Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch | INAUGURAL ISSUE, Feb 21, 2019

Arms Control NOW

INF Treaty Suspension Opens the Door to New Missile Pursuits

The United States and Russia formally suspended their obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty Feb. 2. The United States formally informed the other parties to the treaty that it would withdraw in six months if Russia did not eliminate its nuclear-capable 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, which the United States intelligence community assesses can fly beyond the 500-kilometer range limit set by the treaty.

The announcement opens the door to accelerated work by the United States on research and development on missiles prohibited by the INF Treaty and for Russia to deploy the 9M729 and to develop new types of prohibited missiles without constraint. Neither the U.S. nor the Russian side appears to be taking steps to formally meet and negotiate on options that would resolve the INF Treaty dispute.

The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 31 that U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russia has now deployed four battalions of the offending missile, totaling just under 100 missiles, including spares. The missiles are believed to be deployed in areas of Russia in range of some NATO states.

A Feb. 18 report in The Daily Beast stated that U.S. intelligence agencies believe the 9M729 is a land-based version of Russia’s Kalibr sea-launched cruise missile with a range capability exceeding 2,000 km.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered preparations Feb. 2 for the development of air- and sea-launched cruise missile systems, such as the Kalibr missile, to be converted for ground-launch, reportedly as soon as the end of 2019. The Russian RS-26 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), currently under development, could also be modified to fly at intermediate-range.

Last year, Congress approved $48 million for research and development for a conventionally-armed system in fiscal year 2019. The status of this development work is unclear. It is very likely the administration will request additional funding in its fiscal 2020 budget request, which is due in March.

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson said Feb. 7 that the United States is not currently planning to deploy banned missiles in Europe but noted that "when we develop next steps, it will be in consultation with partners and allies."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said, that "NATO doesn’t have any intentions of deploying new nuclear-capable ground-launched systems in Europe." He added, "There are different options, a wide range of different possibilities of NATO to respond. We don’t have to mirror what Russia does."

Nevertheless, these U.S. and NATO statements do not rule out consideration of conventionally-armed ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic or cruise missile deployments in Europe once U.S. and NATO plans are set.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said at the Munich Security Conference Feb. 15 that Poland supports finding a common solution in NATO with regard to allied reaction to the end of the INF Treaty. "We are not very much in favor—we are definitely even against—deployment of missiles on our soil," he said, "But we will work out the solution with our allies in NATO because it must be united response."—DARYL KIMBALL, executive director, KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, and SHERVIN TAHERAN, research assistant


Options for Heading-Off New Euromissile Race? To date, the Trump administration has not offered a plan for curbing further Russian deployments of its offending 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile in the wake of the likely termination of the INF Treaty.

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg has mused that he is "open" to expanding the treaty to deal with more members, such as China. But that would not address the Russian noncompliance question and there is no viable plan for bringing China into the INF Treaty, which would require China to destroy 95 percent of its ballistic missile arsenal.

In his public remarks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu Feb. 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to put forward a proposal: "We proceed from the premise that Russia will not deploy intermediate-range or shorter-range weapons, if we develop weapons of this kind – neither in Europe nor anywhere else until U.S. weapons of this kind are deployed to the corresponding regions of the world." Putin’s offer does not seem to consider the Russian 9M729s that have already been reportedly deployed.

In a short essay published by the Valdai Discussion Club, Ulrich Kühn, an expert at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg and a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, describes "Five Ways to Save INF’s Legacy."

Bills to Block INF Missiles Introduced in Congress

Democrats in the Senate and in the House of Representatives have responded to the Trump administration’s threat to terminate the INF Treaty by introducing bills that would fence funding for any U.S. INF Treaty-prohibited missile system. The "Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019" (S. 312 and H.R. 1231) would withhold funding for procurement, flight-testing, and fielding of such weapons systems until the administration provides a report that meets several specific conditions, including identifying a U.S. ally formally willing to host such a system, and in the case of a European country, have it be the outcome of a NATO-wide decision.

The Senate bill was introduced Jan. 31, by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) said in a statement accompanying the Feb. 14 introduction of the House companion legislation to the Senate bill (S.312) that, "Withdrawing from the INF Treaty without first working with our allies on a comprehensive diplomatic strategy will only embolden Russia to deploy more nuclear-capable systems with less restriction."

Separately, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) introduced the "INF Treaty Compliance Act of 2019" (H.R. 1249) which prohibits funding for not only treaty noncompliant activities (procurement, testing, fielding), but also for research and development.


Russia Raises Concerns About Nuclear-to-Non-Nuclear Conversions with Senate

Although the United States and Russia have met the central limits of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Russia continues to express concern about the procedures that the United States has devised to shrink the number of its deployed long-range nuclear forces under the treaty.

A Jan. 15 story by Michael Gordon for the Wall Street Journal, reported that Russia communicated its concerns in an unusual and highly-detailed 11-page paper to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the diplomatic exchanges between U.S. and Russian officials on the New START conversion issue.

The Russian concerns about the U.S. conversion procedures for its strategic submarines, B-52 bombers, and Minuteman launch facilities are understandable, but Section IV of the Protocol to the treaty gives each side the right to devise its conversion procedure. According to the paper and to U.S. sources who have discussed the issue with Arms Control Today, the two sides have exchanged ideas that provide a basis for resolving the concerns, including a U.S. cabinet-level assurance that the systems will not be reconverted to nuclear roles.

However, with only four more scheduled meetings of New START’s implementing body (the Bilateral Consultative Commission) left before the February 2021 expiration date for the treaty, the two sides will need to work in an efficient and professional manner to ensure the issue does not complicate a decision to extend the treaty.

Undersecretary of State Thompson Punts on New START Question

In a one-on-one interview with the PBS NewsHour’s Nick Schriffin, Andrea Thompson, the State Department’s top arms control official declined to answer whether the United States would follow the advice of John Bolton, who called on Trump "to abrogate the New START Treaty" before he joined the administration.

In response, Thompson said: "I have no intentions of addressing that today. We have got two more years. Again, we have got an interagency process addressing that. The fundamentals of that are what's best for the safety and security of the American people. And it's a complex security environment. We will see what 2021 holds."

The full interview, which aired Feb. 7, is available online.


Parties Agree on Overflight Quotas for 2019

Implementation of the Open Skies Treaty (OST) appears to be back on track, for now. A dispute between Georgia and Russia over the inclusion of Russian observers on treaty flights over Georgia prevented agreement on quotas for 2018, thereby freezing flights for all member states. Normal flights appear set to resume in 2019 after states-parties agreed to active quotas for observation flights this year at an Oct. 22 meeting of the Open Skies Consultative Commission, the treaty’s implementing body.

The OST, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states-parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency of military activities, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants for information-gathering purposes. The parties have yearly quotas on overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all treaty parties. For example, the treaty permits up to 42 overflights of Russia by states-parties, of which 16 can be flown by the United States.

The agreement on quotas for 2019 followed a U.S. decision in September not to certify a new Russian aircraft outfitted with an upgraded digital electro-optical camera for flights under the treaty, a decision that was reversed several days later. (For more, see Arms Control Today, January/February 2018.)

FACT SHEET: The INF Treaty At-A-Glance

The 1987 INF Treaty prohibits all U.S. and Soviet missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The map (below) shows the missiles deployed by each side as of Nov. 1, 1987, shortly before the treaty was signed. The treaty led to the destruction of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet missiles by 1991, including 430 U.S. missiles and 979 Soviet missiles which were in storage or otherwise not deployed. The treaty prevented the planned deployment of an additional 208 U.S. ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) in the Netherlands, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. The Pershing IA missiles under joint U.S.-German control, which were not formally covered by the INF Treaty were also eliminated under a U.S. and West German agreement.


Key dates and events relevant to U.S.-Russian arms control and disarmament:

February 26

U.S. House of Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Hearing: INF Withdrawal and the Future of Arms Control: Implications for the Security of the United States and its Allies.

March 11-12

Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference, Washington, D.C. Will include a session with Russian Ambassador Anatoli Antonov, former. U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Jim Miller, and Dr. Olga Oliker of the International Crisis Group.


The fiscal year 2020 budget request will likely be transmitted to Congress. The budget may have implications for U.S. arms control policy, including a request for additional funding for INF-range missiles, new nuclear weapons capabilities, and missile defense.

April (est.)

The 17th session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission under the U.S.-Russia New START agreement, Geneva.

April 29-May 10

Third Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2020 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, New York.

Aug. 2

The date by which the United States will formally withdraw from the INF Treaty if the compliance dispute with Russia is not resolved.

December 2019

NATO Heads of State and Government, London