The is a tragic outcome, for which both the U.S. and Russia must share the blame. The SSC-8 is a technical violation; abrogation comes against a deep background of distrust.
The Russian error of a generation is Ukraine. In one stroke, or perhaps two, the Peace Dividend was eradicated. With a little money and love, Russia could have bought Ukraine back into the Russian orbit. The nerve gas episode in Britain has had a huge impact, far beyond the death of one innocent. Ditto for election hacking; it bought them nothing. The Russians seem to have a talent for creating enemies.
These are the indirect causes of U.S. abrogation, more important than the added redundancy of nuclear devastation that the SSC-8 provides. Had it not been for Ukraine, relations of the West with Russia would be on a different plane, where the SSC-8 would be a technical violation of little political import.
Russia might argue that the eastward expansion of NATO is an indirect cause. NATO gets a pass for this reason: The Iron Curtain is a living memory for many. Russia does not understand that fear (not hatred) of Russia runs as deep in Eastern Europe as Russia’s fear of the West. Like the common cold, fear is the gift that keeps on giving. As with Ukraine, Russia could have bought Europe with kindness, instead of having Europeans recoil with fear into the strong arms of the U.S.
The U.S. error, which probably inspired development of the SSC-8, is more subtle, the misplaced confidence in antimissile systems, which implies to the Russians that they work against their ballistic missiles. Hence the SSC-8, which is not a ballistic missile.
Each side fears weapons of the other that “do not work”, where the quotation signifies defective thinking, which leads to defective criteria for evaluating weapons systems. Twenty, and even ten years ago, this was better understood. But the press, which is also the working memory of many people, became amnesiac, forgetting all they had learned in the era of SALT.
(Parenthetic note to Kay Bailey Hutchison. (BBC) Tensions rise as US threatens to ‘take out’ Russian missiles. Quoting,
“At that point we would be looking at the capability to take out a (Russian) missile that could hit any of our countries,” she said, adding counter-measures (by the US) would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty.”
Kay, you’re talking about starting a war. Shut your mouth, or say what you mean.)
Gradually, phrases such as “Russian missile that can evade U.S. missile defenses” have become part of the current vocabulary. This goes along with the idea, popularized by Kay, that limited war involving the territories of U.S. and Russia can actually be contemplated. Not so!
Kay’s crap feeds into the Russian fear that these defenses might actually work, which resulted in a new generation of Russian ICBMs, actually fractional orbital bombardment systems, to evade our nonfunctional defenses.
There has never been a test of an antimissile system against the number of simultaneous targets of an actual attack. The success rate of our most elaborate antimissile, the Ground Based Interceptor, is 4/7. It might improve our chances with a “fat-finger” accidental launch. Against a deliberate barrage of missiles, it is useless.
The NATO missile shield is a case of mission creep. The original goal of the system was stated to be North Korea and Iran, which, it was anticipated, would have only a few low quality missiles for many years. The terminal velocity of the interceptor vehicle limits it to that role. It is not fast enough to catch a Russian ICBM.
Corresponding to the delusion that our defensive systems work, there is the fear that our offensive systems don’t. The U.S. fears that Russia’s air defense “miracle”, the S-400 actually breaks this rule of antimissile impotence, making airspace completely deniable to all kinds of missiles and planes. Yet in the 2018 cruise missile strike against Syria’s Shayrat airbase, 60 U.S. missiles were launched, one fell into the sea, while 59 impacted the target with precision. Russia’s S-400 installation did not launch a single missile. And the U.S. cruise missiles had no stealth characteristics, other than the important ability to hug the terrain.
One year later, with plenty of time to tune their S-400, the Russians had another chance. In the 2018 missile strikes against Syria, 105 missiles were launched, with none intercepted. Europe is equally vulnerable to Russian cruise missiles, including the disputed SSC-8, which the Russians will not allow us to inspect.
Why are we afraid? Because this is a version of the White Crow Problem (can’t prove a negative), or, if you want to get formal about it, the Raven Problem. This level of reasoning is frequently ignored, even by the engineering community, and it’s impossible to explain to politicians — unless they happen to be ex-engineers. Mike Pompeo has the background to understand it very well, which makes me wonder what is going on.
The U.S. has a legitimate concern about the ability of the S-400 to deny airspace to manned aircraft. But perspective is required. Prior to the S-400, a certain amount of effort, which Israel has demonstrated to be almost casual, was required to evade or disable Syrian defenses, which are at the typical level of obsolescence of minor militaries. With the S-400, depending upon the terrain, it may be unavoidably necessary to take active measures, rather than simple avoidance and jamming.
The $406B F-35 program is designed to counter the specific threat of the SS-400. The money has not been wasted; the performance F-35, to the surprise of many, is stellar. The ECM (electronic countermeasures) capabilities of the F-35 are barely mentioned. The whole business of ECM is highly secretive, because so much of it is based on very agile application of sheer brainpower, and technical collections of espionage. This leaves a gap in the minds of the public — tell us why it should work, with the necessary silence of reply.
Again, the white crow problem; prove it won’t fail. Probability theory has this answer, which applies to all the other questions of this piece, including the inverse: Russia can’t prove the S-400 won’t fail. This is much more powerful reasoning than noting that the S-400, which has large missiles with lots of kinetic energy, doesn’t have very many launch tubes. The Patriot, with much smaller, less energetic missiles, stacks them 4 per tube. Both are helpless against hypersonic vehicles. But now we’re descending into the forest, and as we sink, we see only trees.
This is the cause of an arms race: Prove it won’t fail. But this is getting long.