The INF Treaty Is Dead: Will the Arms Race Be Won This Time by the Most Agile or by the Biggest Wallet?

The INF Treaty Is Dead: Will the Arms Race Be Won This Time by the Most Agile or by the Biggest Wallet? by Gilbert Doctorow for Russia-Insider

US started the new arms race, Team Putin vows to win it by outthinking the American mastodon

In an article I published several days ago that received wide resonance and republication not only within the English-speaking world but also in translation on Serbian, Italian and Russian portals, I argued that perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin was doing both his own country and the West a disservice by being so very polite and unthreatening, by his acquiescence in the slings and arrows we are sending his way with ever greater provocativeness.  Time to stop playing nice with the United States, I was saying. Time to respond forcefully to every new attempt by the United States to alter the global strategic balance and to pull the security blanket over to its side of the bed.  Only in that way, by instilling fear in the European and American publics, may the degenerative downward spiral to war be halted.

By a curious coincidence, this message to the Kremlin came just two days before Vladimir Vladimirovich changed course and delivered a tough as nails response to the US suspension and pending withdrawal from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces ( INF) treaty dating from 1987 that was one of the key arms limitation agreements holding in place a modicum of transparency and mutual trust between the nuclear superpowers.

As released Saturday afternoon, 2 February by Russian state television news broadcasts, a two or three minute long video showed President Putin seated at a table in one of the Kremlin salons with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seated to his right and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu seated to his left.  We hear Putin deliver his statement that the Russian Federation now suspends its participation in the INF Treaty just as the United States had done, “in mirror image fashion.”

Scenes from this brief reportage were carried later in the day by Euronews, which repeated also for nth time the reasons given by the United States’ for withdrawing from the treaty, namely alleged violations of its terms by the Russians. But as I recall, Euronews did carry Putin’s words that Russia would not return to negotiations until “our partners have matured… and are ready to negotiate on the substantive issues on an equitable basis.”

For its part, the BBC also was quick to carry a short video segment of Putin’s announcement from the Kremlin.  Commentary was provided by their Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg, who opined that “this looks like the beginning of a New Cold War.”  That conclusion, which others had drawn more than two years ago, suggests that Rosenberg and his London editors have been asleep at the wheel. Other Western media observers got it right, saying that “it looks like the beginning of a new arms race.”

Full Russian coverage of the Kremlin meeting with extensive interpretive commentary was delivered on 3 February by Dmitry Kiselyov, the country’s senior news administrator and anchor of the News on Sunday program.  The respective segment of the program takes us through the well-rehearsed Kremlin theater piece which was addressed to two audiences simultaneously: the home audience within Russia which has its own questions about the INF decision and what it will mean not just for state security but for their standard of living, and the Western decision-makers in Washington and Brussels, whom Putin treated to just bare diplomatic niceties and a lot of hidden threats for them to think through.

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