Tuesday, June 11, 2019

In DC, the Zombie INF Fight is Afoot

There are a few constants in the natsec environment we live in; elections have consequences, and nameless professional staffers with peculiar and questionable understandings of war have an unimaginable impact on our ability to have an effective military.

For you who were not around or interested in the Cold War, there was a very Eurocentric treaty that was/is almost a talisman to the established natsec cadres that infested the Beltway and still do - mostly interested in their personal egos, legacies, and pet fetishes. Of course, I'm talking about the INF Treaty of 1987.
The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty's implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.
The Soviet Union died over a quarter century ago, but to keep Russia from being too pouty, for decades we let it sit that they could pretend it was the mighty Soviet Union as we chased a Medieval death cult around the low-rent parts of the globe.

Russia, however, is Russia. So ...
The United States first alleged in its July 2014 Compliance Report that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 repeated these allegations. In March 2017, a top U.S. official confirmed press reports that Russia had begun deploying the noncompliant missile. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement and has accused the United States of being in noncompliance.

On Dec. 8, 2017, the Trump administration released an integrated strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty, including the commencement of research and development on a conventional, road-mobile, intermediate-range missile system. On Oct. 20, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the INF Treaty, citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s intermediate-range missile arsenal. On Dec. 4, 2018 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend its treaty obligations in 60 days if Russia does not return to compliance in that time. On Feb. 2, the Trump administration declared a suspension of U.S. obligations under the INF Treaty and formally announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months. Shortly thereafter, Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced that Russia will be officially suspending its treaty obligations as well.
Well, hello everyone and welcome to the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. A lot has changed.

Russia, though a weak and tottering old bear up to mischief and still a bit dangerous, is not the Soviet Union. The threat as we move to mid-century is and will be China. China was not part of INF - again that was signed 32 years ago - so what has she been doing with what - on paper - is an incredible bit of tactical kit?
To achieve a preemptive strike against America’s military bases, China has procured a massive missile force. In fact, Beijing has the largest land-based missile arsenal in the world. According to Pentagon estimates, this includes 1,200 conventionally armed short-range ballistic missiles, two hundred to three hundred conventional medium-range ballistic missiles and an unknown number of conventional intermediate-range ballistic missiles, as well as two to three hundred ground-launched cruise missiles.
If we find ourselves at war with the rising power of China - and history shows we most likely will this century - their missile forces will be something we will have to address. By address, I mean fight. By fight, I mean destroy or be destroyed by them.

How do you eliminate them? Well, a defensive posture is not ideal, and we do not have enough ABM capability to counter that number inbound. We don't have enough TLAM either ... so what does that leave? TACAIR. Those are bodies. Expensive and hard to replace bodies.

You don't have to play too many rounds of this game to see the problem.

Let's back up a bit. What is the USA and Japan's comparative advantage over China? High technology, of course. The Chinese are very good at stealing other people's ideas and reverse engineering them - but that means as long as things advance, they are always going to be 1 to 2 generations behind the West and its auxiliaries. They also have a quality issue (more than we do) and an issue in running effective and coordinated operations.

Advanced technology and computing - and the multi-spectral targeting it enables - can translate in to incredibly accurate targeting without GPS or other external guidance. As such, in a conventional missile exchange, we just might have an edge to attrite their missile forces down before we have to commit additional forces that are harder to replace.

Outside China, there are other places high-precision conventional ballistic missiles would come in handy and would be very much in line with the American preferred way of war (ignore the foreverwars in Asia for a moment) - short, deadly, limited, and with low casualties.

Especially for punitive expeditions (Salamander's preferred approach to most affronts) - there is little not to like.

The world is not on a hair-trigger to global nuclear exchange any more, so that shouldn't be an issue either.

So, back to the point. We are out of INF. We have a modern problem that needs to be solved. One would thing that we would start to develop what China already has vast numbers of as they were never restrained by the INF - we need out own SRBM, IRBM and even MRBM forces.

No "missile gap" jokes please. 

You would think that this would be considered a serious shortfall in need of immediate action. It isn't like we have a bunch of Pershing II's waiting to be dusted off.

So, serious minds are turning-to in DC, right? 

Well, if you think that, you would be wrong. It would appear that the Majority Staff in Congress has decided that - for reasons best known to these unknown - they want our nation hobbled.

They are more in love with a dead treaty - or more likely just want to poke Trump - than they are with preparing for war.

For the details, I point you to Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) who got a sniff of what is going on and it running to the sound of gunfire.

I don't do this often, but who is your member of Congress? Have they looked in to this? Are they supporting Rep. Gallagher's efforts?

Call them and ask.

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