Officials representing the United States, Russia, and three other former Soviet republics gathered in Moscow on May 21 to commemorate the end of inspections under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Inspections under the U.S.-Soviet-negotiated agreement are due to wrap up May 31, exactly 13 years after the landmark treaty entered into force.
The INF Treaty, signed in December 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibits the development, production, and deployment of all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. In order to enforce the agreement’s stringent provisions, unprecedented verification measures were negotiated, including both on-site inspections and continuous monitoring at designated facilities.
The United States and Russia maintained inspectors at each other’s missile assembly plants in order to ensure that missiles were not being constructed in violation of the treaty’s terms. The Russian inspectors are due to depart the U.S. facility in Magna, Utah, at the end of May, while a U.S. inspection team will remain at the Russian missile facility in Votkinsk to conduct monitoring allowed under START. Russia has not exercised its option to conduct continuous monitoring under START.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States informed the 12 newly independent former Soviet states that it considered them bound by the provisions of the INF Treaty. Four of those states—Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine—have participated regularly in the Special Verification Commission, a forum for INF Treaty-related discussion and negotiation.
Marking the end of inspections, representatives from the four post-Soviet participants and the United States signed a formal declaration, which states, “The experience accumulated in the course of inspection activities under the INF Treaty will undoubtedly be used in future bilateral and multilateral negotiations on arms control and disarmament.”