borders. Each of these planes, equipped to carry a new variable-power nuclear bomb called the B61-12, which can produce an explosion of between 0.3 kilotons and 50 kilotons (the latter two to three times the power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), is specifically designed to sneak across the Russian border undetected to deliver nuclear strikes on missile launch platforms, silos and government and command-center locations as part of an all-out first-strike nuclear assault.

In response to all these very real threats, Russia, which has no parallel ability to respond to US basing of short-range nuclear missiles near its borders able to strike targets in minutes, has responded by developing fully maneuverable hypersonic missiles capable of flying to various targets in the US at over Mach 5, which makes them almost impossible to intercept. China, also fearing a US attack, is working hard to develop a similar type of
counterforce" weapon.

While this response on Russia's and China's part may deter the US from launching a first strike on them, it has also prompted the Pentagon to call for new funding for a crash program to "catch up" with Russia and China in hypersonic missile capability.

So, what the US breakout of the Reagan no-NATO-move-towards-Russia promise and the Reagan-Gorbachev INF Treaty has accomplished is not increased US security, but rather a destabilizing new full-scale nuclear arms race. Only this time we have a military that can barely be called at war (the one ongoing war in Afghanistan only involves some 10,000 troops, less than 5% of what we had fighting in Vietnam at the height of that last real US war) with a nontheless whopping 2019 budget of $717 billion, and with President Trump calling for $750 billion for next year. A fair part of the increase will be not just to fund the new hyperspeed missile race, but to goose the arms race further by establishing Trump's insane new "Space Force." That, if it happens, will lead to a hugely destabilizing and incomprehensibly expensive space arms race, even as funds for actual space science get slashed.

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Dave Lindorff, winner of a 2019 "Izzy" Award for Outstanding Independent Journalism from the Park Center for Independent Media in Ithaca, is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper (more...)

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