USE—NOT JUST POSSESSION—OF NUKES MANDATORY FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY TODAY
The US has traditionally honored martial spirit and accountability.
At a glance, President Trump’s tweets and his words and deeds may make one suspect that the US has lost its sense of direction, with Trump proposing policies impulsively. But that is far from the truth, as is obvious from how the US went about abrogating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia last year.
The abrogation convinces one that Trump’s policies are solidly based on well-thought-out strategies instead. Japan, which depends almost entirely on the US for its security, will be in trouble, if it misinterprets the true intentions of the Trump administration.
The INF Treaty expired in August last year, but it would be wrong to think that Trump pulled the US out of it arbitrarily. In fact, Russia had for years been secretly developing and deploying intermediate-range missiles, knowingly violating the treaty.
The treaty banned the development and deployment of ground-based intermediate-range missiles with a range of 313 to 3,438 miles (500 to 5500 kilometers). The US and Russia were the only signatory countries, but non-members of the treaty, including India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, North Korea, and South Korea, have been developing and deploying them freely over the past three decades. Following the treaty’s abrogation, the world has become a lawless place where nations are virtually free to produce powerful missiles capable of obliterating any nation at will, except for a small number of specific types of weapons.
The US began diplomatic negotiations with Russia in May 2013 in order to have its archenemy abide by the Treaty, according to New Missile Arms Race and Japan’s Defense (Namiki Shobo, Tokyo; 2020) authored by Masashi Murano, Japan Chair Fellow at Hudson Institute.
It took the US five years and nine months to abrogate the treaty. In the meantime, Russia fundamentally denied it was violating it, continuing to throw accusations mixed with lies at the US. As a concrete example of the bilateral negotiations, Murano cited the talks involving the Aegis Ashore Mark 41 multipurpose Vertical Launching System the US had deployed in Romania and Poland.
Obama: Politician of Goodwill with Lofty Ideals
Russia charged the US with violating the treaty, asserting that Mark 41 could be diverted to Tomahawk cruise missiles. The US countered that Mark 41 was equipped with computer systems and fire control systems different from launchers carried aboard warships, and that it didn’t have the capability of the ground-launched cruise missile system banned under the treaty. In order to prove that, the US even proposed that the Russian side inspect an American Aegis Ashore site, but the Russians turned it down.
In point of fact, the US government got a scent of a possible Russian violation even prior to this incident. So it secretly provided US allies detailed information regarding the frequency of Russia’s experiments of ground-launched cruise missiles and their flying distances. In 2011, the US government officially informed the Congress of the details. When NATO asked why the US had not publicized the Russian violation sooner, according to Murano, Washington replied:
“The US government knew that Russia started the tests effective 2008, but at that point the US was unable to judge whether they were ground tests of sea- and air-launched missiles, or aimed at developing ground-launched cruise missiles (which was clearly against the treaty).”
The advantages listed below are the reasons why both the US and Russia were particularly concerned with ground-based cruise missiles.
・Short-term development/deployment possible;
・Extremely high hitting accuracy. A ground-launched cruise missile can land within 10 meters of a target 1,600 kilometers away;
・Low running costs. A ground-based cruise missile costs approximately US$1.4 million—less than one-tenth (US$16 million) of a medium-range ballistic missile.
・Easy logistics with ammunition replenishment and reloading compared with sea-launched and air-launched missiles. Aegis ships and submarines must return to home ports for reloading.
・A combination of ground-based missiles allows for synchronous, multi-directional, and saturation attacks.
Ground-based cruise missiles have their own weaknesses, including air speed
below the speed of sound. But overall, advantages outweigh disadvantages. That is why Russia outsmarted the US in their development.
After first getting a handle on the Russian violation of the treaty, the US took five
years to formally bring up the issue. This was a cautious response, to say the least. American experts were actively engaged in the grasp and analysis of the situation during the latter period of the Obama administration. But while Obama—a politician of good will with lofty ideals—paid little attention to Russia, including its INF violation which at the time was extensively debated among American defense experts, Russia had succeeded in developing enough of these missiles to cover two battalions of its missile unit. The Russians thus managed to place within range most of the US military bases and installations across Europe. That was the situation the Trump administration took over, Murano explains.
Major Military Buildup
In December 2017, eleven months after his inauguration, President Trump announced a National Security Strategy, following it quickly with a National Defense Strategy and a Nuclear Posture Review in the first two months of 2018.
These important announcements reflected a drastic reversal of America’s security policy long based on benign optimism. Among other things, Washington—which previously had defined terrorist groups, not nations, as threats—switched to a new view that specific nations, especially China and Russia, are now the real threats to America.
Secondly, Washington discarded its optimistic expectation once and for all that other nations would follow if America set a good example. This move represented a crucial policy switch on the part of the US, to which Japan should pay special attention in discerning how the Trump administration sees the role of nuclear weapons. The administration now maintains that a mere possession of nuclear weapons cannot constitute credible deterrence and that international security is premised on a readiness to use them, asserts Sugino.
Anyone making such an argument in Japan would be thought to have gone out of his mind. But I would like for the reader to recognize that conflicts in the international community have become this severe.
Over the years, America’s defense strategy has been structured around deterring Russia as its archenemy. China in the meantime has aggressively and persistently pursued a massive military buildup unprecedented in human history, deploying intermediate-range missiles as part of this aggressive strategy, and yet managing to avoid criticism. The trust America put in China has been a major factor that has prevented censure of China—trust based on the optimism that China, still impoverished with the world’s largest population, must someday want to be like America when it became affluent enough. As is widely known, however, America’s expectations have been wholly betrayed.
Each of the ongoing international areas of tension around Japan is a serious matter that profoundly affects Japan’s destiny. The situations on the Korean Peninsula and in the East and South China Seas, as well as the western Pacific Ocean, are among the most strained in the world today, while US-China and China-Australia relations also have become extremely tense. Against such a backdrop, Japan has a uniquely large role to play. Only by fulfilling a responsible role will Japan be able to secure its future. The role for Japan to play should be nothing less than enhancing its overall national power, closely cooperating with nations that share similar values, and sparing no effort to boost its deterrence against China.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column #920 in the October 8, 2020 issue of The Weekly Shincho)