Professor Alpo Rusi, Iltalehti (February 12, 2019)
An unofficial translation
Europe’s security is weakening. There are experts who talk about a new Cold War.
The latest setback took place when on February 2 the United States announced that it will withdraw from a key Cold War-era nuclear arms control agreement after Washington and NATO repeatedly accused Moscow of violating the accord by developing the 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8.
Russia, denying the accusations said it was also withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned both countries from developing, producing, and deploying ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The medium-range cruise missiles which can be armed either with conventional or nuclear warheads were considered as the biggest threat to stability at the end phase of the Cold War in the 1980s.
Considering the ongoing information war, there is a danger that the situation of the early 1980s, when the so called “New Cold War” emerged and the US was considered in Western Europe as its root cause.
President Donald Trump has also caused nervousness in Europe by demanding the member states of Nato to increase their financial contributions for defense. He has threatened to withdraw from Nato in case his demands are not respected.
Trump has accused the German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel for neglecting its defense responsibilities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has de facto subverted the credibility of the INF treaty for years. He questioned the role and value of the treaty already in 2007. One of the reasons was his frustration with respect to the liberal international order led by the United States. He wanted to change it to be better in compliance with the great power aspirations and goals of Russia. The Barack Obama administration accused Russia publicly for breaches of the INF treaty in 2014.
Germany tried to avoid as a number of other Nato countries to be officially and publicly involved in the dispute on the INF treaty breaches by Russia . The intention of Germany was to let the two nuclear powers to sort out the
However, a number of experts are of the opinion that Germany’s line of non-interference has been a major mistake. The reason for Germany’s passivity has been explained with the conflict in Ukraine as well as with the
refugee crisis. The question related to Trump’s criticism is not just money but first of all the passive line of Germany considering the dispute on the INF treaty.
Quite simply, Germany is not willing to strengthen its military role as a guarantor of European security. The backdrop of this reluctant security policy line is the Second World War as well as the pacifist tradition of the German Social Democratic Party.
Putin is aware of the internal dispute on the euro-missiles which caused the collapse of chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1982. The case has a direct connection to the dispute on the validity of the INF treaty in 2019. The Soviet Union launched a peace movement in Western Europe which put the blame on the Ronald Reagan administration about the euro-missiles. The smaller militarily non-aligned countries like Finland and Sweden together with the peace activists and leftist movements ”joined” de facto the Moscow-led peace movement which also to a large extent aimed at covering up the violations of human and basic rights as well as internal conflicts in the socialist camp.
This time, Nato has unanimously supported the United States in order to get Russia to comply with the INF treaty. There should be for example an efficient verification regime to be established to rescuing the treaty. Russia is fully aware that Nato is badly behind the developments, as a German expert Gustav C. Gressel has stated in an article published by European Council of Foreign Relations.
The United States could deploy the land based cruise missiles to counter the Russian land based cruise missiles, estimated already 64 altogether in four bases, not before 2030.
For years, Germany has tried to avoid the debate on cruise missiles for various reasons.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) has proposed that Berlin would like to play a role as a mediator between Moscow and Washington to rescue the INF treaty next six months.
Maas has proposed that Russia would locate its missiles East from the Urals. Russia for its part has announced that the missiles have a range of 480 km which is just under 500 km specified in the treaty
The issue is whether Nato has any suitable deterrence capacity in compliance with the new Russian medium-range missiles. Because there are no land based medium-range cruise missiles on horizon, Russia is not ready to respect the INF treaty.
Europe is approaching the situation where Russia has acquired nuclear superiority in Europe which can be used for political presusure and even for blackmail in the future.
In the information war, Russia will take up the enlargement of Nato, which Moscow has been considering as a strategic threat although Nato is a defense alliance.
Macedonia is about to become the 30. member state of Nato in the near future. The documents concerning membership were signed in Brussels on February 6, 2019 in connection of which SG of Nato Jens Stoltenberg stated that the membership of “ the republic of Northern Macedonia will strengthen stability in Western Balkans and transatlantic security community”.
The role of Nato is crucial in particular for the smaller countries because they can never be strong enough to prevent the aggressions of bigger states.
In Finland which is heading towards the Parliamentary elections in April, the dispute on the INF treaty has been so far considered as a distant problem. The basic security policy line – military non-alignment and operation within EU and Nato structures – has been supported in all parties.
It is obvious that no real debate about the INF treaty will be launched although it has a direct security policy implication for Finland’s security too.
The annexation of Crimea in 2014 had an immediate impact on the security situation in the Baltic Sea region. Military non-alignment did not help but the increase of tension was recognized in the nearest environment of Finland and Sweden too. The elimination of the INF treaty will destabilize security everywhere in Europe.
Gressel claims that the situation in Europe is worse off than in 1987, when there was a rather correct balance of land based medium-range cruise missiles between the Soviet SS-20s and the US Pershings before the signing of the INF treaty.
The debate about the strategic autonomy of Europe is without any justification in case the stabllity related to the land based medium-range cruise missiles is absent in Europe.
Finland will take over the presidency of the EU on July 1st, and the security policy agenda may contain surprises as was the case in 1999, when Finland took over the presidency for the first time ever in its history. The EU is, however, rather helpless to cope with the security of the nuclear arms influencing the continent. The only instrument for action takes places within the Nato, not the EU.
"The more you understand the world, the higher your chance of shaping it".
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Valtiotieteen tohtori, suurlähettiläs, tasavallan presidentin entinen neuvonantaja, professori ja kirjailija.
Kirjoituksia saa lainata. Lähde on mainittava.