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In his defense policy speech in Cherbourg on March 22, French
In his defense policy speech in Cherbourg on March 22, French President Nicholas Sarkozy called for negotiations on a new treaty to ban ground-to-ground short- and intermediate-range missiles.

The Russian Foreign Ministry supported his proposal, which is aimed at making global the U.S. and Russian commitments under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (the INF treaty). This measure would certainly promote international security, but, regrettably, it is not likely to be carried out.

To see why many countries producing medium- and shorter-range missiles may refuse to sign the proposed treaty, it would be useful to recall for what purpose, and against what background, the original INF treaty was signed.

The treaty committed the sides not to produce, test or deploy ground-based short- and medium-range missiles. The former had a range from 500 km to 1,000 km (about 300 miles to 600 miles) and latter had a range from 1,000 km to 5,500 km (about 600 miles to 3,400 miles).

Under the treaty, the Soviet side was supposed to reduce its ballistic medium-range missiles RSD-10 Pioneer (NATO reporting name SS-20 Saber), R-12 Dvina (SS-4 Sandal), R-14 Chusovaya (SS-5 Skean); ground-based RK-55 (SSC-X-4 Slingshot) cruise missiles; and short-range OTR-22 (SS-22 Scaleboard) and OTR-23 Oka (SS-23 Spider) missiles. All in all, the Soviet Union scrapped 1,846 missiles (more than half of these were not deployed).

The United States destroyed 846 missiles - Pershing-2s, GLCM (ground-launched cruise missiles), and short-range Pershing-1As.

The Soviet renunciation of the OTR-23 Oka missile is still a subject of heated debate in defense circles. Originally, it was not slated for destruction because it had a range of less than 500 km, but Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, made a personal concession to their American partners, and it was covered by the treaty. They also agreed not to count similar French and British missiles.

By signing the treaty, the Soviet leaders wanted to reduce the threat of a sudden decapitating strike from deployed Pershing-2 missiles deployed in Western Europe. They were capable of reaching targets in the European Warsaw Pact countries five to seven minutes after launch, leaving practically no time to respond.

To even out the situation, the Soviet Union sent its strategic missile submarines to patrol 1,500 km to 2,000 km off the U.S. shores. In theory, this move was supposed to put the United States under the same threat. But the submarines carried inferior RSM-25 (SS-N-6) and RSM-40 (SSN-8 Sawfly) missiles, with not very accurate warheads, and were rather noisy, which made it relatively easy for the U.S. anti-submarine fleet to detect them.

When the INF treaty was signed, the Soviet Union and the United States were not in equal positions. It was this that led to unprecedented Soviet concessions, including the renunciation of the Oka. At the same time it should be noted that the sides were able to reach agreement on eliminating medium- and shorter-range missiles only because both also had huge strategic arsenals, which surpassed the destroyed missiles in both numbers and yield many times over.

The situation today is quite different. While both Russia and the United States still have strategic potentials strong enough to guarantee mutual assured destruction in the event of a nuclear conflict (each of their respective arsenals exceeds that of all the world's other nuclear powers put together, in both number of warheads and aggregate yield).

Many of the world's other nuclear powers have no alternative to medium- and shorter-range missiles. For Pakistan, India, Iran, North Korea, Israel, and to a lesser extent China, medium-range missiles are the only reliable method for delivering warheads to targets beyond the range of a fighter-bomber. For most of these countries, medium-range missiles are the only means of destroying targets abroad.

The possibility of success is therefore close to zero. These countries would only give up their medium- and shorter-range missiles if the leading nuclear powers could provide reliable guarantees of peace and security between them. Though Mr Sarkozy's sentiment is no doubt noble, considering today's realities it is difficult to see such guarantees being given before the Second Coming. Although it would be great to be mistaken.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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