You may have read as of late that the U.S. is pulling out of the 1987 INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty due to constant Russian cheating. This is a subject near and dear to my heart, as I served as an intelligence analyst with the primary American forces covered in that agreement, the Germany-based Pershing Missile Brigade, the 56th Arty. The treaty sent Pershing home and outlawed Soviet missiles of the same variety and range.
In between stenciling parts of the birds with “Eat Hot Cobalt Bolshevik Swine” and singing along to our unofficial fight song, the US Army’s 56th Artillery Command balanced out the Soviet advantage in conventional forces and thus kept the peace for decades almost until the Reds gave up the ghost.
During those halcyon Reagan days the Soviets had already started to cheat. In fact, they’ve cheated on it almost from the very beginning. We, in the midst of Glasnost optimism, did what we usually do. We kept our end of the bargain and got shafted. Now we’re giving the Russians six months to get their act together and stop breaking the rules. If not, we’re history.
After several administrations decided to look the other way the current card shark in the Oval Office decided enough was enough. He also knows that Western technology will supersede any missilski the Russians threaten us with. Because, well, those boys have never been able to keep up.
It was to the point that in their nuke arsenal then was a missile known as the FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground). It was a nuclear bottle rocket that they aimed in the general direction of the west and hoped it wouldn’t make corkscrews in the air and come back to give them a radioactive pranging. And remember the Scuds from the Gulf War? Those finely tooled weapons of high accuracy? Yeah, so do I. Their Scaleboard system and other longer range birds were better, but not up to Western snuff. Their CEP (Circular Error of Probability. Basically, accuracy) never caught up.
When the Sovs lost Von Braun and the rest of the smart Peenemunde Huns at the end of WWII they were left with the scientific backwash. Sure, they got Sputnik and Gagarin up first. But their nukes were always so primitive that fictitious USAF General Buck Turgidson’s counsel to the president that “I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say, no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Depending on the breaks” was not far from the dark truth.
The issue today is over their 9M729/SSC-8. It’s a cruise missile that goes way over the range, between 310-3400 miles; prohibited under the INF. Current estimates are the Russians have about one hundred of them. We have intel conclusively proving the illegal range. The Russians are, as usual, denying and then stonewalling. They also are making plans to take their Kalibr sea-based missile and give it a land capability. A hypersonic cruise program is rumored to be in the works.
The geopolitical trick of keeping up with the Kremlin will be to once again convince our Western European NATO allies to host the missiles and their units like my old 56th Arty.
Those of us who served with the Pershing I system, which had been deployed in Germany since the 50s, remember the hubbub over the Pershing II. It went hand in hand with the leftist anti-nuke hysteria of the 80s, led by idiots who, like the prats in today’s gun control debate, believe the weapons are capable of independent locomotion and can thus fire themselves. Ergo, the inanimate weapons themselves are the problem, not the trigger pullers. That and the moral symmetry argument, that there was no moral difference between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and you have yourself a commie symp. Gawd, I love right-wing slang.
Many a time did left-wing and Green Party German students, and their German Communist Party directors, demonstrate in the thousands in the middle of German cities and sometimes right in front of our main gates. We found it amusing that they screeched their hatred for America festooned in their Levis, Chuck Taylors, and puffing on their Marlboros.
This time they’ll ratchet up the clamor even higher, hoping to get help from the usual suspects on this side of the Atlantic. We’ll again see marches, die-ins, pop songs, and portentous bulletins from “concerned” scientists on how we are all hours away from blowing up the planet. We were, according to them, hours from that in 1985. Funny how times flies, or doesn’t.
If the Hun gets weak in the knees, no to mention other Western Euro pals, we may look to NATO Eastern European partners who, having lived under Russian domination not too long ago, may want a little lead in their pencil as a guarantor of the Russians staying on their side of various borders. But whatever the scenario, we’ll probably have to deploy somewhere that is going to get Russian panties in a twist. They could counter by sending more —yes, more— nukes to Cuba or gambling on Nicaragua. They could have easily based in Venezuela. But too late for that one, Ivan.
This sets up new and dangerous showdown gambits. Would Trump tolerate the SSC-8 in Managua? Would the Kremlin accept Pershing IIs in Warsaw? Could both nations return to the treaty table and try for a deal? Unlikely because the Russians know without nukes they are just a third-rate power dependent on oil revenue. Kind of like a colder Nigeria without the verdant scenery.
However you slice it, the Russians will either have to back down or get in an arms race they assuredly know they will lose. Maybe that’s the plan. Juice up the military as Putin’s economy goes south. Always a nice distraction. Us? The boys and girls at Redstone will keep making better and more accurate missiles and we’ll all hope the Fifth Dimension’s balloon never goes up in the real sense. Yup, we could be back to nuclear brinkmanship and the escalation ladder.
And you thought the Cold War was over…