The day the U.S. delivered an ultimatum that it could leave the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty by February, hawkish think-tankers and former government shared weapons shopping lists for the post-treaty world — which in one case included in-theater nuclear missiles.
The defense hawks spoke on a panel hosted by the Air Force Association at the conservative Capitol Hill Club just down the street from Congress. One, Rick Fisher, called for deploying nuclear-armed missiles to the region to quell possible Chinese aggression.
The Trump administration in October cited China’s lack of participation in the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty as one reason the U.S. should abandon the bilateral arms deal struck with Russia in 1987. The INF treaty forbids missiles with a range of 500- kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or roughly 330 miles to 3,300 miles.
“There is a real requirement that the United States build up the inter-range ballistic and cruise missiles, perhaps with nuclear warheads,” said Fisher, senior fellow at International Assessment and Strategy Center in Alexandria, Va.
If the U.S. ceases complying with the INF treaty, it should develop ground-launched missiles in the INF-prohibited range, and “be offering them to all of our major defense treaty allies … South Korea, Japan, Australia,” Fisher said. “I will even include the Philippines in that.”
Another panelist scoffed at the idea that any country would ever permit the U.S. ground-based missiles on its territory.
“Ain’t gonna happen,” said consultant Frank Miller, a government veteran who was once special assistant to President George W. Bush and a senior arms-control man on Bush 43’s National Security Council.
Frank Rose, a former arms-control man in the Obama state department, said that even deploying U.S.-designed missile defense systems on foreign soil is “politically challenging.”
Rose, who outed himself as the panel’s sole Democrat, said the U.S. could better check China by developing a conventional version of the nuclear-capable Long Range Standoff Weapon that designed Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Raytheon [RTN] are designing. The U.S. should also sell its allies Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles, or the extended-range variant of the Joint Air-To-Surface Standoff Missile.
The panelists in Washington spoke the same day Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would cease complying with the INF treaty by early February, unless Moscow ditches an INF-violating missile the U.S. it developed and deployed over the last 10 years.
Russia is “in material breach of the treaty,” Pompeo said during a press conference after Tuesday’s meeting of the NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels. The U.S. “will suspend our obligations [under INF] as a remedy effective in 60 days, unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance.”
In a statement, NATO foreign ministers said that “that Russia is in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty” and “that the situation whereby the United States and other parties fully abide by the Treaty and Russia does not, is not sustainable.” The alliance called on Russia to return to compliance.
In Washington, even Rose said that more “engagement” with Moscow was unlikely to convince the Kremlin to give up the INF-range missile it developed and deployed over U.S. and international objection.
Russia denies its missiles, which the U.S. calls 9M729, violates INF. A Russia foreign minister spokesperson said Russia is in full compliance with INF, according to a Tuesday tweet by Moscow-based analyst Andrey Baklitskiy.