This post was published in Vzglyad. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
MOSCOW, (BM) – Donald Trump, apparently, intends to cross out another important agreement between Russia and the United States – the agreement on the non-deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on warships. Why in the 1980s did American sea-based Tomahawk missiles instill fear in the leadership of the USSR, and what danger to our country and the whole world do American plans pose today?
TASS, citing the “Pentagon press service”, reported that the United States announced plans to deploy sea-launched cruise missiles with nuclear warheads “to contain Russia.” On the one hand, there is no such statement on the official portal of the US Department of Defense press releases.
On the other hand, there are similar words in the “Nuclear Policy Review” of the Trump administration, only without specifying the timing of the deployment. And most importantly, the creation of such a missile by the Americans really began.
The program is called SLCM – Sea Launched Cruise Missile [cruise missile launched from a sea carrier] and, apparently, will be a kind of reincarnation of the old TLAM-N – “nuclear Tomahawk”, removed from service by Obama’s decision in 2010. This is how the missile is mentioned in the official Russian-language text of the US Department of Nuclear Policy Review: “The SLCMs will provide the necessary presence in the region of non-strategic nuclear forces to guarantee the ability to strike back. They will also serve as a response to Russia’s violation of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, in a consistent arms control response to Russia’s non-strategic nuclear arsenal and other destabilizing actions by that country. ”
Thus, the rocket is really being created, and it will actually appear on ships and submarines [if, of course, the course adopted by the Trump administration is maintained]. Last year, the Pentagon set aside 7-10 years for the deployment of these as yet non-existent missiles.
What is the most interesting and most disturbing of all this? And the fact that Russia and the United States long ago took on unilateral commitments not to deploy non-strategic nuclear weapons on ships and submarines. And they, in general, are being fulfilled. Apparently, Trump is not happy with this.
Presidential initiatives and their significance
Immediately after the end of the Cold War, in the last months of the existence of the USSR, the new US President George W. Bush announced the unilateral commitments of the United States in terms of nuclear disarmament – America was seriously reducing its nuclear arsenal, withdrawing a significant part of it from Europe and doing much more. A little later, M. Gorbachev, and then, after the collapse of the USSR, B. Yeltsin respectively took and reaffirmed similar obligations.
Both sides had long lists of them, but both sides had the same item – no nuclear weapons in the fleets, except for ballistic missiles on submarines. For a long time Russia could not ensure the fulfillment of these unilateral obligations, but by 2000 everything was basically done. An interesting “nuclear-free” status quo took shape, which was not guaranteed by mutual agreements, but was supported by the good will of the parties.
Together with existing treaties such as the ABM Treaty, “numbered” strategic offensive arms and the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles [INF Treaty], the “presidential initiatives” ensured a more or less predictable balance of power in Europe. And given the global reach of the fleets of the United States and Russia – and in the world.
The significance of the “initiatives” was that they regulated areas that did not fall under other treaties, namely: a lot of issues related to tactical nuclear weapons, their storage and, of course, deployment at sea. Before fulfilling the obligations assumed by the parties, any American ship could carry nuclear-armed Tomahawk missiles, and any Russian Project 971 submarine could carry similar and also nuclear-powered Granat cruise missiles.
This really made you nervous, because any US destroyer near the Russian shores and a Russian submarine let through by NATO anti-submarine forces could inflict a devastating blow on the enemy, and absolutely suddenly.
Such a strike could partially “turn off” the Missile Attack Warning System, for example, and open the way for a ballistic missile strike. The Initiatives have closed similar sensitive issues.
The United States has consistently dismantled this system since the early 2000s. The ABM Treaty was the first to go down in history, followed by the INF Treaty, and the US withdrawal from START is on its way. And, alas, as soon as the project of a new cruise missile with a nuclear warhead is completed, the same will await the Initiative. Nuclear weapons will return to American ships, there is no doubt about that.
This event, which has not yet occurred, but is already guaranteed, has a lot of reasons – from the generally ongoing preparation of the United States to conduct offensive nuclear wars to the personal qualities of Donald Trump, which, alas, are very conducive to all these changes.
Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan
We underestimate psychology, but in vain. It is in Trump’s psychological characteristics and in his personal likes and dislikes that you can often find answers to the questions: what Americans are doing and what Americans will do. When Trump went to the presidency, he had two slogans. One dealt with everything and is well remembered today: “Make America Great Again.” The second concerned only foreign policy and sounded like this: “Peace through force.” And it was impossible to miss this moment.
“Peace through force” is one of the American catchwords that was finally formed after the Second World War. It goes back to the statement of the Roman emperor Hadrian: “Peace through force, and if it doesn’t work out, peace through war.” This slogan was used by Republicans in the United States more than once, until in 1980 it was raised on the shield by US presidential candidate Ronald Reagan.
As you know, this is how the United States acted. In 2016, Donald Trump took over the slogan “Peace through force“. And it is under this slogan that he builds his foreign policy. Trump, whose “golden time” fell on the Reagan era, and whose interest in foreign policy was awakened precisely in the Reagan era, apparently sees himself as the successor of his traditions.
“Hawks” in the administration, the program for increasing the fleet [600 ships in the Reagan era and 355 ships of Trump], strikes on the allies of the USSR [Nicaragua, Grenada) and Russia [Syria] – all these are just reruns. Trump is doing what Reagan did, and his goal is the same: America’s dominance over all rivals, real or perceived.
Often, Trump thoughtlessly copies Reagan, for example, by brute force trying to plant loyal regimes in Latin America – and this despite the fact that the United States would have achieved much greater control over Venezuela, if they had acted softer. Missiles with nuclear warheads are just such a “cosplay” – copying without understanding.
The Tomahawk factor
The appearance of these missiles in the early 80s made the Soviet leadership go through many unpleasant minutes. The fact is that at that time there was simply no way to shoot them down: at the first course correction [on the coastline of the target state], the “nuclear” Tomahawks switched on the “touchy” mode – when a missile was hit by any type of weapon, a nuclear charge was detonated.
This made repelling the strike of such missiles simply technically impossible – the downed Tomahawk caused a nuclear explosion, and after that a huge “hole” was formed in the air defense: even the surviving radars could not be used due to electromagnetic disturbances after the explosion. But new waves of “Tomahawks” could well fly.
The answer was the MiG-31, its ability to detect subtle targets [and the Tomahawk is a very unobtrusive target] against the background of water and ice – and a categorical order to shoot down missiles to the coast at any cost.
The second important task was the destruction of carriers at sea, which in fact would become the start of a global war. In a relatively peaceful time, each approach of an American ship with these missiles to the shores of the USSR forced the Soviet military command to take a lot of preventive measures. Which, however, would not have helped in a real war, but psychologically put pressure on the Soviet leadership and demanded a lot of money.
In a 1982 concept paper analyzing the possibilities offered by the modernization and return to service of the Iowa-class battleships, each of which received 32 cruise missiles [at that time this was an unprecedented number, before the appearance of vertical missile launchers there were still four years], the following was said:
“… The Soviets will no longer be able to focus on aircraft carriers as the only surface ships in the West that pose a significant threat to their land. The Soviets are well informed of US plans to equip battleships, cruisers and destroyers with a ground-attack version of the Tomahawk missile. They understand that this will mean a significant increase in the number of surface warships of the West capable of attacking the USSR with nuclear weapons. This should significantly complicate their strategic defense task, since any surface ship will have to be viewed as a potential nuclear threat. “
So in the end it happened, and the moral breakdown that the will of the Soviet political leadership underwent in the 80s [which in many ways contributed to Gorbachev’s surrender] was directly related to such innovations. And it is this effect that Donald Trump actually wants to replicate.
Trump is trying to apply a previously successful method to very different conditions. In those years, the Soviet leadership really feared war, and the Soviet population believed in its reality.
It is difficult to say what the Russian leadership really fears today, but the fact that our people do not believe in any nuclear war is for sure. Today there is no that oppressive feeling of a military threat that pressed on the psyche in the 80s, there is no war in Afghanistan, which caused a serious undermining of the spirit of the population, and the Americans are not the same now.
It was then that they could actually wage a war in Europe, but now they are not. It was then that after watching the “Top Gun” militant, young people were recruited into the navy right in the cinema in the mobile recruiting office, now there is nothing like that. They also cannot throw several hundred bombers with nuclear bombs into one attack – they do not have so many.
Yes, the United States is actively preparing for a nuclear war, but this time people are not afraid of them, because they do not believe in this threat [although it is actually quite real, alas]. Yes, they are developing the potential for a surprise nuclear attack, but in Russia, no one cares among the population. In addition, we have all seen once that capitulation to the United States does not lead to peace. Today those people in Russia who consciously approach foreign policy issues have a completely different attitude than they did in the 1980s.
The result can be a very bad effect. Trump, who refused to carry out “presidential initiatives”, will indeed cause the nuclear rearmament of the fleets. And on every Russian submarine, “redheads” will again appear in ammunition – various weapons systems with a nuclear warhead, from missiles to torpedoes. American ships will have nuclear cruise missiles, and aircraft carriers will have nuclear bombs.
And at some point it will become clear that the high contracting parties are not only not afraid of nuclear war, but are also technically ready to wage it. As a result, the effect of these actions may turn out to be the opposite: a cornered enemy [Russia], who is also armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, this is not something that a leader who wants good for his people should strive for, but Trump can achieve just that.
Such aggravation of the situation creates a lot of risks, giving nothing in return. We’ll just have to come to terms with the fact that Americans play with fire cheerfully and nonchalantly.
There is one more dangerous moment. The designated storage periods for the old nuclear warheads [nuclear warheads], which were installed on the Tomahawks, have long since passed, and their extension is very problematic and doubtful. This means that a new warhead will be made for the new cruise missile. Taking into account the technological realities and limitations, it will apparently be made on the basis of some already existing warhead.
This means that the Americans will have a whole family of unified nuclear warheads with relatively small dimensions and weight, apparently with unified interfaces (within the existing approaches to the design of weapons in the United States, this is exactly what you should expect). The question arises: where else can they [without too much publicity, by the way] install such charges? This question is very serious, and it should be addressed to the appropriate specialists.
Let’s hope that the collection of the necessary information will be done successfully and on time, especially since we were warned in advance.
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