Is Russia's apparent violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty really significant? From the political point of view, it is of vital significance. This was the decision reached by the United States in summer 2014 when it publicly accused Russia of non-compliance. Since then, it has been clear that a new price has been set for the future of the INF Treaty. Russia can return to compliance with the INF Treaty. Otherwise, the United States will, in all probability and even more probable with the new administration, react in a less than friendly manner.
Are two battalions (equipped with a maximum of 48 nuclear capable cruise missiles SSC-8) of military significance within a broad Eurasian context? So far they are not. A major change in the western deterrence and defence posture is not on the agenda. Asymmetrical offensive (counterforce) conventional measures such as the scalable additional presence of ships (some of them with see-launched cruise missiles, SLCM) and airplanes in Europe can always make a quickly realizable contribution that does not only send a clear signal to Russia, but also to NATO partners. Anyhow, strengthening of NATO defence capabilities is a must. Given the fact that any NATO Missile Defence (MD) capability limits Russian military offensive options at the lower end of the escalation ladder, it has to be assumed that the new Russian missile is the weapon of choice for a permanent targeting of all European MD sites: Germany (Ramstein), Romania (Deveselu) and (incoming) Poland (Redzikowo). (It is fair to say that the military necessity to do so has been communicated by Moscow for years). Finally, the demand for strengthening of NATO defence capabilities is at least twofold: a) need for defence of the MD sites themselves, b) need for (re-)hardening of key military installations as a prerequisite for a resilient and survivable Command & Control structure.
Colonel (GS) Stefan Hinz is a Senior Programme Officer in the Regional Development Programme at the GCSP, seconded from the German Armed Forces. He is an Air Force Officer with a background in Extended Integrated Air Defence (EIAD), having been trained in air surveillance, fighter and surface-to-air-missile control from 1987 until 1995.