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Posts tagged ‘Imperial Land of Impeda’

US steps up winter-warfare training as global threat shifts

February 20, 2019

MARINE MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, Calif. (AP) — Hunkered down behind a wall of snow, two U.S. Marines melt slush to make drinking water after spending the night digging out a defensive position high in the Sierra Nevada. Their laminated targeting map is wedged into the ice just below the machine gun.

Nearly 8,000 feet up at a training center in the California mountains, the air is thin, the snow is chest high and the temperature is plunging. But other Marines just a few kilometers away are preparing to attack, and forces on both sides must be able to battle the enemy and the unforgiving environment.

The exercise is designed to train troops for the next war — one the U.S. believes will be against a more capable, high-tech enemy like Russia, North Korea or China. The weather conditions on the mountain mimic the kind of frigid fight that forces could face in one of those future hotspots.

“We haven’t had to deal with these things. We’ve been very focused on Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Maj. Gen. William F. Mullen, head of the Marines’ Training and Education Command. “What we really have to do is wake folks up, expose them to things that they haven’t had to think about for quite a while.”

After 17 years of war against Taliban and al-Qaida-linked insurgents, the military is shifting its focus to better prepare for great-power competition with Russia and China, and against unpredictable foes such as North Korea and Iran. U.S. forces must be able to survive and fight while countering drones, sophisticated jamming equipment and other electronic and cyber warfare that can track them, disrupt communications and kill them — technology they didn’t routinely face over the last decade.

“If you were to draw a line from here to the DMZ between North and South Korea, both of these sites are on the 38th parallel. And so the weather here accurately replicates the weather that we would encounter in North and South Korea,” said Col. Kevin Hutchison, the training center commander. “What you’re seeing here is Marines fighting Marines, so we are replicating a near-peer threat.”

As a snowstorm swirls around them, Mullen and Hutchison move through the woods, checking in with the young Marines designated as the adversary force of about 250 troops who must prevent more than 800 attackers from gaining control of nearby Wolf Creek Bridge. An Associated Press team was allowed to accompany them to the Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare Training Center south of Lake Tahoe and watch the training.

Lance Cpl. Reese Nichols, from Pensacola, Florida, and Lance Cpl. Chase Soltis of Bozeman, Montana, dug their defensive position a day ago, and they’ve been watching all night for enemy movement, while using a small burner to melt snow to stay hydrated.

The hardest part, said Nichols, is “boiling water 24/7. And the cold. It’s cold.” The cold and wet conditions force the Marines to use snowshoes and cross-country skis to get around. They wrap white camouflage around their weapons, struggle to keep the ammunition dry and learn how to position their machine guns so they don’t sink into the powdery snow.

“It’s kind of overwhelming coming up here. Many of them have never been exposed to snow before,” said Staff Sgt. Rian Lusk, chief instructor for the mountain sniper course. “You’re constantly having to dig or move up the mountain range. So, it’s physically taxing, but more than anything, I think, it’s mentally taxing.”

The Marine Corps has changed its training in the mountain course and at Twentynine Palms Marine base 400 miles south. Instead of scripted exercises, trainers map out general objectives and let the Marines make their own battle decisions, replicating a more unpredictable combat situation.

Rather than fighting from forward operating bases that stretched across Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with security forces and chow halls, troops now have to be more independent, commanders say, providing their own protection and support. And they must prepare for a more formidable, high-tech enemy.

Mullen recalled speaking to a commander in Ukraine in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “He said that within two minutes of keying his handset he had rockets coming in on his position,” said Mullen, who spent two days at Twentynine Palms, watching a battlefield exercise, before flying to the Bridgeport base in California’s Toiyabe National Forest.

The key in both places, said Mullen, is whether the Marines can stay undetected and adjust their battle plan quickly when faced with unexpected threats. Back on the mountain, Mullen and Hutchison have seized on that issue. The attacking force, members of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment out of Camp Pendleton, California, spotted one of the adversary’s fighting positions and fired on it. The simulated attack didn’t hurt anyone, but the competition is real for the defending forces from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, out of Twentynine Palms.

“You took casualties today, and you didn’t respond to it,” Hutchison told the platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Brendan Dixon of Hampton Roads, Virginia. Why, pressed Mullen, didn’t Dixon move his Marines to a safer location?

In the face of questioning from senior leaders, Dixon held his ground, confident his forces were in the right place to defend the bridge. It turns out, he was right. Moving toward the bridge, the attacking forces became trapped on a ridgeline, exposed to the enemy and unable to move through a ravine filled with snow. Gunfire exploded across the ridge.

The final assessment by the trainers was that the attackers suffered 30-40 percent casualties, while Dixon’s troops lost about 10 percent. The attacking force, said Hutchison, made some decisions that would have resulted in Marine deaths in a real battle, but it’s better to learn now, than in combat.

“In the Far East, whether it’s in northern Europe, etc., we’re replicating that here. And what we’re finding is, it’s an extremely challenging problem,” said Hutchison. “And it’s a problem that, frankly, if we don’t train to, it’s going to cost a lot of Marine lives.”

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US Congresswomen openly endorse BDS

February 11, 2019

The first two Middle East Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have openly endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Michigan congresswoman Tlaib said on Saturday that she wanted to highlight “issues such as racism and Israel’s violations of the Palestinians’ human rights”.

Meanwhile Omar, the congresswoman for Minnesota, said she is working to bring some balance to the US position, which currently gives priority to Israel…

… She added: “I know that if we saw that in another society we would criticize it – we do that to Iran and any other place that upholds its religion.”

In response, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin slammed Tlaib and Omar’s open support for the BDS movement, urging his colleagues to “to reject the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred that we are starting to see infiltrating American politics and even the halls of Congress”.

The Republicans also accused the Democratic Party leadership of encouraging “hate speech and intolerance towards Israel”. Alvin Rosenfeld, director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism at Indiana University, said that “there is obviously a serious fight going on within the Democratic Party with respect to how to deal with BDS and some within their party who advocate for it”. “Should the party swing to the far left and appear to be way out of line with America’s traditional ties to one of its strongest allies, Israel, the party will surely suffer at the polls,” he told AFP.

However, Omar has defended her views on Israel, saying she finds it “exciting” that her views are sparking debate. “I think it is actually exciting because we are finally able to have conversations that we weren’t really willing to before,” she told CNN.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190211-us-congresswomen-openly-endorse-bds/.

Why a Department of the Space Force?

Bethesda, MD (SPX)

Feb 08, 2019

Over the last 20 years several issues regarding the National Security Space (NSS) organization and management have been reviewed and assessed. Both the Rumsfeld Commission in 2001 and the Allard Commission in 2009 noted that there are many pockets of excellence and positive trends within the NSS community.

However, the commissions also noted growing performance shortfalls, vulnerabilities and potential gaps in capabilities. Many of the capabilities are thin and fragile. Important space-based capabilities are currently provided by obsolete on-orbit assets, while new generation satellites have experienced unacceptable cost and schedule growth, technical performance problems and cancellations.

Many of the necessary actions to address these adverse trends, such as those identified by the 2001 Space Commission and the 2003 Defense Science Board Study on Space Acquisition, have been slow to change. There has been a lack of clear accountability and authority regarding strategies, budgets, requirements and acquisition processes across the NSS community. In other words, “no one’s in charge.”

To exacerbate the situation, career management practices have often been counterproductive and the technical talent pool has been insufficient. These commissions stressed the need for fundamental change in order to correct the problems. In particular, the Allard Commission recommended a top-to-bottom reform to create stronger leadership and improved management for National Security Space. In the absence of needed improvements and a lack of progress, it would appear that NSS operations should have its own organization and management structure, and that structure could become the Department of the Space Force.

This new NSS organization could do many things to reduce costs and increase operational effectiveness, while maintaining space superiority. For example, clarify lines of authority and eliminate “stovepiped” systems. A new vision is needed for NSS and that may be called “Vision 2030,” a 21st Century architecture that uses an integrated approach to providing NSS services to the stakeholder community.

Such an architecture might use a single integrated and multifunctional space infrastructure that satisfies the objectives of both the warfighter and intelligence communities. Physically, this might be a multi-layered constellation of satellites that can collect ISR and other security-related information, fuse and process data, and send these data to end users on the ground.

The new Space Force might become the single source of all needed NSS information for a variety of ground and space operations. All defense and intelligence agencies could then share resources in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Why_a_Department_of_the_Space_Force_999.html.

Ex-Marine pilot dreams of ferrying folks into space

By Ivan Couronne

Washington (AFP) Feb 8, 2019

Mark Stucky fought in the Iraq war, once buzzed a Soviet warplane over the Sea of Japan and has flown all sorts of experimental aircraft.

Now, his dream is a taste of routine and repetition: to make the same trip as often as possible, in the same aircraft, ferrying six wealthy passengers into space.

“Forger”, as he is nicknamed, is a test pilot for the space travel company Virgin Galactic, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson.

Flying an aircraft called SpaceShipTwo, for a few minutes on December 13, 2018 he flew across the boundary into space over the Mojave Desert in California.

It is this kind of flight that Virgin Galactic hopes to make available on a weekly basis to rich customers, some day.

“This is a test pilot’s dream,” said Stucky, a 60-year-old former Marine with short gray hair.

“I want to do every flight,” he added, although he will have to share them with other Virgin test pilots until flights get going on a regular basis — not before the end of the year, even if all goes well.

Reaching space remains a complex and dangerous feat. A friend of Stucky flying for Virgin died in 2014 after a wrong command in midair caused the aircraft to disintegrate.

Since then the program remains in the test phase. Branson said it will be far enough along in July for him to take a place on the spacecraft. But in this industry delays are common.

Stucky says he would love to take his family along on one of the flights.

“Oh, definitely,” he said in an interview with AFP.

He was in Washington to receive “astronaut wings” from the government aviation agency FAA for private sector crew who have flown beyond 50 miles (80 km) above the surface of the earth. That is considered the edge of space for the United States, although the international norm is 100 km.

His co-pilot Frederick Sturckow also received the honor. Only two previous flyers of the predecessor to SpaceShipTwo, who went up in 2004, have garnered such wings.

“There will always be some level of risk because you’re going to space. That should not be taken lightly,” said Stucky, who has spent most of his working life flying planes for the army and NASA before joining Scaled Composites, a Virgin partner, in 2009.

“Only time will tell. There’s always this one bad flight separating you from being a hero to a goat,” he said.

Stucky added: “Humankind needs a percentage of people that do go out and explore and pave the way for the masses to follow, but I don’t think everybody should do it.”

– Floating in space –

SpaceShipTwo looks like a rocket fitted with wings. It is carried into the air by a large plane that drops it like a bomb, roughly at the altitude at which commercial aircraft travel.

A few seconds later, the pilot ignites the engine and the spaceplane becomes an actual rocket for a minute, blasting straight up — so high that the view stretches from Baja California in Mexico to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Then, in absolute silence, the passengers experience weightlessness and float for a few minutes. Soon gravity kicks back in and SpaceShipTwo heads back down to earth, like a cannonball. Stucky and his co-pilot ease the gliding craft into the Mojave Air and Spaceport.

Some say such missions are no big deal — just going way, way up, and less tricky than flying in orbit around the earth. But Stucky begs to differ.

“I don’t think it’s a dead end technology. I think it’s a way to democratize space for many, many thousands of people. If you want to go orbital right now, you open up space for a handful of extremely wealthy billionaires,” he said.

For the first 600 people who have signed up for such flights, the fare is a cool $250,000. Sales have stopped but Virgin Galactic has said the price will go up when reservations reopen.

Virgin Galactic has a rival in Blue Origin, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who wants to send people higher, up to an altitude of 100 km.

But any idea of a space race is taboo.

“If they beat us, it doesn’t matter to me too much, as long as they beat us not because we were lazy. I want us to do the best that we can, but be safe,” he said.

He said there is one drawback in his new job: being stuck in the cockpit.

“I wish I could go in the back. I really want to unstrap and float around,” he said.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ex-Marine_pilot_dreams_of_ferrying_folks_into_space_999.html.

European nations create workaround to US Iran sanctions

January 31, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — Three European countries that have been working to preserve a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear capability have established a new system so their companies can continue trading with the Mideast nation without incurring U.S. sanctions, diplomats said Thursday.

The barter-type system set up by France, Germany and Britain is designed to allow businesses to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran and thereby evade possible U.S. sanctions, setting up a potential collision with President Donald Trump’s hard-line policies on Tehran.

Once the process is up and running, a financial institution, known as an “Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges” or INSTEX, would run a payment channel, brokering Iranian imports in and European exports out, while insulating the companies involved.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of Germany, Britain and France sought to allay Washington’s possible fears. “INSTEX will function under the highest international standards with regards to anti-money laundering, combating the financing of terrorism and EU and U.N. sanctions compliance,” their statement said.

The three nations have been working on the plan for months. It follows Trump’s decision last year to unilaterally withdraw from the international accord aimed at preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for economic incentives. His administration also introduced new sanctions on Iran.

The other parties to the 2015 agreement — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — have been scrambling to keep the deal alive. In recent months, Iranian officials threatened to resume enriching uranium to higher purities than allowed under the deal, putting pressure on the Europeans to find a way around the sanctions.

“This is a clear, practical demonstration that we remain firmly committed to the historic 2015 nuclear deal struck with Iran… for as long as Iran keeps implementing it fully,” British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said..

The ministers emphasized that their payment channel is “aimed at facilitating legitimate trade between European economic operators and Iran.” “We’re making clear that we didn’t just talk about keeping the nuclear deal with Iran alive, but now we’re creating a possibility to conduct business transactions,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters Thursday after a meeting with European counterparts in Bucharest, Romania.

“This is a precondition for us to meet the obligations we entered into in order to demand from Iran that it doesn’t begin military uranium enrichment,” Maas said. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed the establishment of INSTEX, saying in a tweet it was a “long overdue 1st step” to save the nuclear deal.

“We remain ready for constructive engagement with Europe and on equal footing & with mutual respect,” Zarif wrote. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who helped negotiate the 2015 accord with Tehran, said the new system would be “essential for the continued full implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran.”

The U.S. State Department said it was “closely following” reports on the European mechanism, which originally was known as a “special purpose vehicle,” for details about exactly what would be involved.

“As the president has made clear, entities that continue to engage in sanctionable activity involving Iran risk severe consequences that could include losing access to the U.S. financial system and the ability to do business with the United States or U.S. companies,” the State Department said in a statement.

INSTEX is to be headquartered in Paris and overseen by a German banker. The three foreign ministers said a parallel structure would have to be set up in Iran and other work needs to be done to “address all the technical and legal aspects required to make this vehicle operational.”

At the outset, the European institution will concentrate on products that are not currently subject to U.S. sanctions, such as medicine, medical supplies, and agricultural goods. Many of Europe’s biggest companies shut off all commerce with Iran when the U.S. stepped up sanctions, exercising an abundance of caution. The governments of Germany, France and Britain hope the workaround will lure back some trade of non-sanctioned goods, though it’s not clear if companies would try to do business through the new state-run system and risk possible U.S. retribution down the road.

Stefan Mair, a board member of the influential Federation of German Industries, welcomed the establishment of the financial institution, but expressed skepticism about how effective it might be. “Central questions remain open,” he said. “The clearinghouse is dependent on Iran’s sanctioned oil and gas business. This continues to pose a significant risk to building long-term business relations.”

Though established by Britain, Germany and France, other European Union nations were expected to join as well. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the EU wanted to continue to support the nuclear deal.

“The most important thing is to show our American colleagues that we are moving in the same direction on a whole series of issues, such as ballistic missiles or Iran’s regional influence, but that we do have a difference of opinion on the nuclear agreement,” Reynders said. “I hope we can also find a solution.”

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told Iran’s state television he expected the mechanism to be ready to start brokering business in one or two months. “The next issue is how European companies are willing to join SPV with this mechanism,” he said.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad, said on Twitter he also thinks the start of the program was imminent.

Frank Jordans in Berlin, Jon Gambrell in Dubai and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Trump suspends arms treaty, citing Chinese, Russian threats

February 02, 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is pulling the plug on a decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia, lifting what it sees as unreasonable constraints on competing with a resurgent Russia and a more assertive China. The move announced Friday sets the stage for delicate talks with U.S. allies over potential new American missile deployments.

In explaining his decision, which he had foreshadowed months ago, President Donald Trump accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with “impunity” by deploying banned missiles. Moscow denies it is in violation and has accused Washington of resisting its efforts to resolve the dispute.

Democrats in Congress and some arms control advocates criticized Trump’s decision as opening the door to an arms race. “The U.S. threat to terminate the treaty will not bring Russia back into compliance and could unleash a dangerous and costly new missile competition between the United States and Russia in Europe and beyond,” the private Arms Control Association said. It argued that Washington had not exhausted options for drawing Russia back into compliance.

Trump said in a statement that the U.S. will “move forward” with developing its own military response options to Russia’s banned deployment of cruise missiles that could target western Europe. “We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other,” Trump said. Other officials said the treaty could still be saved if Russia reverses course and returns to compliance, but that window of opportunity will close in six months when the American withdrawal is due to take effect.

The Trump decision reflects his administration’s view that the arms treaty was an unacceptable obstacle to more forcefully confronting not only Russia but also China. China’s military has grown mightily since the treaty was signed, and the pact has prevented the U.S. from deploying weapons to counter some of those being developed in Beijing.

Leaving the INF pact, however, risks aggravating relations with European allies, who share the administration’s view that Russia is violating the treaty but who have not endorsed a U.S. withdrawal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to reporters after Trump’s statement, said Russia will be formally notified on Saturday that the U.S. is withdrawing from the treaty, effective in six months. In the meantime, starting Saturday, the U.S. will suspend its obligations under the treaty.

Pompeo said that if, in the coming six months, Russia accepts U.S. demands that it verifiably destroy the cruise missiles that Washington claims are a violation, then the treaty can be saved. If it does not, “the treaty terminates,” he said.

Administration officials have dismissed concerns that the treaty’s demise could trigger a race to develop and deploy more intermediate-range missiles. U.S. officials have emphasized their fear that China, which is not party to the treaty, is gaining a significant military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges beyond the treaty’s limit. Whether the U.S. will now respond by deploying INF noncompliant missiles in Asia is unclear. In any case, it seems unlikely Beijing would agree to any negotiated limits on its weaponry.

Russia accused the U.S. of unilaterally seeking to neuter the treaty. “I ‘congratulate’ the whole world; the United States has taken another step toward its destruction today,” said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament.

INF was the first arms control measure to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500 kilometers (310 miles) and 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles). At the time, in the late stages of the Cold War, the U.S. and its allies were mainly concerned by the perceived threat of Russian medium-range nuclear missiles that were targeted at Europe. The U.S. deployed similar missiles in response, in the 1980s, leading to negotiations that produced the INF treaty.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington state Democrat and new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, blasted Trump for raising the risk of nuclear war. “The administration’s ideological aversion to arms control as a tool for advancing national security is endangering our safety, as well as that of our allies and partners,” Smith said. “The risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding is already higher than at any point since the end of the Cold War, and this decision only makes it worse.”

U.S. officials say they have little reason to think Moscow will change its stance in the next six months. “We have raised Russia’s noncompliance with Russian officials — including at the highest levels of government — more than 30 times,” Pompeo said. “We have provided Russia an ample window of time to mend its way. Tomorrow that time runs out.”

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press that Russia can still save the treaty by returning to compliance before the U.S. withdrawal takes effect.

“But at the same time, we have started to assess the consequences, look into options,” Stoltenberg said. “We need to make sure that we respond as an alliance, all 29 allies, because all allies are involved and all allies are affected.”

Trump said his administration will move forward with developing military response options. But senior Trump administration officials said they don’t expect any immediate testing or deployment of weapons that are banned under the treaty. The current Pentagon budget includes $48 million for research on potential military responses to the alleged Russian violations, but U.S. officials said the options do not include a nuclear missile.

The officials, speaking after Trump’s announcement, said the U.S. is not in position to flight test, let alone deploy, INF noncompliant missiles as a counter to Russia any time soon. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.

One official said allies will be consulted before any decisions are made on responding to any Russian missiles. Leaving the treaty would allow the Trump administration to counter the Chinese, but it’s unclear how it would do that. U.S. security concerns are complicated by what U.S. intelligence officials earlier this week called efforts by China and Russia to expand their global influence, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.

“China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s, and the relationship is likely to strengthen in the coming years as some of their interests and threat perceptions converge,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in testimony Tuesday to Congress.

Associated Press writer Lynn Berry contributed to this report.

US poised to announce withdrawal from nuclear arms treaty

February 01, 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is poised to announce Friday that it is withdrawing from a treaty that has been a centerpiece of superpower arms control since the Cold War and whose demise some analysts worry could fuel a new arms race.

An American withdrawal, which has been expected for months, would follow years of unresolved dispute over Russian compliance with the pact, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty. It was the first arms control measure to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500 kilometers (310 miles) and 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles). Russia denies that it has been in violation.

U.S. officials also have expressed worry that China, which is not party to the 1987 treaty, is gaining a significant military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges beyond the treaty’s limit. Leaving the INF treaty would allow the Trump administration to counter the Chinese, but it’s unclear how it would do that.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in early December that Washington would give Moscow 60 days to return to compliance before it gave formal notice of withdrawal, with actual withdrawal taking place six months later. The 60-day deadline expires on Saturday, and the administration is expected to say as early as Friday that efforts to work out a compliance deal have failed and that it would suspend its compliance with the treaty’s terms.

The State Department said Pompeo would make a public statement on Friday morning, but it did not mention the topic. In a tweet Thursday, the chief spokeswoman for NATO, Oana Lungescu, said there are no signs of getting a compliance deal with Russia.

“So we must prepare for a world without the Treaty,” she wrote. Technically, a U.S. withdrawal would take effect six months after this week’s notification, leaving a small window for saving the treaty. However, in talks this week in Beijing, the U.S. and Russia reported no breakthrough in their dispute, leaving little reason to think either side would change its stance on whether a Russian cruise missile violates the pact.

A Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, was quoted by the Russian state news agency Tass as saying after the Beijing talks Thursday, “Unfortunately, there is no progress. The position of the American side is very tough and like an ultimatum.” He said he expects Washington now to suspend its obligations under the treaty, although he added that Moscow remains ready to “search for solutions” that could keep the treaty in force.

U.S. withdrawal raises the prospect of further deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations, which already are arguably at the lowest point in decades, and debate among U.S. allies in Europe over whether Russia’s alleged violations warrant a countermeasure such as deployment of an equivalent American missile in Europe. The U.S. has no nuclear-capable missiles based in Europe; the last of that type and range were withdrawn in line with the INF treaty.

The prospect of U.S. withdrawal from the INF pact has stirred concern globally. The mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, Frank Cownie, is among dozens of local officials and lawmakers in the U.S., Canada, Europe and elsewhere who signed a letter this week to President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing worry at the “unraveling” of the INF treaty and other arms constraints.

“Withdrawing from treaties takes a step in the wrong direction,” Cownie said in a telephone interview. “It’s wasn’t just Des Moines, Iowa. It’s people from all around this country that are concerned about the future of our cities, of our country, of this planet.”

The American ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, set the rhetorical stage for Washington’s withdrawal announcement by asserting Thursday that Russia has been in violation for years, including in Ukraine. She said in a tweet and a video message about the INF treaty that Russia is to blame for its demise.

“Russia consistently refuses to acknowledge its violation and continues to push disinformation and false narratives regarding its illegal missile,” she said. “When only one party respects an arms control treaty while the other side flaunts it, it leaves one side vulnerable, no one is safer, and (it) discredits the very idea of arms control.”

Nuclear weapons experts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in a statement this week that while Russia’s violation of the INF treaty is a serious problem, U.S. withdrawal under current circumstances would be counterproductive.

“Leaving the INF treaty will unleash a new missile competition between the United States and Russia,” they said. Kingston Reif, director for disarmament at the Arms Control Association, said Thursday the Trump administration has failed to exhaust diplomatic options to save the treaty. What’s more, “it has no strategy to prevent Russia from building and fielding even more intermediate-range missiles in the absence of the agreement.”

Reif said the period between now and August, when the U.S. withdrawal would take effect, offers a last chance to save the treaty, but he sees little prospect of that happening. He argues that Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, is “unlikely to miss the opportunity to kill an agreement he has long despised.”

Associated Press writer Lynn Berry contributed to this report.

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