Return to

Nov. 16, 2017
Notes from the Pentagon

Russian general reveals INF violation
Any doubts about Russia’s militarily significant violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty were largely dispelled by Moscow’s military chief this month.

Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, told Russian state media that units with precision-guided missiles with ranges of up to 2,485 miles are in place.

“We have formed command bodies and special units to plan the use of long-range precision-guided munitions and prepare flight assignments for all types of cruise missiles,” Gen. Gerasimov said during a meeting of Defense Ministry officials on Nov. 6.

According to the general, the Russian military has deployed hardware and software for planning, information support, and data for using the missiles in combat. “This has enabled us to set up full-scale units of vehicles capable of delivering precision-guided missiles to targets located up to [2,485 miles] away,” he said.

The missile the general was referring to is the Kalibr cruise missile, used recently in Syria, that appears to violate the Reagan-era treaty prohibiting ground-based nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges from 310 miles to 3,420 miles.

An earlier INF violation involved the flight-testing of a new ground-launched cruise missile identified by the Pentagon as the SSC-X-8.

“I don’t see how this can be read as anything else but a description of a major Russian INF Treaty violation by the chief of the general staff,” said Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon nuclear policy official.

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center revealed in its most recent report on missile threats that Russia’s 1,553-mile-range Kalibr missile is deployed as a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM).

“In his speech, Gerasimov said the range of the Kalibr is 4,000 kilometers,” said Mr. Schneider, now with the National Institute for Public Policy. “A GLCM with a range of either 2,500-kilometer or 4,000-kilometer range is a clear violation of the INF Treaty.”

Additionally, Russia does not call its heavy bombers or warships “units of vehicles” — thus indicating the forces are ground-launched missiles.

“In December 2015, [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin said that Kalibr can carry nuclear warheads. A dual-capable GLCM with a range of either 2,500 or 4,000-kilometer range is a major threat to NATO and, indeed, any of Russia’s neighbors.”

The Trump administration plans to respond to the INF violation with new missiles and defenses.

Chris Ford, the National Security Council director for arms proliferation, said last summer that a broad range of options is being considered. Rob Soofer, deputy assistant defense secretary for nuclear and missile defense policy, told a Senate hearing in June that the INF breach is unacceptable.

“Resolving Russia’s INF Treaty violation is a top priority for this administration,” Mr. Soofer said. “This administration has been clear with Russia that the status quo is unacceptable and that the United States must therefore consider concrete steps that will deny Russia any significant military advantage from this violation.”

The administration has the backing of Congress. The defense authorization bill recently completed in the House-Senate conference contains provisions for the administration to develop countermeasures.

The legislation will state that Russia is in material breach of the INF Treaty and authorizes $58 million for research on road-mobile, ground-based missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,420 miles. The bill also requires intelligence agencies to notify Congress of Moscow’s INF-related activities and for the Treasury Department to sanction Russian officials linked to the treaty violation.

The Gerasimov comments also are bad news for American arms control advocates in and out of government who have tried to wish away the INF Treaty violation with the hope that Moscow will return to compliance.

The State Department, according to critics in Congress, covered up the Russian INF violation for several years in a bid to facilitate arms talks with Moscow.

Many blame Rose Gottemoeller, the Obama administration’s undersecretary of state for arms control, for ignoring the treaty breach. Ms. Gottemoeller is currently a senior official at NATO — beyond the reach of Trump administration officials who favor holding her accountable for the failure to disclose a major nuclear arms treaty violation.

The Justice Department announced this week that the state-linked Russian television broadcaster RT had registered as a foreign agent as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

“Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to influence the U.S. government or public on behalf of foreign principals,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Dana J. Boente.

Mr. Boente announced that the production company that runs RT, T&R Productions, had registered as a Russian government agent and that the national security division is reviewing whether the company’s filings are sufficient.

“The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing FARA and expects compliance with the law by all entities engaged in specified activities on behalf of any foreign principal, regardless of its nationality.”

Apparently, however, when it comes to Chinese government influence operations in the United States, the Justice Department is holding Beijing to a different standard.

Asked if the Chinese state television broadcaster China Central Television, known as CCTV and carried by major U.S. cable television providers, will be required to register under FARA, a Justice Department spokesman would not comment on specific entities.

“As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on specific entities that may or may not be required to register,” spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle told Inside the Ring.

Mr. Hornbuckle said the department acknowledges when foreign agents register, as in the case of RT, but can’t comment on the status of entities that have not.

A review of the FARA database reveals that three Chinese government media entities registered as foreign agents in the United States. Sixteen other foreign agents are representing the Chinese Embassy and several Chinese government commercial entities.

The media registered as Chinese agents include the China Daily, Xinmin Evening News and People’s Daily Overseas Edition.

CCTV and Xinhua, the state news agency that U.S. officials say has been used extensively by Chinese intelligence operatives, are not listed in the FARA database. China is known to have an extensive foreign agent network through its media and business outlets, as well as through the tens of thousands of Chinese students.

A report made public Wednesday said Chinese media should be required to register as foreign agents.

The annual report of the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission said Xinhua has expanded operations in the United States with offices at the United Nations in New York and in Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and San Francisco.

“Xinhua serves some of the functions of an intelligence agency by gathering information and producing classified reports for the Chinese leadership on both domestic and international events,” the report said.

Members of Congress this week voiced concerns about President Trump’s unfettered power to carry out nuclear strikes amid rising tensions with nuclear-armed North Korea.

Comments by the commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command suggest the command-and-control system for ordering nuclear attacks is in need of upgrading.

Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, the commander, told the online publication National Defense that the satellites, computers and radios used to direct nuclear forces are old and in need of modernization.

Gen. Rand said command, control and communications for nuclear arms, called NC3, consists of multiple systems ranging from military satellite communications systems to the command post terminals.

“There are a huge number — 107 different systems — to get our hands around, and I will be honest with you: The system atrophied for a lot of different reasons,” the four-star general said.

Gen. Rand said dealing with terrorism has resulted in a lack of focus on nuclear systems since the end of the Cold War.

An unspecified “wake-up call” occurred several years ago, and efforts are being made now to replace some elements of the NC3 while upgrading other pieces.

“But this is important because this is the ability for the president to communicate anywhere, anytime potentially on our nation’s worst day,” he said. “We call it the nuclear command and control and communications, but we can throw out the word nuclear because it could be for any kind of cataclysmic situation.”

The system is a combination of hardware and software, such as extremely high-frequency communications, including special radios and receivers.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

  • Return to