Has the arms race begun?

The INF treaty

After The United States’ recent withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on the 2nd of August 2019 Russia failed testing a nuclear missile, killing five scientists. The world witnessed a series of missile tests, in what appears to be a demonstration of the military capabilities of the major powers.

The INF treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987, eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons. It forced the superpowers to scrap more than 2,600 land-based missiles with ranges 310 to 3,420 miles. These type of weapons are considered destabilizing to the European continent because of their capability to launch a nuclear strike from anywhere, without early warning.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signed the treaty in 1987

What happened after Russia’s failed missile test?

The United States responded to the failed Russian missile test On Sunday 18 August 2019 when the Pentagon flight tested the missile at San Nicolas Island, California. The Defense Department said in a statement: “The test missile “exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight,”. The Pentagon said that during the test, it collected data that will inform its development of future intermediate-range missile capabilities. They emphasized that the missile was “conventionally configured,” meaning it was not outfitted with a nuclear warhead. The Pentagon uploaded slow-motion imagery of the test-flight, which showed a Tomahawk cruise missile emerging from a Mark 41 (Mk-41) Vertical Launch System.

Geng Shuang the foreign ministry spokesman of China reacted on Tuesday that the US test showed that Washington was up for a new arms race and confrontation. He added that the U.S. ought to “let go of its Cold War mentality” and “do more things that are conducive to international and regional peace and tranquility.” otherwise this will have a serious negative effect on regional and global security.

However, a new analysis compiled by the United States Study Center at the University of Sydney, in Australia shows how the Chinese People’s Liberation Army more than doubled the number of missile launchers in its inventory between 2004 and 2019.

[US Department of Defense/Reuters]

Washington’s true intentions

Vladimir Putin said the timing of the test indicated that the United States had long planned for the escalation. The Russian president has ordered Russia‘s military to prepare a “symmetrical response” after the US performed a cruise missile test. He stated Moscow was against the placement of the launchers in Poland and Romania as part of a missile defence system, but the US denied they could be used offensively to launch Tomahawks. Washington’s “true intentions”, he said, are to “deploy formerly banned weapons in various regions of the world.” Putin added “Moscow is still open to equal and constructive dialogue” with the US to discuss global security. Earlier he promised not to deploy new missiles in world regions until the US does the same. Russia “will not be pulled into an expensive arms race destructive for our economy” but will need to “ensure the safety of our people and our country”

© Osman Orsal © Reuters

North Korea

On August 24 North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, the South Korean military said. This had been the latest in a series of launches the past few weeks. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test-firing of what The Korean Central News Agency (KNCA), called a “super-large multiple rocket launcher.” The KNCA said: “The test-fire proved that all the tactical and technological specifications of the system correctly reached the preset indexes”. Kim Jong Un said: “The tests were necessary for resolutely frustrating the ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of the hostile forces”. The launch was the seventh by North Korea since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at the inter-Korean border in June.

Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un

A new arms race

Nine countries are known for possessing nuclear weapons (China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). According to analysts, the latest “images suggest North Korea is making real progress in developing a second leg of the nuclear triad, bringing them closer to a survivable nuclear force.”

Iran confirmed that it has reached the limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium set by the 2015 nuclear deal, renewing concerns that Tehran could, within months, have enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb. They have tested a new missile. Iran regularly exaggerates its missile and defense technology capabilities.

Pakistan has successfully test-fired surface-to-surface ballistic missile ‘Ghaznavi‘, capable of delivering multiple warheads up to 290 kms, the Army said on Thursday, amid tensions after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

The US withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on 2 August after accusing Russia of violating it – a claim Moscow denies. Analysts fear the collapse of the INF could spark a new arms race. However, can the United States survive as the only big power, or is it time to participate? There are predictions of a new cold war, the question is: Who will start?

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