More on Allegations of Russian Violation of INF Treaty

Congressman Clarifies U.S. INF Concerns
Tom Z. Collina
Arms Control Today | June 2014

A U.S. congressman provided new details in late April about the Obama administration’s allegation that Russia may be breaching a key U.S.-Russian arms control treaty, stating that Moscow may have tested a cruise missile from a prohibited launcher.

At a joint April 29 hearing of two House Foreign Affairs Committee panels, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said that Russia claims to have tested an intermediate-range missile for use at sea, which is allowed under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but that Moscow used “what appears to be an operational, usable ground-based launcher,” which is not allowed. Sherman said that “it appears as if [the Russians] were developing a ground-based capacity for this intermediate missile.”

The INF Treaty permanently bans U.S. and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of traveling 500 to 5,500 kilometers; it does not cover sea-based missiles. According to the treaty, a cruise missile can be developed for use at sea if it is test-launched “from a fixed land-based launcher which is used solely for test purposes and which is distinguishable from” operational ground-based cruise missile launchers.

Testing an intermediate-range cruise missile from a ground-based launcher that is not distinguishable from operational launchers, as well as testing from a mobile launcher, would be a violation of the treaty.

Sherman said that Russia is allowed to test sea-launched cruise missiles from a ground-based launcher unless “that ground-based launcher would be the effective launcher to use in case hostilities broke out.”

Anita Friedt, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear and strategic policy, said at the hearing that the United States has “very serious concerns” that “Russia is developing a ground-launched cruise missile that is inconsistent with” the INF Treaty. She did not confirm or deny Sherman’s description of the alleged violation.

The State Department made its concerns public for the first time in January after months of speculation. (See ACT, March 2014.) The Obama administration is expected to release its annual report on arms control compliance, including a determination on Russia’s possible INF violation, in the near future.

In May 9 comments to the Defense Writers Group, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said she would not expect the issue “to drag on for years” and that it was “ripe for resolution.”

Conservatives in the House of Representatives are seeking to use Russia’s actions on the INF Treaty to block other arms control agreements. On May 22, the House voted 233-191 to approve an amendment to the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent funding for implementation of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) until Russia “is no longer taking actions that are inconsistent with the INF Treaty,” among other conditions.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who sits on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, introduced the amendment, which was supported by seven Democrats and 226 Republicans.

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the defense bill May 22 with a provision requiring the secretary of defense to notify the Senate of potential violations of arms control agreements.

Some Republican senators have criticized the administration for its handling of the potential INF Treaty violation, saying the executive branch withheld information that was relevant to the Senate debate on New START in late 2010. The administration has said it did provide information on the alleged breach during that time. (See ACT, April 2014.)

At the April 29 hearing, neither Sherman nor the State Department identified what type of cruise missile Russia might be testing or the type of launcher, but unconfirmed reports have focused on Russia’s R-500 Iskander-K. That system, reportedly first tested in 2007, would use a road-mobile launcher, as the Iskander-M does. The latter is a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that Russia has said it plans to deploy near NATO member countries in response to U.S. missile defense plans. (See ACT, January/February 2014.)

Previous reports had focused on Russia’s RS-26 ballistic missile, which Moscow has reportedly flight-tested at intermediate ranges. But because the RS-26 has also been tested at ranges greater than 5,500 kilometers, it is considered by both sides to be an intercontinental ballistic missile and therefore covered and allowed by New START.

Regarding this allegation, Sherman said at the hearing that “it seems clear it is a long-range missile” and thus not covered by the INF Treaty.

https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2014_06/news/Congressman-Clarifies-US-INF-Concerns%20

 

Moscow may walk out of nuclear treaty after US accusations of breach
Russia said to be on point of leaving 1987 treaty, after Obama administration said it violated the accord with tests of R-500
Alec Luhn in Moscow and Julian Borger
theguardian.com | Tuesday 29 July 2014

Russia may be on the point of walking out of a major cold war era arms-control treaty, Russian analysts have said, after President Obama accused Moscow of violating the accord by testing a cruise missile.

There has been evidence at least since 2011 of Russian missile tests in violation of the 1987 intermediate range nuclear forces (INF) treaty, which banned US or Russian ground-launched cruise missiles with a 500 to 5,500-mile (805 to 8,851km) range. But the Obama administration has been hesitant until now of accusing Moscow of a violation in the hope that it could persuade Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to stop the tests or at least not deploy the weapon in question, known as the Iskander, or R-500.

Washington has also been reticent because of the technical differences in definition of what constitutes the range of a missile under the INF treaty. That ambiguity now seems to have dropped away. According to Pavel Felgenhauer, a defence analyst and columnist for the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Russia has indeed broken the treaty by testing the R-500 which has a range of more than 1,000km.

"Of course, this is in gross violation of the 1987 treaty, but Russian officials including Putin have said this treaty is unfair and not suitable for Russia," Felgenhauer said. "The United States doesn’t have [medium-range missiles] but other countries do have them, such as China, Pakistan and Israel, so they say this is unfair and wrong."

Russian press reports have suggested the missile may even be in deployment, with state news agency RIA Novosti reporting in June that the "Russian army currently uses its Iskander-M and Iskander-K variants." Felgenhauer said he doesn’t believe the missile has been deployed, although he said it’s entirely possible that Russia will leave the treaty amid tensions with the US.

"The present situation of a new cold war in Europe – and not even cold, at least not in Ukraine right now – it’s a situation in which Russia can abrogate the 1987 treaty, and the possibilities are rather high," Felgenhauer said.

Russian officials have previously criticised the 1987 treaty, including former defence minister Sergei Ivanov. In 2013, Ivanov, then presidential chief of staff, said of the treaty: "We are fulfilling it, but it can’t last forever."

According to Kremlin-linked analyst Sergei Markov, Russia has a far greater need for medium-range cruise missiles than the |US, because military rivals including China are located near its borders and because Moscow lacks the Americans’ long-range bombing capabilities.

"Russia would be happy to leave this agreement, and I think Russia is using the Ukraine crisis to leave the agreement," Markov said.

As for Russia’s complaints about US aegis missiles, Felgenhauer said they reflect the genuine belief among Kremlin top brass that the US missile defence has a secret attack capability and poses a threat to Russia.

"This was a normal Soviet practice that missile interceptors had the in-built capability to be used as an attack missile," Felgenhauer said.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/29/moscow-russia-violated-cold-war-nuclear-treaty-iskander-r500-missile-test-us

 

Allegation of INF Treaty Violation Part of US’s Anti-Russia Campaign – military expert

MOSCOW, July 29, 2014 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has never violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, unlike the United States, which has repeatedly ignored the provisions of this document while running anti-missile tests, Igor Krotchenko, a member of the Russian Defence Ministry’s Public Council, told RIA Novosti Tuesday.

“Washington’s accusations on Russia of violating the INF Treaty appear to be politically engaged. They are a part of the massive anti-Russian campaign, currently waged by the US authorities, ” Krotchenko said.

Krotchenko also pointed out that the United States has been violating this treaty “on a regular basis,” explaining, “It should be noted that while accusing Russia, the United States violates the provisions of this treaty on a regular basis, while running anti-missile tests.”

Lt. Gen. Evgeny Buzhinsky, former head of the Russian Defence Ministry’s international cooperation department, agrees with Krotchenko. Buzhinsky believes that the accusations are another stage in information warfare.

“We haven’t violated anything … This is a normal work-related issue. We accuse them too,” said Buzhinsky, reminding that there is an official protocol that the United States needs to follow in order to get the Russia’s official explanations on the matter. “Everything else is just waging information warfare,” he added.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) is a 1987 agreement between the United States and the USSR to eliminate the use of nuclear and conventional missiles with intermediate range, defined as 500 to 5,000 kilometers (310 to 3,100 miles).

The accusations on Russia of breaking the agreement first appeared in a The New York Times article published Monday. According to the newspaper, the violation was for cruise missile tests dating back to 2008.

http://en.ria.ru/analysis/20140729/191440054/Allegation-of-INF-Treaty-Violation-Part-of-USs-Anti-Russia.html

Allegations of Russian Violation of INF Treaty

State Department Daily Press Briefing – 29 July 2014 [Excerpt on Russia INF Violation]
29 July 2014

U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Daily Press Briefing Index
1:28 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Jen Psaki, Spokesperson

RUSSIA / INF TREATY

TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2014
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

1:28 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. It’s pink tie day in the second row. I like it.

QUESTION: It is indeed. It had to be worn.

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) I have a couple of items for all of you at the top. We also are departing for India shortly, so I ask that let’s try to get through everyone’s questions if we can.

Today, the Administration submitted the 2014 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments to the Congress. This report covers the year 2013. The Administration takes compliance very seriously, and has submitted a report to Congress covering every year of the Administration as well as the years 2005 through 2008. The report is a product of the Administration’s rigorous compliance review process and reflects the concurrence of the Departments of Energy and Defense, including the Joint Staff, as well as coordination with the intelligence community.

In the report, the United States determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF Treaty as you all know it – obligations not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometers; or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles. This is a very serious matter, which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now. The United States is committed to the viability of the INF Treaty. We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable manner.

The INF Treaty serves the mutual security interests of the parties, not just the United States and Russia, but also the 11 other successor states of the former Soviet Union, which are also states parties to the treaty and bound by its obligations. Moreover, this treaty contributes to the security of our allies and to regional security in Europe and in the Middle East – and in the Far East, sorry.

The Administration will work to resolve the compliance issues outlined in the report through bilateral and multilateral means. A step that can be taken right away by the Senate is the confirmation of Frank Rose, who has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance. This lifelong public servant has worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations and he has been waiting for over a year. It is vitally important that he is confirmed without further delay. We need to underscore to the world the seriousness with which we take compliance by having our senior compliance officer in place. He will also need to be in place so we can work to resolve outstanding issues in this report. The unclassified report will be available online later this afternoon.

The Secretary also spoke this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov. They discussed Russia’s violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty. He said the United States would like to discuss the issue in a senior-level bilateral dialogue immediately. Foreign Minister Lavrov said he would consult and respond to the request soon.

[….]

QUESTION: All right. And then just on the INF violations, you said that you take these violations extremely seriously and you need to have your assistant secretary confirmed, that that underscores the seriousness with which the Administration takes these violations. If the Administration takes these violations so seriously, why did it take until now for you guys to report these violations —

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: — or to make the allegation that they had been —

MS. PSAKI: — let me first note, just – this doesn’t answer your question, but I think it’s relevant information. We first raised this issue with Russia last year. That happens at Rose’s level, which is the appropriate level – at the under secretary level.

There is – decisions need to be made in these cases based on whether these issues constitute noncompliance after a careful fact-based process, which includes diplomatic work, and through an interagency consideration process. That’s been ongoing. As it was concluded, the information is made available to Congress.

QUESTION: Do you have any concerns because of this that the – that more of the arms control regimes that the United States had had with the Soviet Union and then continued on with the Russian Federation are in jeopardy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think one of the reasons the Secretary wants to have a dialogue at a high level is to have a discussion about how Russia can come back into compliance. And —

QUESTION: But I’m talking about with other treaties, not just specifically this one.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think —

QUESTION: Or is there a risk that the entire regime, everything that’s been built up – that was built up beginning in the Cold War and then carrying on after 1991 – is there a risk of that collapsing?

MS. PSAKI: At this point, we have not made a determination that Russia is in violation of the treaty or any other treaty. We certainly are —

QUESTION: Of any other treaty?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, this wasn’t —

QUESTION: You’re saying they’re in violation of the INF, but of any other treaty?

MS. PSAKI: Noncompliance, yes. But our goal is to convince Russia to return to compliance and to preserve the viability of this relationship and the efforts that have been underway for decades now.

QUESTION: What are the consequences for violation or noncompliance?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, I think our immediate focus here is, Elise, is on having this dialogue with them to return them to compliance. It’s in everyone’s interests for – to preserve the work that’s been done over the past several decades.

QUESTION: And are you concerned that this will be seen kind of in the totality of what’s going on with Russia right now, that between your determination of noncompliance and your consultation with NATO allies about it, that Russia will see this as part of a kind of broader escalation of the tensions, and perhaps, as Matt said, this could affect their cooperation on nonproliferation regime?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our hope is that it certainly wouldn’t, because it’s in everyone’s interest to continue to abide by these treaty obligations. To be clear, this has nothing to do with Ukraine. I understand there could be that perception, and the timing is unrelated to everything having to do with Ukraine. There’s a process that is undergone to review whether there is noncompliance, and that was completed, so here we are today.

QUESTION: But you completed that process a while ago, though, didn’t you? I mean, you’ve known for a while that Russia was potentially in noncompliance of the treaty, and it’s just that —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we —

QUESTION: — now you finally, maybe because this congressional report was coming up or – I mean, if you could talk about the timing a little bit more, because we reported on this earlier in the year that this was hanging out there.

MS. PSAKI: This – and we confirmed at the time —

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — that this issue was first raised with Russia —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — last year.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And the Secretary himself has raised noncompliance issues in general with Russia.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: There’s a process that’s undergone with the report every time it’s released. I believe the report is technically due in the spring. You have to go through the process, which includes analysis, an interagency process, a diplomatic process, and as it’s concluded, we make the information available.

QUESTION: Did you – was part of the determination because your diplomatic outreach to Russia was proving unproductive, and at this point, given the climate with Russia, you didn’t think you were going to get any more cooperation? Because I know you did try to solve it diplomatically before putting them in noncompliance.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there are a range of factors, Elise. I’m just not going to go into them in more detail.

I have to go in just a few minutes.

QUESTION: Just a couple on Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Lucas, go ahead. And then we’ll go to —

QUESTION: When did these violations specifically take place of these test ban treaties?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t get into that level of detail, Lucas.

[….]

http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2014/07/20140729304608.html?CP.rss=true#ixzz38tlk4OVQ

 

Putin’s Treaty Problem: The Lessons of Russia’s INF Treaty Violations
Thomas Karako
CSIS | Jul 29, 2014

On September 11, 2013, Vladimir Putin penned an op-ed in the New York Times, objecting to possible intervention in Syria on the principled basis of international law and sovereignty: “The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.” Months later, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea and continues to sponsor rebel forces in eastern Ukraine. This of course contravenes Russia’s international law treaty obligations under the UN Charter, as well as its political obligations under the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

A formal letter to Putin from President Obama now confirms what Congress has been saying for years: that Russia has also been violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which prohibits all ground-launched missiles with ranges from 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Reports of alleged Russian violations have long been filtering out in both the Russian and American press.

Some arms control commentators initially scoffed at the warnings, writing them off as frivolous accusations by hawkish legislators and overzealous journalists. On the basis of extensive classified information and confirmation by the Departments of State and Defense, the House of Representatives in May declared Russia in “material breach” of the treaty. At a July 17 House Armed Services Committee hearing, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer suggested that Russia’s INF missile tests were part of a larger and “disturbing pattern of disregard for international agreements.”

Those who scoffed should now take the lesson to heart. For one thing, we should reconsider giving Russia the benefit of the doubt for faithful treaty implementation. The old maxim for the Soviets still applies to Russia: trust but verify. Numerous questions remain about Russia’s compliance with the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, the U.S. definition of obligations under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Biological Weapons Convention, to say nothing of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty now honored in the breach.

INF accomplished something that had never been done before. Some 2,692 intermediate-range nuclear-armed missiles were destroyed, including the multiwarhead Soviet SS-20, the American Pershing II, and an American ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). By reducing threats of surprise and preemptive attack, the treaty defused tension, helped reassure NATO allies, and improved strategic stability.

By 2011, U.S. officials concluded that Russia had probably violated INF, but curiously the State Department omitted any mention of concern in its annual arms control compliance reports to Congress. Nor, apparently, was the Senate informed about concerns prior to ratifying New START. When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was finally briefed about the missile in November 2012, then-Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is said to have been frustrated, reportedly saying that, “We’re not going to pass another treaty in the U.S. Senate if our colleagues are sitting up there knowing somebody is cheating.” After receiving the 2014 compliance report, Congress should ask why it took so long to report and protest the violations.

Sadly, Russia’s record also calls into question prospects for a post–New START agreement to limit or even inspect Russia’s stockpile of some 2,000 nonstrategic nuclear weapons, which have never been regulated under any treaty regime. Such reductions could well benefit the United States, but unilateral reductions and unverifiable Russian promises may not. Russia’s pattern of noncompliance should inform assumptions about what constitutes sufficient verification measures for future arms control agreements and, indeed, for future reviews of the U.S. nuclear posture.

Russia’s apparent “soft-exit” strategy of quiet violation tries to have it both ways—getting the benefits of being outside the treaty while still constraining the United States. Russian officials have complained about INF for years, on the grounds that they are now surrounded by a number of countries with these same capabilities—China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Israel. Similar complaints about conventional inferiority led to Russia’s noncompliance with CFE. This of course raises the question: what should the United States do if INF goes the way of CFE?

The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review declared that “it is not enough to detect non-compliance; violators must know that they will face consequences when they are caught.” Speaking in Prague in 2009, President Obama declared that “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” The State Department’s 2010 Verifiability Assessment for New START likewise indicated that arms control violations merited “significant” sanctions and “financial and international political costs” for “Russian cheating or breakout.” What, then, will those consequences be?

Obama’s letter to Putin reportedly notes that the United States will not violate the treaty by deploying currently prohibited INF-range systems. For the time being, this is a measured step. Trying to preserve INF while hedging against its termination could conceivably provide some constraint on additional Russian missiles. For now, the United States should not make it easy on Russia by taking it upon itself to terminate INF on Russia’s behalf. If Russia feels that it really needs INF-proscribed missiles, it should bear the onus of coming out and saying so. Assuming Russia mouths support for the treaty, reinstating INF’s intrusive inspections might be one way to verify compliance.

Cajoling Russia on INF will be hard, but several steps should be taken in the meantime. For one, the United States should exercise its right to call for a special meeting of the INF Treaty’s Special Verification Commission, which has not met since 2003. The State Department’s arms control report might also be supplemented with an appendix describing the violations in more detail, which conclusions could then be circulated widely among allies and partners.

The Pentagon should also begin exploring the feasibility of capabilities in the absence of the INF Treaty. A September 2013 report by STRATCOM and the Joint Chiefs described the “capability gap” for the United States under the INF treaty and several possible responses if the INF were to lapse. Those steps could include systems to hold at risk threats from Iran, North Korea, and China—and Russian’s own intermediate-range systems. Possibilities include an improved Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and using the Vertical Launch System planned for Aegis Ashore in Europe to host land-attack cruise missiles. In today’s budget environment, investment in shiny new “Pershing IIIs” seems unlikely. Land basing for existing sea-launched missiles, expanded missile defense deployments, and extended range guided artillery, however, might be easier and more desirable.

Russia also should be reminded that building INF-range missiles is likely to stimulate further interest in Europe-based missile defenses about which they so frequently and bitterly complain. In March, the Missile Defense Agency director testified that minor changes could make Aegis Ashore capable of cruise missile defense.

No one is yet recommending that these be deployed, but studying these options is fully consistent with the treaty. As arms control, INF originally benefited the United States because it exacted a relatively greater disadvantage to the Soviets. Whether or not we are better off in the absence of INF depends on a realistic assessment of whether the United States will end up relatively advantaged by actually fielding defenses and other currently proscribed systems.

“Whether [they] like it or not,” to use Putin’s phrase, Russia is obligated to honor its international agreements. The now-acknowledged INF violations, however, are the latest in Russia’s long pattern of dishonoring treaties. U.S. policymakers should respond firmly through diplomatic and other means, take concrete steps to hedge against formal or informal treaty lapse, and finally take to heart the lessons learned about Russia’s troubling arms control record.

Thomas Karako is a visiting fellow with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

http://csis.org/publication/putins-treaty-problem-lessons-russias-inf-treaty-violations

 

Is Russia Violating the INF Treaty?
A technical and political analysis
Nikolai Sokov, Miles A. Pomper
The National Interest | February 11, 2014

Is Russia violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty? Press reports have suggested that this is the case, and top Republican legislators are demanding that it act. "We believe it is imperative that Russian officials not be permitted to believe they stand to gain from a material breach of this or any other treaty”—so wrote House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).

Such allegations create a highly challenging situation. They will likely further worsen the bilateral US-Russian relationship, which is already at a low point; they are bound to further weaken the prospects of additional reductions of nuclear weapons; and they could complicate President Obama’s efforts to win congressional support for his Iran policy and a key arms control nominee.

There are two allegations. The first concerns the new Yars (RS-26) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which was apparently launched more than once at a distance below the upper limit of the INF treaty (The INF Treaty banned all US and Soviet/Russian land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km). While these tests can cause concern, they do not constitute a violation: RS-26 is, without doubt, a strategic missile (i.e., with a range greater than 5,500 km), and there are no provisions in any existing treaty that prohibit tests to the range below the maximum. The flight tests in question were apparently to assess the defense penetration capabilities of the new missile and thus used the Sary Shagan test range, which specializes in missile defense issues. The second allegation, which has become public recently, concerns an unidentified ground-launched cruise missile. The US Government has reportedly raised these tests with the Russians a number of times, but they have termed it a nonissue and refused to respond further; on January 17, 2014 the United States informed its NATO allies about the concern. A State Department spokesperson clarified, however, that the case was still under review and had not yet been classified as a violation.

The issue of INF compliance encompasses three separate, but closely related strands. One is technical—the substance of allegations, the properties of the missiles in question, and verification issues. Another relates to arms control and strategic concerns—how the INF treaty provisions fit or don’t fit into the Russian national-security strategy. The third is politics—the reasons why allegations about treaty noncompliance continue to surface in public debate and the likely consequences for US foreign policy.

Technical Aspects: The Nature of Concern

The technical issues are a complex maze of engineering, military and legal details. As noted above, Russian tests of the RS-26 ICBM do not represent a violation: nothing in any existing arms-control treaty prohibits tests at reduced ranges. The absence of a lower limit on flight tests of strategic weapons is a heritage of Cold War approaches to arms control: during that time, parties were mostly concerned about maximum capability of weapons systems, be it range or the number of warheads that could be placed on delivery vehicles. There is also a technical reason—it is impossible to prevent failed launches, which could be classified as violations if a minimum distance for test flights is established.

The situation with the new allegation, that of testing a new ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with to an intermediate range (the INF Treaty bans land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km) is more difficult to assess because no tangible details have been publicly revealed. Ballistic missiles which often employ similar rockets to those used for space programs travel a curved trajectory, ascending using their fuel then returning to earth because of gravity; cruise missiles are guided missiles which use fuel throughout their flights and are akin to aerial torpedoes . One likely candidate for the role of the suspicious cruise missile is the R-500, the cruise missile associated with the Iskander system, which was first developed with a ballistic missile.

Iskander was created to replace the SS-23 Oka missile system, which was eliminated under the INF Treaty. The decision to eliminate Oka created an uproar from Soviet military officials who claimed that the range of that system was just below 500 km (450-470 km) and that former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had made such a major concession to the United States without their support . Iskander has the same range as Oka, that is, just below five hundred kilometers, and thus does not violate the INF Treaty. However, there are serious suspicions that its range could be increased if necessary: according to a report by the National Defense University of Finland,[1] at the range-optimizing trajectory the ballistic version of Iskander could have the range of six hundred and perhaps even seven hundred kilometers; the R-500 cruise missile, which has been tested to the range of 360 km, is believed to have a maximum range “several times longer.” If, as many suggest, R-500 is an extension of the Granat (SS-N-21) naval surface-to-surface cruise missile, then it could theoretically have a longer range, indeed.

If the cruise missile referred to by the leak, is, indeed, the R-500, the allegations about possible violation can point at several possibilities:

■ The United States could have detected one or more tests conducted to the range in excess of five hundred kilometers;

■ The United States could have made a measurement error—such measurements have to be conducted by national technical means and thus may be insufficiently precise;

■ Finally, American measurements might be based on the calculation of the range-optimizing trajectory while the Russian data proceeds from the actual operational trajectory, which includes two-dimensional maneuvers to avoid detection and interception by missile defense systems (the operational range could then be below five hundred kilometers while the range-optimizing trajectory could be greater).

In any of these cases, the excess range (above five hundred kilometers) would likely be small and have little or no strategic difference. In that case, the R-500 controversy will likely end up as one of more than a dozen of unresolved implementation issues, which are an unavoidable element of the arms control and reduction process. Indeed, Russia has its own share of complaints about the U.S. record.

There are also a few less likely options. The test, for example could have been of SS-N-21 Granat. Available information suggests that these sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) have been withdrawn from submarines and are stored on shore. At the same time, Russian military regularly tests old, Soviet-produced weapons systems to confirm that they can perform up to specifications. For a variety of reasons, it might be convenient to launch it from land rather from a naval platform. There is also a joint Russian-Indian cruise missile project, BrahMos II, which is intended for a variety of platforms, including on land, but this work is still in early stages.

Or Russia could have tested a new GLCM system with a range well above the five hundred kilometer limit. A full assessment of the strategic and arms control implications of such a system would be difficult to gauge without at least elementary information. Yet, the fact that the State Department has refrained from classifying this case as a violation and instead insisted it was a concern that requires additional assessment and consultations, suggests that a new long-range GLCM (i.e., well above five hundred kilometers) unlikely. Meanwhile, an assessment of Russian arms control and strategic behavior indicates that is unlikely Russia would cheat on the agreement to increase the missile’s range by a mere one hundred or so kilometers.

Arms Control Aspects: The Attitude Toward the INF Treaty in Russia

Opposition to the INF Treaty on part of many influential figures among Russia’s decision-making elite is well known. In 2005, Sergey Ivanov, a close associate of Vladimir Putin and at the time the Minister of Defense, raised the prospect of Russian withdrawal from the INF treaty with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; an ensuing debate in Moscow concluded with a decision not to withdraw, but the idea resurfaces from time to time. The main justification is the development of intermediate-range missiles in countries to the south of Russia—China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, and others. One can say that the fate of the INF Treaty in Russia continues to hang on a very thin thread.

Some have suggested that Russian coolness to the INF Treaty can explain an attempt to quietly circumvent or even violate it. Rather, the opposite is more likely: if Moscow decides the INF Treaty is in the way of R&D programs it considers vital, it will hardly hesitate to withdraw.

At the heart of Russian security strategy is deterring the possible use of high-precision conventional weapons (such as Navy Tomahawk missiles) by the United States and NATO along the lines of wars in Kosovo, Iraq, and elsewhere others over the last decade and a half. Russia’s 2000 Military Doctrine relied on limited use of nuclear weapons against airbases and command and control centers to counter that perceived threat. Reliance on nuclear weapons, however, has been from the very beginning regarded as a stopgap measure until the country develops a modern conventional-deterrence capability. Iskanders appear to fill one of the gaps in such conventional capability (there has been no evidence that Russia has tested these missiles for nuclear warheads, although theoretically this remains a possibility) and in this sense play a vital role in covering a range of potential targets without the threat of a nuclear strike.

If deployed in Kaliningrad oblast, an exclave of Russian territory between Poland and Lithuania, Iskander missiles with the range of approximately five hundred kilometers can reach targets throughout nearly all of Poland and the Baltic states—the area that represents one of the possible staging grounds for NATO strikes. Increasing their range by one hundred or even two hundred kilometers will not radically change that situation.

Therefore, it seems logical that if Russia chose to deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles it would aim at a qualitative leap—acquiring systems with 1,000-1,500 km range. That would allow Russia to put at risk not only more of the European theater also the additional countries to Russia’ south.

Withdrawal from the INF Treaty will hardly constitute a major challenge, if that treaty stands in the way of a capability that Russian leadership regards as vital for further development of conventional deterrence capability. The withdrawal is likely to enjoy support of the majority of the elite; if Putin introduces such a bill into the parliament, it will be adopted without debate or serious opposition. The U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty in 2003 will provide the necessary pretext: like the George W. Bush administration, Moscow can declare that INF is a leftover from the Cold War, that its continued existence undermines the country’s security (with references to missile programs in countries to the south of Russia), and that it does not intend to develop intermediate-range nuclear weapons. Moreover, the state of the US-Russian relationship today is such that abrogation of an old treaty will hardly worsen that relationship any further, from the Russian leadership’s perspective.

Thus, the case that there are significant Russian violations of the INF Treaty appears weak. As noted above, the RS-26 tests do not represent a violation—at most the use of a legal loophole for reasons of convenience. The story about cruise missile tests is still vague, but the fact that US government was reluctant to classify it as a violation suggests plenty of uncertainty. In the history of US-Soviet and US-Russian arms control there have been dozens of similar cases—both parties have raised concern about the actions of the other. The majority of these concerns remained unresolved for years until they lost relevance. As a rule, these are technical issues that are discussed by technical experts outside public eye. Why, then have allegations about possible violation of the INF Treaty surfaced? The reasons for that are likely to be found in alliance and domestic politics rather than in substance of the arms control process.

Political Aspects: US-Russian Relations and US Domestic Politics

One group which has consistently raised questions about the Iskander’s deployment are the Baltic states, particularly Lithuania, which has tended to cite the deployments as a reason to keep U.S. nuclear gravity bombs in Europe, despite support for their withdrawal from many of the more established members of the alliance. News of the suspicious tests leaked after an alliance meeting in January.

Domestically, a letter by a group of Republican members of the House Armed Service Committee, suggests that Republicans sensed an opportunity in the revelations to push back on administration initiatives in several areas such as the further reduction of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and the Iranian nuclear program.

The story broke soon after the an interim nuclear deal with Iran took effect and President Obama threatened to veto any congressional efforts to impose new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. The Armed Services Committee Republicans have argued that the new agreement will permit Iran to cheat without sufficient penalty and argue that the administration’s behavior with Russia proves their case.

Similarly, Republicans have been highly skeptical of Obama’s 2013 proposal to reduce US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads by another third within the framework of the 2010 New START Treaty—from 1,550 to about 1,000. They have been particularly concerned that Obama might seek to make the reductions in a way that bypasses requirements for Senate approval of treaties.

Ironically , in this concern, they have found a de facto common cause with Russian hardliners. Moscow, has demonstrated very considerable reluctance to engage in reductions beyond those mandated by New START. Any action that undermines the prospect of reductions is bound to be welcomed by the Russian government (publicly it will claim otherwise, of course). Moreover, if the initiative appears to come from the United States, Moscow will gain by being able to shift the blame for absence of progress on nuclear disarmament to the other party.

The news also came as the Senate is considering confirmation of Rose Gottemoeller as the lead U.S. arms control diplomat. Gottemoeller, the lead negotiator for the New START treaty, has been acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international policy for several years. She had been expected to be named permanently to the position. But the price of her confirmation may be a resolution of the INF controversy on terms preferred by the opponents of new reductions—namely, forcing Russia into acknowledging treaty violations in a way likely to further disrupt the administration’s arms-control agenda.

Nikolai Sokov is a Senior Fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation. Miles A. Pomper is a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and the former editor of Arms Control Today.

[1] Stephan Forss, The Russian Operational-Tactical Missile Iskander Missile System (Helsinki: National Defense University, Department of Strategic and Defense Studies, Series 4, Working Paper No. 42, 2012).

http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/russia-violating-the-inf-treaty-9859

Security chief sheds light on Russian intels’ activities in Ukraine

 

Russian intelligence services have long planned the annexation of Crimea, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, has said in a lengthy interview with a Ukrainian daily. He added that the former Ukrainian leadership must have been aware of these plans. Nalyvaychenko said that the SBU had severed any ties with the Russian law-enforcement agencies. Nalyvaychenko also spoke about the SBU’s activities under his leadership, the service’s challenges and first successes. The following is the text of the interview with Nalyvaychenko, conducted by Ivan Kapsamun, entitled "About the ‘dividing line’" published by the Ukrainian analytical daily Den on 19 June; subheadings are as published:

Valentyn Nalyvaychenko returned to service in the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU] at a dramatic time for the country. After the victory of Euromaydan and escape of Yanukovych, the security service was faced with serious challenges.

First, it finally became clear that the famous so-called Yanukovych’s "rigid structure of power" was working not to strengthen Ukraine’s statehood, but to cater the interests of the neighbouring country [Russia]. The SBU had actually been destroyed from within, because representatives of foreign intelligence services operated in its structure.

Second, the incumbent authorities immediately found itself facing a new threat – the Russian aggression. Taking advantage of the moment, the Kremlin occupied and annexed Crimea, and then launched a sabotage and terrorist war against Ukraine in Donbass, destabilizing the situation in the south and east of the country as a whole.

Valentyn Nalyvaychenko has been occupying the post of the head of the SBU for almost four months. This is his first official interview with mass media, which he exclusively gave to the Den newspaper. We were talking about restoring security service operations, implementation of the president’s [peace] plan, traitors within the SBU, fate of the Crimean personnel, effectiveness of the Alpha unit, military counterintelligence, the Hague tribunal for Yanukovych and his milieu, banning of the Communist Party of Ukraine and other things.

"We have arrested 90 terrorists, 13 of whom are Russian citizens"

[Ivan Kapsamun] Mr Nalyvaychenko, the president initiated a peace plan to resolve the situation in Donbass. Will the role of the SBU in it be changed?

[Valentyn Nalyvaychenko] It is extremely important that Ukraine has a commander-in-chief of the armed forces and a legitimately elected president, who has resolved the issue of coordination, accountability and implementation of the plan to settle the situation in the east using the experience of other countries.

The president is a professional in the area of international security, so requirements for work of the SBU have been increased. This also applies to responsibilities of the management of the security service, the Anti-Terrorist Centre and all other bodies combating terrorism and corruption.

[Kapsamun] Does this mean that functions of the SBU will remain unchanged?

[Nalyvaychenko] They will be brought up to date. Of course, we were reacting and will continue to react to threats posed by foreign saboteur and terrorist groups, funding of terrorism in Ukraine by former senior officials… [ellipsis as published] More than 90 terrorists and saboteurs have already been arrested, there are 13 Russian citizens among them (in addition to mercenary militants, these are professional intelligence officers, agents). One of the latest arrestees from Kiev is an associate of the leader of saboteur groups in Horlivka and Slovyansk.

"Together with Yanukovych Moscow has been deliberately preparing for aggression against Ukraine for a long time"

[Kapsamun] Which were the first surprises and unexpected things you encountered after your appointment to the post?

[Nalyvaychenko] From December 2013 and until the end of February 2014, three groups of senior officials from the FSB were operating within the Security Service of Ukraine’s structure. During these months, all modern weapons, personal files, archives, every foundation of a professional security service, were transferred to Simferopol. In recent years, units designed to protect the Ukrainian state were filled with Russian agents and planned to shoot people and disperse [protests in] Maydan. Moreover, in February 2014, the management of the [SBU’s] statehood protection department, and other senior SBU generals, were planning this crime day and night in one of the offices in the city centre.

All this indicates the fact that Moscow, together with Yanukovych, had prepared for the annexation of Crimea and the events taking place in Donbass today deliberately and for a long time. In March this year, we have already identified separatist organizations which are, in fact, saboteur groups working on the territory of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. They had their own ideology, funding and even arms depots. The recruitment of mercenaries and transportation of weapons, including MANPADS [man-portable air-defence systems] was done by cells of the Communist Party of Ukraine, the former interior minister [Zakharchenko] and the former SBU head [Yakymenko]. And the former commander of the Interior Troops went as far as to engage in the mobilization of mercenaries in Russia’s Rostov Region.

In 2013, the SBU pretended that none of this had existed, or that it was normal. All of this was ruining the Ukrainian security service. The legacy in the SBU, which we are left with after Yakymenko’s control of the organization and the reign of Yanukovych in general, is a huge blow to the security of our country. In fact, the people who had allowed this were actually helping the enemy and are state criminals.

At the cost of enormous efforts, primarily by rank and file SBU employees, some areas were saved and new employees perform their professional functions. Of course, I cannot say that the service has been reshuffled by 100 per cent, but, for example, counterintelligence and statehood protection are the departments we can rely on.

[Kapsamun] By the way, does the FSB [Russia’s Federal Security Service] contact you now?

[Nalyvaychenko] At the moment, all contacts with the aggressor have been severed. Moreover, bilateral arrangements and agreements were terminated. Our "contacts" are limited to countering sabotage activities carried out by FSB agents.

"Ukrainian military counterintelligence has been 100 per cent reshuffled"

[Kapsamun] The work of the military counterintelligence was the one to gather many complaints. What is the problem?

[Nalyvaychenko] In the work of military counterintelligence we have completely changed our approaches and objectives. Ukrainian counterintelligence has been reshuffled by 100 per cent. At the moment, we are employing young officers there and changed the balance of forces and means in accordance with the location and actions of the armed forces. Military counterintelligence has been relieved of other tasks and oriented to counter enemy infiltration in the command of the armed forces and the ATO [antiterrorist operation] headquarters, that is, the structures that today are the key to countering military aggression. There were cases of treason. But at the time of war the enemy aims their main efforts at headquarters and military units. We are countering this.

What are we lacking yet? We need to build a new uncompromising line of fight against corruption. Unfortunately, the military aggression dictates different operating conditions. Despite everything, this week in partnership with communities in cities and districts we have formed public anticorruption vetting councils. Everyone is familiar with the facts of corruption in a particular locality – people have had enough of it, so they turn to us. The today’s challenge is to reshuffle the SBU directorate for combating corruption and help people fight against corruption, punish the corrupt officials and destroy the corruption schemes. In order to earn trust, we appoint new people, activists of anticorruption non-government organizations, including Maydan activists, to senior positions at the directorate for combating corruption. My position is as follows: if in a month the new managers have no results or the public has complaints against them, they will be rotated.

"Yakymenko is using funds from corruption activities to organize supplies of arms from Sevastopol to Ukraine"

[Kapsamun] How do you explain the surrender of Crimea, in particular Sevastopol? What is the fate of your personnel?

[Nalyvaychenko] The occupation of Crimea was carried out by military forces of the Russian Federation. As for the SBU employees in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, during the annexation of our lands a dividing line was drawn. The officers, who remained loyal to their oath and protection of Ukrainian statehood, were partially evacuated (we have given all hostels and motels of the security service to those employees, who have moved from Crimea with their families) and partially continued operating in Crimea under the harsh conditions of occupation.

[Kapsamun] Did the others betray?

[Nalyvaychenko] Yes, and traitor No 1 is the former SBU head, Yakymenko, who still in Sevastopol, using funds stolen from our citizens by corrupt means to organize arms supplies to Ukraine. The latest proof is a huge shipment of arms, explosives and money seized in Berdyansk: 900 grenades, 80 assault rifles, tens of thousands of dollars for agents and self-proclaimed mayors, all coming from Yakymenko. This is not just a betrayal, this is a disgrace in front of the whole world when a former head of security service engages in terrorist and sabotage activities against his own people. He will certainly answer for this.

Traitor No 2 is the former head of the SBU directorate in Sevastopol, who is closely connected with Yakymenko. Such betrayals hurt the service a lot. Everything they did in four years, all special forces fielded against us on Maydan were not just for show. They were preparing for a serious war against Ukrainians.

"Employees, such as Petrulevych, were not traitors"

[Kapsamun] Examples of treason, which led people to getting killed, took place in Donbass as well. Have you managed to clean up "the fifth column" in the SBU by now?

[Nalyvaychenko] Now patriotism is felt in the SBU, especially among young people. Over the past two months I received a lot of requests for transfer to Luhansk and Donetsk regions to fight against terrorism. Every week about 70-80 officers from various departments file them.

Those who betrayed and defected to the aggressor are people spoiled by corruption, they were appointed through bribes and relations with the Yanukovych family. Today, these people continue to be funded by the entourage of the former president. Now these traitors are committing crimes, killing people, taking part in destroying the economy of a part of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In essence, these are looting terrorist groups and criminals.

[Kapsamun] Did you get to the bottom of circumstances, under which SBU offices in Luhansk, Donetsk and other cities in these regions were seized by terrorists? It was the first time of such a high quantity of automatic and special weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. Is it difficult to understand why the invaders managed it so easily? There were many accusations about it in the press against the then head of the Luhansk regional SBU directorate, Oleksandr Petrulevych. What is his fate?

[Nalyvaychenko] The enemy began to seize our directorates and units because immediately after the people overthrew the criminal regime the SBU began to actively arrest the leaders of separatists, eliminate their weapon caches.

Back then, in early March, we still did not fully understand how deeply the second echelon of aggression against Ukraine – Russian commandos and local criminals, was prepared in all the previous years. They are components of a hybrid war being waged against us, including an information one.

In March-April, in social networks groups from the Russian Federation and saboteurs present in Ukraine launched misinformation, lies, open provocations to discredit our employees, who opposed terrorists and separatists. In early April, I personally had worked in Luhansk for five days and I can say that such employees as Petrulevych were not traitors.

[Kapsamun] Why did they release the so-called people’s governor, Gubarev [Hubaryev], at the time?

[Nalyvaychenko] The preventive measure for him was changed by the court. Criminal investigations on cases regarding Gubarev are nearing completion, and regarding Klinchaev [Klinchayev] have already been completed. We will pass them to the court in the near future. If they do not appear in court, we will make sure to deliver them using force.

"Alpha is following orders to fight terrorism"

[Kapsamun] What can you say about yesterday’s and today’s Alpha [the SBU’s special purpose unit]? As you know, this special unit took part in the shootings on Maydan? What happened to its personnel? Today Alpha has somehow receded into the sidelines.

[Nalyvaychenko] The Alpha from February 2014 has not gone away. It is true that Alpha was ordered by the former leadership to go to the rooftop of the Trade Unions building against the people. The then leadership gave such orders in writing. The Prosecutor General’s Office ]PGO] is investigating criminal cases regarding the employees, while the former leaders are being questioned. As of today, the leadership of this special force has been changed.

Now Alpha is following orders to fight terrorism. Alpha was the first to go into combat with an armed group of saboteurs – [Russian intelligence] GRU officers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Donbass near Slovyansk. The new commander was wounded in battle. Heroes of Alpha, including Capt Bilychenko, died. Those officers who still remain in the ranks are performing combat missions at the forefront. The special unit is used to combat the most dangerous terrorists and saboteurs in the area of the ATO. Neither Alpha nor other military units are used against the civilian population.

What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a real military aggression on the part of the Russian Federation with the participation of criminals. This aggression had been prepared for years. I do not know what kind of Eurasian fundamentalism is in the heads of saboteurs and terrorists, but every day we, in fact, detain and interrogate cadets of Russian military schools, cossacks and Russian soldiers who come here to go on safari.

Now the government is strengthening military and special units in all law-enforcement agencies. First and foremost, they purchase body armour, ammunition, food. Where did the old ones go? Stolen. Everything that was bought for Euro 2012 at the expense of Ukrainian taxpayers, all modern weapons were looted and sold. By the end of February of this year, not a single set of modern body armour was left in Alpha.

[Kapsamun] Who was in charge of the antiterrorist operation until now? By law, this is supposed to be your deputy Vasyl Krutov, but how is it in reality? He had very little contact with the press, usually this is done by you, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and acting Defence Minister Mykhaylo Koval.

[Nalyvaychenko] A military general, who is an experienced person, is directly in charge of the ATO. We will not give the name. Gen Krutov heads the Anti-Terrorism Centre, which is an interagency coordinating body, which includes the Defence Ministry, the Interior Ministry, civilian infrastructure, local authorities, emergency services and other subjects involved in combating terrorism.

"There is no confrontation. I feel no political influences in my work"

[Kapsamun] There are many complaints about the lack of coordination between the law-enforcement agencies involved in the ATO. What is the reason for this?

[Nalyvaychenko] Coordination is a major factor in any special operation. There have been problems from the very beginning: both with coordination, and with weapons, and with communication. We started from a situation of complete ruin.

Today, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine have built up not just coordination, but a strict management structure of the ATO.

Peace and stability must be renewed in territories overrun by terrorism and banditry. Civilian administration, which will take control of the management and infrastructure of the region, must start working. It is the peace plan that saboteurs and terrorists are fighting against: undermine the power grid, water supply facilities, kidnap children, rob and intimidate the civilian population.

[Kapsamun] Appointments of heads of law-enforcement agencies were done on the quota principle, and that is why today we are talking about confrontations between the different bodies.

[Nalyvaychenko] There is no confrontation. I feel no political influences in my work. The 333 MPs, who voted for [my] appointment, do not try to influence the staffing issues in the SBU.

[Kapsamun] Do you feel a political game now that the country has the new president and personnel rotation is possible?

[Nalyvaychenko] No, I do not. There is no game. There is a decision of the president: one should work and fulfil his duties. There can be no intrigues here.

"If the terrorist’s position does not change, we will act harshly and without compromise"

[Kapsamun] The president’s peace plan envisages a ceasefire and creation of a corridor for the terrorists to retreat and surrender their weapons. And what if they will not surrender?

[Nalyvaychenko] We are talking about a general possibility of settlement and stabilization of the situation in the east of Ukraine. We speak and think of peaceful people, who need to be protected, so that they are not shot at, not robbed, or their children kidnapped. As for the terrorists and saboteurs, they should lay down their arms and cease fire unconditionally.

We are ready to implement the peace plan of the president of Ukraine. But unfortunately, neither terrorist, nor separatist or communist centres in Donbass, nor the Russian side, which continues to supply weapons, nor militants, including those from Chechnya, are ready for it. If their position does not change, we will act harshly and without compromise.

[Kapsamun] How long, in your opinion, can the process of surrendering arms take? Approximately how many terrorists can dissolve among the civilians, hide their arms and become guerrillas? How long can the process of cleaning up this category of militants take?

[Nalyvaychenko] The Security Service of Ukraine and the law-enforcement agencies realize that disarmament is not a one-day process. Those people, who have committed war crimes, will not stop tomorrow. The main thing is to do everything for the protection and defence of the Ukrainian border every day. When militants and military equipment is coming from the Russian side – it is not a border.

We must understand that our border guards are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Today the process of blocking and strengthening the border with military forces is under way. But it is not enough to restore control of the border. We still need to defend it, regain trust of the local population, stop the inflow of arms and mercenaries from Russia. If Russia lets militants with weapons pass, we do not need such a border. We will have to build specialized facilities and completely block the traffic there.

"The strength of terrorist and bandit groups in Donbass amounts to at least 4,500 people"

[Kapsamun] How many, according to your data, armed terrorists and militants are there in total in Donbass today?

[Nalyvaychenko] We learn about the origin, quantity and location of Russian officers, saboteurs, mercenaries, traitors from the police and the SBU. For example, mercenary militants, so-called Kozitsin’s cossacks, number at about 300, criminals under former Ukrainian ensign Mozhovyy number up to 400 armed bandits. Collectively, the terrorist and bandit groups in Donbass amount to at least 4,500 people. And their constant replenishment from Russia is a key threat to Ukraine’s national security. This is what prevents us from resolving the situation and resuming a peaceful life.

[Kapsamun] Why are the authorities yet to introduce martial law in the east of the country?

[Nalyvaychenko] We have to understand and protect the people living in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Russian information influence and propaganda, hired illegal armed units, provocations and lootings are all a war that is now waged specifically against them. But people want to live in peace, have jobs, wages, and education for their children. And this is why we need to implement the peace plan of the president of Ukraine.

[Kapsamun] Do you expect the spread of acts of terrorism to other regions of Ukraine? Is Kiev well protected?

[Nalyvaychenko] We can locate and stop the threat after the terrorist threats in Luhansk and Donetsk regions are eliminated, and the supply of weapons, drugs, money and mercenaries across our border is stopped. Indeed, the terrorists who entered Ukraine involve former Ukrainian law enforcers and criminals from other regions in their criminal activities. The SBU carried out the latest arrests in Odessa, Kiev and Kharkiv. We arrested saboteur and terrorist groups that planned to engage in sabotage and provocations. We do our best to protect the country.

"The SBU has done its part in documenting the crimes of former senior officials"

[Kapsamun] Against the background of events in the east, information about the results of investigations into the killings on Maydan has somehow slipped into the sidelines. Why is this process taking so much time?

[Nalyvaychenko] The Prosecutor General’s Office is investigating the tragic events and crimes of the former government on Maydan. Investigators, special units of the SBU and the Ministry of Internal Affairs are actively involved in the investigation. The arrests of former leaders and employees of Berkut [riot police], the SBU and other structures are still taking place. Accounts, assets and everything that belonged to the corrupt officials and organizers of Maydan’s dispersal have already been arrested. People, who were involved in this crime, have been dismissed from office, interrogated and the fugitives are being hunted.

[Kapsamun] Is there enough evidence of the involvement of Yanukovych and his milieu in the shootings on Maydan and in Donbass for the Hague tribunal?

[Nalyvaychenko] The SBU has completed its part of documenting the crimes of former senior officials and their associates, and passed the materials to the PGO. Arbuzov and Klymenko, who created the laundry machine for money laundering and plundering of Ukraine’s budget, have been added by us to the international wanted list. The crimes of all senior officials – from the ex-president to the former head of the Ministry of Revenues and Levies have been documented, their assets and property in Ukraine have been arrested.

[Kapsamun] Did you register them attempting to get in touch with the "right" people to negotiate with the new government?

[Nalyvaychenko] I was not contacted, and they would certainly not make a deal with us. International sanctions regarding them are already in force. Now they must face the PGO and testify in court.

"We must ban not just the party, but also its ideology, and then have the criminals face trial"

[Kapsamun] Ukrainian parliament speaker has instructed the Justice Ministry with investigating the criminal activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Did the SBU hand them a base of evidence? What is the current stage of the investigation?

[Nalyvaychenko] We have already sent the materials of our investigation to the Ministry of Justice. With the support of Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko we established a joint working group, which is now processing the evidence base, so that all decisions are lawful and beyond any doubt. In my opinion, Ukrainian registration of the Communist Party of Ukraine must be terminated and then materials about illegal activities of this structure must be considered by the court. We should ban not just the party, but its ideology, too. We also need to bring to justice those Communist Party functionaries who recruit mercenaries in Luhansk and Donetsk, supply weapons and openly encroach on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Kapsamun] What further actions of the Russian state machine do you expect?

[Nalyvaychenko] I can say that whoever in the Kremlin was planning the hybrid war, the chaos and destruction of infrastructure and the economy of Ukraine, we will put a stop to it. The peace plan of the president of Ukraine, stabilization and implementation of peace initiatives is the only real chance to restore peace and stability in the state today. We must return the main thing to the people – I mean peace.

Source: Den, Kiev, in Ukrainian 19 Jun 14; p 6

Russian website says today’s realities prevent US from isolating Russia

 

Text of report by Russian political commentary website Politkom.ru on 14 June

[Article by Nana Gegelashvili, director of the Centre for Regional Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences United States and Canada Institute: "Washington’s Russia policy in the context of the Ukrainian crisis"]

The Ukrainian crisis is now a test for the United States as a "superpower" and chief helmsman of the world order. Undoubtedly, the unsurpassed economic and military might of this country enable it to still maintain its superpower status. But does this mean that in the era of the formation of new power centres with both comparable economic potential and their own vision of a security system Washington is capable of remaining the chief international arbiter?

One further question directly connected with the role of the United States in the modern world is whether Washington has at the present time a firm conviction of the need to consolidate and maintain this world order under the conditions of overexertion in which the United States has found itself. The fatigue that has built up in Americans from the extremely unpopular wars in Iran [as published] and Afghanistan begun by G. Bush Jr as part of his declared anti-terror campaign, the slow pace of recovery of the American economy, and the far from unambiguous reform of health care launched by B. Obama together with other domestic-policy problems have given rise in the American electorate to doubts as to the expediency of the lead role of the United States in support of global security.

And, truly, the majority of Americans express their consent to support America only for a war for the defence of treaty allies or the emergence of a threat. The American voter thus does not feel the least desire to support Washington’s interference in regions that are not of critical significance for the United States. It would appear that it will each time be increasingly difficult for Washington to conduct high-cost military operations outside of the sphere of its traditional allies and in the absence of support of the electorate. Even the most bellicose politicians in the United States have to acknowledge that the United States truly has no vitally important interests in Ukraine. Furthermore, nor can Washington fail to understand that there simply could be no direct Russian invasion of Ukraine. At the present time the world’s sole remaining superpower is thus avoiding military intervention for a settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, and, despite the tough rhetoric of B. Obama directed at Russia in connection with the events in Ukraine, both fatigue and extreme apathy may be read in it simultaneously.

Today’s realities are such that the US possibilities of remaining a superpower are, indeed, shrinking somewhat, which has to do both with the consequences of the global financial crisis and the domestic-policy problems which have driven Washington to overextend itself. It was these factors which dictated B. Obama’s intention to put the United States at the head of two giant integration associations -Trans-Pacific and Transatlantic partnerships – which affords Washington an opportunity to shift the accomplishment of many tasks onto the EU.

The sanctions announced by Washington on account of Russian support for the unilateral proclamation of the independence of the Republic of Crimea and designed to deter an invasion of Ukraine and the Republic of Crimea becoming a part of the Russian Federation, which followed this, as, equally, the continued escalation of the situation in southeast Ukraine, are seen by the United States as a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity [sentence as published]. A new package of Washington’s latest sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy – the banking sphere, power industry, finances, technology, and arms – is in the drafting phase.

But the effects of the sanctions policy against Moscow on the part of Washington could be not that favourable not only for Russia but for the United States as well.

In the context of the Transatlantic Partnership the United States has been forced to act in close harness with the EU and to pay heed to its position. Understanding the high degree of Brussels’ energy dependence on Moscow, which could be an obstacle to Washington within the framework of implementation of its transatlantic energy strategy, the United States could compensate the quantities of energy resources that the EU needs. This could be done both with significant quantities of its own US strategic oil and gas reserves intended for the short term and through the use of the extremely ambiguous and environmentally unsafe technology necessary in the development of shale gas and geared to the long term. This would contribute to the United States becoming the biggest producer of energy resources and would afford Washington an opportunity to compete with the main suppliers of hydrocarbons and, notably, the Russian Federation. Considering that implementation of the energy strategy could take several decades, it is recommended that the EU countries begin to invest capital in the building of the infrastructure necessary for obtaining gas from the United States in short order.

But the close partnership between the United States and the EU could be weakened primarily through both the lack of readiness of the EU as a whole and of Germany in particular for the transition to suppliers of energy resources alternative to Russia, considering both the uncertainty of the financial costs having to do, mainly, with the construction of the new infrastructure and with the timeframe. Second, the role of so powerful a factor as the trade and financial relations between the EU and the Russian Federation that have been developing successfully between both countries over a lengthy period could also cast doubt on the likelihood of close partnership between the United States and the EU.

Third, considering the upsurge of far-right sentiments in Europe and also the results of the recent elections to the European Parliament, Brussels could acquire greater independence in the context of the Transatlantic Partnership. And, finally, this could also to a considerable extent have to do with the consolidation of the economic positions of the EU itself in the future.

It is clear that the Ukrainian crisis has given NATO a second wind, which has contributed to the return of the alliance to its key deterrence and collective security commitments. In the view of NATO strategists, it is essential to increase the alliance’s military potential and, equally, to disperse it over the entire territory of the members, ensuring here its permanent presence in the Central European and Baltic countries. But without serious financial support from the EU countries providing for an upward revision of the defence budgets of each NATO member, such a possibility will be extremely complicated. This will have to do primarily with the financial difficulties of practically all the EU countries, where only Germany is an exception. But under the conditions of the division in German society owing to the EU’s sanctions policy against Russia and also to the presence there of a strong pacifist mood largely determined by this country’s history in the 20th century, doing this will be extremely difficult. But the main danger for NATO will be the conflict with such new dangers as non-traditional wars – insurgent war (hybrid war).

It would appear that nor does the Obama administration have a particular desire to resort to new sanctions against Moscow and recognizes that it is essential to make Russia part of the international system, not isolate it. The following factors are contributing to this. First, Washington understands that modern realities are compelling all global international actors to act within some polycentric system of international relations, where mutual economic competition and the level of economic dependence on the outside world are coming to be unprecedented.

Second, the CIS has been declared a most important priority of Russian foreign policy since the election as president of V. Putin in March 2000. Joint efforts for a settlement of conflicts in the CIS participants and the development of cooperation in the military-political field and the security sphere, particularly in the fight against international terrorism and extremism, are coming to be the main priorities. The experience of recent years has shown that Russia now really is prepared to take real steps to defend its interests on the space of the former Soviet Union. This, Moscow believes, is required both by problems of security and economic considerations. And Washington has to understand here that Ukraine, whose strategic significance it is hard to overstate, represents a sphere of vitally important interests for Moscow. In Moscow’s view, therefore, the West’s attempts geared to the integration of post-Soviet countries in Euro-Atlantic bodies – the Eastern Partnership programme launched by EU strategists, the NATO plans for the alliance membership of some post-Soviet countries -could not have failed to have caused it particular concern, which could not, in turn, have gone unnoticed by the Americans.

Third, Russia continues to regard the young independent states of the post-Soviet territory as part of a former country – the USSR – whose successor it was. This is explained to some extent as a response to the defeat of the Russian Federation in the cold war and its loss of status of world superpower, and Washington cannot fail to take account of this as well. Moscow proceeds here from the consideration involving its long experience of joint coexistence with the post-Soviet countries and also from the recognition that it is it which is the guarantor of their security. Furthermore, in Moscow’s view, the Ukrainian crisis exposed the entire incapacity of the Ukrainian elite for ensuring the country’s sovereignty, for which outside management both on the part of Russia and the EU is essential. All this together with the financial problems which Ukraine is experiencing today will create serious difficulties for Moscow, which also Washington cannot fail to recognize.

Fourth, the United States cannot fail to consider also that we are living in an era when international law creates conditions for its interpretation in different directions, and this sets a precedent in the absence of necessary reforms or a new architecture of international institutions – the United Nations, OSCE, IMF, WTO, IAEA, and others.

Today neither the Russian Federation nor the United States is about to halt the process of a reduction in the number of strategic nuclear warheads even under the conditions of the acute tension that has arisen between them owing to the situation in Ukraine. The interests of both countries are interconnected in many spheres (the Syrian problem, Iran, Afghanistan). Furthermore, Moscow at the present time not only successfully guarantees the stability of the biggest state with nuclear potential but also ensures stable supplies of energy resources, and this is of tremendous significance for the West.

Despite the entire complexity of this most acute crisis, which could both alter the disposition of the principal key players on the global chessboard furthering increased confrontation and secure for them the so necessary reconciliation, it would appear that today’s realities will prevent the United States from isolating Russia and torpedoing the engaged process of Moscow’s incorporation in the international system.

Source: Politkom.ru website, Moscow, in Russian 14 Jun 14

Russia transferring military hardware from Chechnya to Ukrainian border

 

Text of report by North Caucasus rebel internet news agency Kavkaz-Tsentr

27 July: Kavkaz-Tsentr sources in Chechnya report that unusual movement was observed at the Khankala military base on Friday and Saturday [25-26 July]. Pieces of military hardware have been loaded on railway platforms for over two days now.

The sources have said that long echelons are being formed. Officers are openly saying in conversations that the military hardware is being dispatched to Ukraine for use in military operations.

Local residents who work at the Khankala base said that they had never witnessed the shipment of hardware in such large amounts.

The source also reports that several hundreds of Kadyrovites [men linked to Russia’s Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov] were deployed from Chechnya to Rostov on Friday [25 July] for further deployment in the territory of Ukraine. On Saturday [26 July], formations of Kadyrov murtads were partly dislocated near the Ukrainian border.

Chechnya itself is seeing unusual reinforcement of military posts and mobile patrol groups on roads. The considerable strengthening has also been observed in Dzhalka settlement (where relatives of [Duma MP Adam] Delimkhanov live) and in Kadyrov’s residence in [the village of Novyy-]Benoy.

The reason for the reinforcement is unknown. This is certainly not linked to the completion of the month of Ramadan since the apostates used to do this before. Locals say that posts and armoured personnel carriers appeared on the roads several hours after the announcement of international sanctions against a number of Russian officials, among them Kadyrov.

There is also information that rumours are circulating among Kadyrovites about forthcoming big war with Ukraine and NATO. Allegedly, Chechnya might be bombed and Kadyrov is getting prepared for possible attacks by the USA and NATO.

Source: Kavkaz-Tsentr news agency website in Russian 27 Jul 14

 

Inspections found no build-up of troops near Ukraine – Russian Defence Ministry

Text of report by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti

Moscow, 27 July: International inspections have recorded no breaches or undeclared military activities by the Russian Federation on the border with Ukraine, Russian Defence Ministry official spokesman Maj-Gen Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday [27 July]. Konashenkov was commenting on statements by US envoy to NATO Douglas Lute and US State Department [deputy] spokesperson Marie Harf about the alleged concentration of "about 15,000 service personnel" along the border with Ukraine.

He said that 18 international inspections had visited areas of the Russian Federation bordering on Ukraine in the last four months as part of the observance of the 2011 Vienna document and the Treaty on Open Skies. These inspections included not only representatives from the USA and NATO countries but also some from Ukraine. These groups flew over the said areas and visited the military units they were interested in. "As a result of the work of these inspection, no breaches or undeclared military activities by Russia were recorded in the areas bordering on Ukraine," Konashenkov said.

"To clarify the situation, we deem it necessary to remind our colleagues across the ocean that, in addition to social network, where as we know they are getting most of their intelligence about the Russian Armed Forces, there are other sources of information, whose veracity is not in doubt," the spokesman for the Russian Defence Ministry said.

At the same time, according to Konashenkov, active military operations by Ukrainian troops in the areas bordering on the Russian Federation make it impossible to carry out similar inspection flights over these areas. "The Russian Defence Ministry is convinced that the results of official inspections of these areas would record high concentration of Ukrainian troops, weapons and military hardware, which regularly shell Russian population centres and have already led to deaths and injuries among our citizens," the Defence Ministry spokesman said.

Source: RIA Novosti news agency, Moscow, in Russian 1125 gmt 27 Jul 14

U.S. Could Help Ukraine Target Rebels’ Missiles

DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT
Reporting was contributed by Michael R. Gordon in Paris and David M. Herszenhorn in Kiev, Ukraine
The New York Times | July 27, 2014

The Pentagon and American intelligence agencies are developing plans that would enable the Obama administration to provide specific locations of surface-to-air missiles controlled by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine so the Ukrainian government could target them for destruction, American officials said.

But the proposal has not yet been debated in the White House, a senior administration official said. It is unclear whether President Obama, who has already approved limited intelligence sharing with Ukraine, will agree to give more precise information about potential military targets, a step that would involve the United States more deeply in the conflict.

Already, the question of what kind of intelligence support to give the Ukrainian government has become part of a larger debate within the administration about how directly to confront President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and how big a role Washington should take in trying to stop Russia’s rapid delivery of powerful weapons to eastern Ukraine.

At the core of the debate, said several officials — who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the policy deliberations are still in progress — is whether the American goal should be simply to shore up a Ukrainian government reeling from the separatist attacks, or to send a stern message to Mr. Putin by aggressively helping Ukraine target the missiles Russia has provided. Those missiles have taken down at least five aircraft in the past 10 days, including Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Since the downing of Flight 17, a civilian jet, the flow of heavy arms into eastern Ukraine has drastically increased, the Pentagon and the State Department said on Friday, citing American intelligence reports. The Obama administration is already sharing with the Ukrainians satellite photographs and other evidence of the movement of troops and equipment along the Ukrainian-Russian border. But a senior administration official acknowledged late Friday that the data were ”historical in nature,” hours or even days old, and not timely enough to use in carrying out airstrikes or other direct attacks.

”We’ve been cautious to date about things that could directly hit Russia — principally its territory,” but also its equipment, the official said. A proposal to give the Ukrainians real-time information ”hasn’t gotten to the president yet,” the official said, in part because the White House has been focused on rallying support among European allies for more stringent economic sanctions against Moscow, and on gaining access for investigators to the Malaysia Airlines crash site.

But the official added that the decision on whether to provide targeting information would soon become ”part of the intel mix.”

The debate over providing information about potential military targets gives the first insight into the Obama administration’s thinking on long-term strategies to bolster Ukraine, counter Russia and reassure nervous Eastern European nations, some of which have joined NATO in recent years.

Plans to share more precise targeting information with Ukraine have the strong backing of senior Pentagon officials and would fit broadly into Mr. Obama’s emerging national security doctrine of supporting allied and partner nations in defending their territory without direct American military involvement.

Several senior American military and intelligence officials are arguing that if Mr. Putin does not encounter significant resistance to Russia’s moves in Ukraine, he may be emboldened to go further. And a senior State Department official said Saturday that Secretary of State John Kerry supported sharing intelligence on the locations of surface-to-air missiles that Russia has supplied the separatists.

Providing the location of weaponry and military equipment for possible destruction — something the United States does for Iraq in its battle against Islamic extremists, for example — would not be technologically difficult. ”We think we could do it easily and be very effective,” a senior military official involved in the discussions said. ”But there are issues of escalation with the Russians, and the decision about whether it’s wise to do it” is complex.

Another senior official said there were questions of whether the Ukrainian military, even if given targeting coordinates, had the reach and the precision to strike Russian-supplied antiaircraft batteries. The trucks transporting the missiles move frequently, often back and forth across the border. And if any strikes missed their targets, they could cause civilian casualties or land in Russia, giving Mr. Putin an excuse to enlarge the conflict.

”Although providing the Ukrainian forces with target location data may seem like a panacea, the actual destruction of these mobile launchers by Ukrainian forces may prove quite a bit more difficult,” said Reed Foster, an analyst at IHS Jane’s.

Mr. Foster said that Ukrainian forces had not trained extensively on using intelligence from other countries, and that any Ukrainian warplanes trying to strike missile sites would be vulnerable to ground fire. Some officials say they are worried that the Ukrainian military has been infiltrated by Russian sympathizers and agents, meaning that if the United States gave locations for targeting, the separatists could have warning of attacks.

Still, the issue has become increasingly urgent. The Pentagon said on Friday that it had seen evidence that Russia was planning a major influx of new weaponry across the border, and that it believed multiple-rocket launchers would soon be delivered from Russia.

American officials also said they had evidence that Russia was firing artillery from within its borders to attack Ukrainian military positions.

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s top commander, has drawn attention to a video that appears to show the Russian military firing short-range Grad rockets into Ukraine.

Ukraine is seeking all the Western help it can get as Russia increases aid to the separatists. Last week, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, emphasized the role of unmanned Russian surveillance drones that he said had been used for precision targeting of Ukrainian positions. But Ukraine is not a NATO ally, complicating the question of how to support its government.

”The debate is over how much to help Ukraine without provoking Russia,” said a senior official participating in the American discussions.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Thursday, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seemed to allude to the internal arguments when he said: ”We have a very active, ongoing process to think through what support we may provide to Ukraine. That debate is ongoing.”

A senior Pentagon official said later that General Dempsey had been referring to all types of aid to Ukraine, including military assistance and intelligence sharing.

The Obama administration is giving Ukraine about $33 million in nonlethal support such as bomb-disposal equipment, radios and engineering equipment, and it plans to provide night-vision goggles. But there are bipartisan calls in Congress to supply weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and training as well.

”How can you possibly sit by and not give them military assistance with all the Russian arms flowing in?” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

The shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines plane, on top of Russia’s earlier shipments of heavy weaponry, were a perilous escalation of the crisis that threatened to menace all of Europe and the United States, General Dempsey said.

”You’ve got a Russian government that has made a conscious decision to use its military force inside another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives,” he said. ”They clearly are on a path to assert themselves differently not just in Eastern Europe, but Europe in the main, and towards the United States.”

EXPOSED: PUTIN’S SECRET ARMY HQ

IAN GALLAGHER
MAIL ON SUNDAY (London) | July 27, 2014

On a corner of a street in Snizhne in eastern Ukraine, there is a gap where a block of flats used to be. In the wreckage of this destroyed four-storey building lies the chilling motive behind the mass murder of 298 innocent civilians – including ten Britons – on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

For Snizhne has become the main base for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clandestine war on Ukraine, and after getting unprecedented access to this town controlled by pro-Russian separatists, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the most likely reason missiles were being aimed at the aircraft was revenge – pure and simple.

Two days before the airliner was shot down near this town, Snizhne – part of the breakaway so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) which has declared allegiance to Russia – was bombed by Ukrainian air force jets, which destroyed the apartment block on Lenin Street, killing five women and four men and critically injuring a young boy.

Peshehonov Sergey, a newspaper editor in the town who helped pull bodies from the rubble, said: There is nothing but hatred towards the people who caused this tragedy.

You have to understand that when we got the little boy out of the building, the lower part of his body was totally crushed by rubble. The boys [rebels] were very angry.’

It is thought the sortie had been targeting a separatist military base just 100 yards away – which has become the headquarters of Putin’s covert war.

In the words of one local, the bombing attack spread panic’. A day later, others are said to have died in attacks on nearby villages. And this seems to have set in train the chilling sequence of events which led a BUK anti-aircraft missile launcher to be driven across the Russia-Ukraine border on July 17, and moved around Donetsk region to a field outside Snizhne, where it launched the weapon that blew the Boeing 777 out of the sky.

Although it is widely accepted that the pro-Russian rebels mistook the airliner for a Ukrainian military plane, tensions in the town were high, and locals callously explained the launch as self-defence’.

I think taking down the Boeing plane might be the reaction to what’s happening in Snizhne and around our city,’ said Mr Sergey said.

The boys are just doing their job. The planes bring death into our city so they could have just thought that it [Flight MH17] was another plane that was about to bomb Snizhne. It’s pure self-defence.’

And as an international team of investigators were finally allowed access to the crash site yesterday, Putin and his henchmen showed no sign of scaling down their aggression.

New photographs and video images of unguided Grad rocket launchers being moved across the border emerged yesterday, amid reports that a huge column of Russian military vehicles was massing a few miles behind the border.

The Mail on Sunday was the first British newspaper to be allowed to visit the centre of Snizhne, and access was only granted because we asked about the Ukrainian bombing, rather than the downing of MH17.

To reach the town, we negotiated six checkpoints on the road from the regional capital, Donetsk. At the last, on the edge of the town, a group of militants swaggered back and forth, armed with assault rifles.

We can’t let you through, there is fighting,’ said one, sunglasses resting on his head. As he spoke, a family in a car packed with belongings crossed in the opposite direction. On the windscreen was a hastily scrawled poster with the word Kids’ in Russian, presumably, in case anyone mistook them for combatants.

Eventually, after we sent a message to the town’s military commander explaining that we wanted to report on the attack by the Ukrainians, the guards let us through.

All smiles now where once they’d been sullen, one said: Tell the truth or we will come and find you.’ With that he made a throat-slitting gesture and returned to his colleagues.

Certainly few locals would have been particularly surprised to see the BUK mobile rocket launcher parked outside a supermarket on the afternoon of July 17, just hours before Flight MH17 was shot down.

Residents said they had grown accustomed to the rumble of tanks and armoured personnel carriers moving around their town, with armed militiamen roaming the streets and setting up positions on the outskirts, in anticipation of a Ukrainian attack.

They said that Russian military hardware had been sneaked across the border into the Donetsk region under the cover of darkness in recent weeks. Accompanied by a young man in fatigues on an old Russian motorbike, we drove into the centre of the town along Lenin Street. There was no fighting, but the air was thick with tension.

There was fighting this morning nearby – the Ukrainians are getting closer,’ said the soldier. But we held them off.’

He leaned on a railing, listlessly smoking a cigarette as we began to interview more locals. They told us that at least half the population has left town because they fear more attacks, their anxiety raised by the downing of Flight MH17.

Yes, many assume we will take the blame and fear a backlash,’ said Viktor, 76, who was on his way to the chemist to try to buy medicine for his sick wife. I go every day but they never have it, supplies are running out generally. There is bread but not much other food. There is no money in the ATMs. Power keeps going off. We have been taken over by the DPR militants.’

Another man said it was common knowledge’ that the rebels received much of their hardware from Russia and claimed his cousin spotted a convoy of tanks coming from the border a month ago. Most of the movement is at night when there is an unofficial curfew,’ he said.

Behind him lay the remains of the destroyed four-storey Soviet-era apartment block, once home to more than 200 people.

Now only 50-year-old Oleg Sapozhnik remains. I am not going to leave and let them win,’ he said.

A Ukrainian plane hit us at 6.30 in the morning – I was still in bed. The building shook and there was this massive explosion and I tried to get out of the door but it was blocked by rubble. So I jumped out of the window.’ He took us room by room through the building. Why did they attack these families? Why?’

After the attack, the militia began to appear more panicked’, according to one local. Others spoke of seeing tanks and military vehicles’ moving through the town later than night. Further down Lenin Street, less than 100 yards from the apartment block, we came across an empty supermarket and, adjacent, the sandbagged entrance to the militia’s HQ, a converted warehouse.

This, several residents tell us, was the Ukrainian plane’s real target.

The rebels looked increasingly nervous after this,’ said one middle-aged woman. And they were angry too, really angry, shuttling all over the place in their military vehicles.’ The following day something else happened to intensify their fury: an attack on the nearby village of Dmitrovka, in which, it is claimed, civilians were killed.

It was at this point that the rebels decided to hit back, and 12 hours later began moving the rocket launcher around Snizhne. It was later photographed in the nearby town of Torez, under a tree near a supermarket. From there it was taken to the outskirts of Snizhne, where it was fired.

On Friday, we requested an interview with the rebel commander in the town. He doesn’t wish to speak to you,’ came the reply from his emissary, a rifle-wielding man in his 20s. You must go back now.’ Back in rebel-held Donetsk, the expected major offensive from the Ukrainian army to retake the city never materialised, though there were reports of blasts in a suburb. Experts said the noise resembled those of Grads.

In all, Ukraine’s bloody insurgency has forced 230,000 people to flee their homes, including 130,000 who have sought refuge in Russia.

Meanwhile, a pro-Putin Russian senator claimed a new Cold War had begun after the White House accused the Russian authorities of being in part to blame for the Malaysian airliner tragedy.

After this statement we can say that a long, tough Cold War has begun,’ said Valeriy Shnyakin, a member of the defence committee of the upper house of parliament.

And the Russian government accused the US of blatant lies’ over the crash. The Foreign Ministry said accusations against Russia were a common practice in Washington when no evidence nor even references to the facts are given as a confirmation, which we could have verified and commented on.

All the White House says is limited to mentioning some "intelligence data" that cannot be presented or, and – this is totally absurd – "information from social media".’

Russia’s protests, though, count for nothing in Snizhne, the town that will be for ever bound to that appalling explosion 33,000ft above them. Not all of us want to live like this, in Putin’s pocket,’ said one elderly resident. For years we were happy – but this has changed everything.’

***

A large column of Russian military vehicles, including multiple rocket launchers known as Grad’ rockets, circled and below, pass through the border town of Krasnodon. The incident was captured on video and later posted on YouTube.

At 4.20pm, as shown in The Mail on Sunday last week, the vapour trail, above, from the BUK is spotted as the missile homes in on its target.

Lunchtime. Some hours before the Malaysian jet passed overhead, a BUK mobile missile launcher, circled, was seen passing through Torez, adjoining Snizhne, loaded with four SA-11 surface-to-air missiles.

Residents of the rebel-held town of Snizhne say the shooting down of MH17 was a revenge attack’ for a bombing of a block of flats, above, two days earlier. Nine civilians were killed when a Ukrainian warplane struck. One resident standing beside a pile of bags said: My home was bombed to bits.’