Putin Threatens New Arms Race

Andrew Roth at the Guardian: Putin Threatens Arms Race If U.S. Dumps Nuclear Treaty.
Vladimir Putin has threatened that Russia will develop new missiles banned by the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty if the U.S. exits the pact and pursues an arms buildup of its own.

The Russian president's remarks came one day after the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said Moscow was in "material breach" of the cold war-era treaty and issued a 60-day ultimatum for Russia to correct the alleged violations. Otherwise, he said, the U.S. would quit the 1987 accord, considered a milestone in reducing the threat of a nuclear war in Europe.

In Moscow on Wednesday, Putin told journalists the U.S. had provided "no evidence" of Russian violations, and threatened an arms race if the U.S. sought to develop new medium-range missiles after exiting the treaty.

"Apparently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so drastically that the U.S. should also have such weapons," Putin said in remarks carried by the Interfax news service. "What response is our side to give? A simple one: Then we'll do the same."
So, there are (at least) two ways to interpret this.

One is viewing it through the lens of Donald Trump being Vladimir Putin's puppet, in which case the U.S. position could be viewed as simply giving Putin the rationale he needs to justify exiting the treaty and expanding his arsenal.

That might sound like a wild-ass conspiracy theory, except for the fact that Putin now has the rationale he needs to justify exiting the treaty and expanding his arsenal — right after his secret meeting with Trump at the G20, upon which Putin insisted after Trump tried to back out of meeting.

Within days, Pompeo was dispatched to accuse the Kremlin of violating the agreement and publicly threaten to withdraw the U.S. from the treaty, and, in response, Putin threatens to develop missiles he wants to have in his arsenal but can't develop as long as the accord stands.

Two is taking this at face value and presuming that the U.S. Secretary of State is operating in good faith to try to contain a dangerous despot who is currently escalating his aggression against Ukraine.

In which case, I will merely repeat what I said in October, which already feels like six lifetimes ago: Russia already has thousands of nukes capable of blowing the Earth to smithereens, so whether they have even more is secondary to the fact that Putin is brazenly provoking a renewed Cold War. Which is decidedly warmer these days.

When I was a kid growing up in Northwest Indiana in the 1980s, the threat of nuclear war stalked us like a relentless specter. I routinely heard the adults around me talking about "the bomb" being dropped. They would give a mirthless laugh and say things like at least we'll be first to go because we lived at the feet of steel giants. The Communists would take out the steel mills first, and we'd go with them.

It is a pointed cruelty to force people, especially children, to live under the threat of a nuclear holocaust. To be sure, the threat of war pales in comparison to actual warfare, which traumatizes and orphans and starves and injures and kills children every day — but the threat is not benign, either.

I can't relate to the sort of person who wants to impose sustained fear, terror, on other people, and I am very angry that here we are again, on the brink, with nary an effective diplomat in sight.

Everything is not fine. Not at all.

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