U.S. military analysts are asking these questions after a well placed, senior Russian general Wednesday was reported in a major Moscow newspaper as saying Russia might consider opting out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range and Short-Range Nuclear Forces Nuclear Forces TreatyThere's a good deal of speculation about whether any SS-18s would be redeployed along the European frontier, but little conclusive indications. Perhaps Russia is getting worried about the ballistic missile threat from the Middle East. Either way, this would be a bad thing.
The U.S. military analysts suggested the possibility that Vasilenko represented some group of ultra-nationalist hard-liners in the Russian military leadership. But if that was the case, they said, the group must already enjoy a very strong political umbrella of support to protect any senior serving officer like Vasilenko who made such potentially embarrassing statements.
That could leave the possibility that Vasilenko, who occupies a key, politically sensitive planning post in Moscow, was not speaking out of line at all but was floating some kind of trial balloon that could be easily deniable precisely because it was a relatively lower-level officer who was saying it.
This may be more likely because Vasilenko's suggestion did not come out of a total vacuum. Last year, Defense Minister Ivanov startled U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by suggesting to him at one of their meetings that the INF Treaty should be scrapped.
Open posted in Mudville.