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    Follow the Money: What's Behind Claims Russia Violated Key Arms Control Treaty

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    Unconfirmed reports claim that Russia has ostensibly violated one of the key Cold War era agreements, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Defense analysts told Sputnik that the unfounded allegations have been used to push a multi-billion program aimed at upgrading America's nuclear arsenal through the US Congress.

    "Always look for the one who benefits [from a certain move]. The US Congress is currently debating plans on modernizing America's strategic forces. This program is worth $400 billion. When you look at the list of top ten defense contractors in the world, you will see that eight of them are based in the United States. It is safe to assume that they want to retain their position by taking part in rearmament programs and arms buildup initiatives among other things," defense analyst Victor Murakhovsky suggested.

    On February 14, the Congressional Budget Office released its estimates with regard to a decade-long plan on modernizing Washington's nuclear triad, saying that it would cost $400 billion.

    The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed by the Soviet Union and the United States in 1987. Washington and Moscow have occasionally accused each other of violating the bilateral agreement, which bans nuclear and conventional missiles that have a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

    Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Russia had secretly deployed a new ground-based cruise missile in violation of the INF Treaty, citing anonymous US officials. Russia has dismissed the allegations, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that Moscow has always remained "committed to its international obligations," including the INF Treaty.

    Political analyst Andrey Manoylo, a professor at Moscow State University, pointed out that the New York Times did not provide any facts backing its assertions.

    For his part, Murakhovsky referred to reports in Western media as "information noise" which helps to "exert pressure" on US lawmakers and the public. "When all English-speaking media outlets spread this information, Americans become more at ease with any moves aimed at 'countering' Russia more," he explained. 

    Defense analyst Konstantin Sivkov suggested that there could be another reason for accusing Russia of violating the INF Treaty. "This has been done to justify [the fact that the US] has built the infrastructure for long-range missiles using the Mark 41 Vertical Launching Systems disguised as an anti-missile defense," he said.

    Sivkov was referring to Washington's missile defense initiative in Europe, formally known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). In 2016, NATO inaugurated the US-built Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Deveselu, Romania as part of this project. The second Aegis Ashore base is expected to become operational in Redzikowo, Poland in 2018.

    The EPAA is ostensibly aimed at protecting Europe from the Iranian ballistic missile threat. Critics say that Iran does not pose a threat to Europe (particularly since the nuclear deal was signed) thus making the missile defense shield obsolete. Russia has repeatedly voiced its deep concerns over the initiative's true goals, saying it is detrimental to regional security and stability.

    Sivkov also mentioned the Mark 41 Vertical Launching Systems, something that the Russian Foreign Ministry has long been concerned with since these launchers are capable of firing intermediate-range cruise missiles.

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    Tags:
    nuclear modernization, accusations, violations, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), nuclear weapons, Aegis Ashore BMD complex, Dmitry Peskov, United States, Russia
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