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The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at a Glance

History of the INF Treaty between the United States and Russia and details on potential violations by Russia

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: December 2018

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty's implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.

The United States first alleged in its July 2014 Compliance Report that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 repeated these allegations. In March 2017, a top U.S. official confirmed press reports that Russia had begun deploying the noncompliant missile. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement and has accused the United States of being in noncompliance.

On Dec. 8, 2017, the Trump administration released an integrated strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty, including the commencement of research and development on a conventional, road-mobile, intermediate-range missile system. On Oct. 20, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the INF Treaty, citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s intermediate-range missile arsenal. On Dec. 4, 2018 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend its treaty obligations in 60 days if Russia does not return to compliance in that time.

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History

U.S. calls for the control of intermediate-range missiles emerged as a result of the Soviet Union's domestic deployment of SS-20 intermediate-range missiles in the mid-1970s. The SS-20 qualitatively improved Soviet nuclear forces in the European theater by providing a longer-range, multiple-warhead alternative to aging Soviet SS-4 and SS-5 single-warhead missiles. In 1979, NATO ministers responded to the new Soviet missile deployment with what became known as the "dual-track" strategy—a simultaneous push for arms control negotiations with the deployment of intermediate-range, nuclear-armed U.S. missiles (ground-launched cruise missiles and the Pershing II) in Europe to offset the SS-20. Negotiations, however, faltered repeatedly while U.S. missile deployments continued in the early 1980s.

 

INF Treaty negotiations began to show progress once Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet general-secretary in March 1985. In the fall of the same year, the Soviet Union put forward a plan to establish a balance between the number of SS-20 warheads and the growing number of allied intermediate-range missile warheads in Europe. The United States expressed interest in the Soviet proposal, and the scope of the negotiations expanded in 1986 to include all U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range missiles around the world. Using the momentum from these talks, President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev began to move toward a comprehensive intermediate-range missile elimination agreement. Their efforts culminated in the signing of the INF Treaty on Dec. 8, 1987, and the treaty entered into force on June 1, 1988.

The intermediate-range missile ban originally applied only to U.S. and Soviet forces, but the treaty's membership expanded in 1991 to include successor states of the former Soviet Union. Today, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, which had inspectable facilities on their territories at the time of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, join Russia and the United States in the treaty's implementation. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also possessed INF Treaty-range facilities (SS-23 operating bases) but forgo treaty meetings with the consent of the other states-parties.

Although active states-parties to the treaty total just five countries, several European countries have destroyed INF Treaty-range missiles since the end of the Cold War. Germany, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic destroyed their intermediate-range missiles in the 1990s, and Slovakia dismantled all of its remaining intermediate-range missiles in October 2000 after extensive U.S. prodding. On May 31, 2002, the last possessor of intermediate-range missiles in eastern Europe, Bulgaria, signed an agreement with the United States to destroy all of its INF Treaty-relevant missiles. Bulgaria completed the destruction five months later with U.S. funding.

States-parties' rights to conduct on-site inspections under the treaty ended on May 31, 2001, but the use of surveillance satellites for data collection continues. The INF Treaty established the Special Verification Commission (SVC) to act as an implementing body for the treaty, resolving questions of compliance and agreeing on measures to "improve [the treaty's] viability and effectiveness." Because the INF Treaty is of unlimited duration, states-parties can convene the SVC at any time, and the commission continues to meet today. The most recent SVC session, called by the United States, took place December 12-14, 2017 and was also attended by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

Elimination Protocol

The INF Treaty's protocol on missile elimination named the specific types of ground-launched missiles to be destroyed and the acceptable means of doing so. Under the treaty, the United States committed to eliminate its Pershing II, Pershing IA, and Pershing IB ballistic missiles and BGM-109G cruise missiles. The Soviet Union had to destroy its SS-20, SS-4, SS-5, SS-12, and SS-23 ballistic missiles and SSC-X-4 cruise missiles. In addition, both parties were obliged to destroy all INF Treaty-related training missiles, rocket stages, launch canisters, and launchers. Most missiles were eliminated either by exploding them while they were unarmed and burning their stages or by cutting the missiles in half and severing their wings and tail sections.

Inspection and Verification Protocols

The INF Treaty's inspection protocol required states-parties to inspect and inventory each other's intermediate-range nuclear forces 30 to 90 days after the treaty's entry into force. Referred to as "baseline inspections," these exchanges laid the groundwork for future missile elimination by providing information on the size and location of U.S. and Soviet forces. Treaty provisions also allowed signatories to conduct up to 20 short-notice inspections per year at designated sites during the first three years of treaty implementation and to monitor specified missile-production facilities to guarantee that no new missiles were being produced.

The INF Treaty's verification protocol certified reductions through a combination of national technical means (i.e., satellite observation) and on-site inspections-a process by which each party could send observers to monitor the other's elimination efforts as they occurred. The protocol explicitly banned interference with photo-reconnaissance satellites, and states-parties were forbidden from concealing their missiles to impede verification activities. Both states-parties could carry out on-site inspections at each other's facilities in the United States and Soviet Union and at specified bases in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, West Germany, and Czechoslovakia.

The INF Treaty’s Slow Demise

Since the mid-2000s, Russia has raised the possibility of withdrawing from the INF Treaty. Moscow contends that the treaty unfairly prevents it from possessing weapons that its neighbors, such as China, are developing and fielding. Russia also has suggested that the proposed U.S. deployment of strategic anti-ballistic missile systems in Europe might trigger a Russian withdrawal from the accord, presumably so Moscow can deploy missiles targeting any future U.S. anti-missile sites. Still, the United States and Russia issued an October 25, 2007, statement at the United Nations General Assembly reaffirming their “support” for the treaty and calling on all other states to join them in renouncing the missiles banned by the treaty.

Reports began to emerge in 2013 and 2014 that the United States had concerns about Russia's compliance with the INF Treaty. In July 2014, the U.S. State Department found Russia to be in violation of the agreement by producing and testing an illegal ground-launched cruise missile. Russia responded in August refuting the claim, and continues to maintain that it is not in violation of the INF Treaty. Throughout 2015 and most of 2016, U.S. Defense and State Department officials had publicly expressed skepticism that the Russian cruise missiles at issue had been deployed. But an Oct. 19, 2016 report in The New York Times cited anonymous U.S. officials who were concerned that Russia was producing more missiles than needed solely for flight testing, which increased fears that Moscow was on the verge of deploying the missile. By Feb. 14, 2017, The New York Times cited U.S. officials declaring that Russia had deployed an operational unit of the treaty-noncompliant cruise missile now known as the SSC-8. On March 8, 2017, General Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed press reports that Russia had deployed a ground-launched cruise missile that “violates the spirit and intent” of the INF Treaty.

The State Department’s 2017 annual assessment of Russian compliance with key arms control agreements alleged Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty for the fourth consecutive year, and also listed new details on the steps Washington took in 2016 to resolve the dispute, including convening a session of the SVC, and providing Moscow with further information on the violation.

The report says the missile in dispute is distinct from two other Russian missile systems, the R-500/SSC-7 Iskander GLCM and the RS-26 ballistic missile. The R-500 has a Russian-declared range below the 500-kilometer INF Treaty cutoff, and Russia identifies the RS-26 as an intercontinental ballistic missile treated in accordance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The report also appears to suggest that the launcher for the allegedly noncompliant missile is different from the launcher for the Iskander. In late 2017 the United States for the first time revealed both the U.S. name for the missile of concern, the SSC-8, and the apparent Russian designation, the 9M729.

Russia denies that it is breaching the agreement and has raised its own concerns about Washington’s compliance. Moscow is charging that the United States is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can also be used to fire cruise missiles, using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to INF Treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles, and making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles.

Congress for the past several years has urged a more assertive military and economic response to Russia’s violation. The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized funds for the Defense Department to develop a conventional, road-mobile, ground-launched cruise missile that, if tested, would violate the treaty. The fiscal year 2019 NDAA also included provisions on the treaty. Section 1243 states that no later than Jan. 15, 2019, the President would submit to Congress a determination on whether Russia is “in material breach” of its INF Treaty obligations and whether the “prohibitions set forth in Article VI of the INF Treaty remain binding on the United States.” Section 1244 expresses the sense of Congress that in light of Russia’s violation of the treaty, that the United States is “legally entitled to suspend the operation of the INF Treaty in whole or in part” as long as Russia is in material breach.

On Dec. 8, 2017 the Trump administration announced a strategy to respond to alleged Russian violations, which comprised of three elements: diplomacy, including through the Special Verification Commission, research and development on a new conventional ground-launched cruise missile, and punitive economic measures against companies believed to be involved in the development of the missile.

However, president Trump announced Oct. 20 that he would “terminate” the INF Treaty in response to the long-running dispute over Russian noncompliance with the agreement, as well as citing concerns about China’s unconstrained arsenal of INF Treaty-range missiles. Trump’s announcement seemed to take NATO allies by surprise, with many expressing concern about the president's plan. 

After repeatedly denying the existence of the 9M729 cruise missile, Russia has since acknowledged the missile but continues to deny that the missile has been tested or is able to fly at an INF Treaty-range.

On Nov. 30, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats provided further details on the Russian treaty violation.Coats revealed that the United States believes Russia cheated by conducting legally allowable tests of the 9M729, such as testing the missile at over 500 km from a fixed launcher (allowed if the missile is to be deployed by air or sea), as well as testing the same missile from a mobile launcher at a range under 500 km. Coats noted that “by putting the two types of tests together” Russia was able to develop an intermediate-range missile that could be launched from a “ground-mobile platform,” in violation of the treaty.

On Dec. 4, 2018 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend its treaty obligations in 60 days if Russia does not return to compliance in that time. The official notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw would begin a six-month withdrawal period as allowed by the treaty. Though NATO allies in a Dec. 4 statement expressed for the first time the conclusion that Russia had violated the INF Treaty, the statement notably did not comment on Pompeo's ultimatum.

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded Dec. 5 by noting that Russia would respond “accordingly” to U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, and the chief of staff of the Russian military General Valery Gerasimov noted that U.S. missile sites on allied territory could become “targets of subsequent military exchanges.”

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Posted: December 12, 2018

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Agreements at a Glance

June 2017

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: December 2018

Over the past four decades, American and Soviet/Russian leaders have used a progression of bilateral agreements and other measures to limit and reduce their substantial nuclear warhead and strategic missile and bomber arsenals. The following is a brief summary.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

SALT I

Begun in November 1969, by May 1972, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) had produced both the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which limited strategic missile defenses to 200 (later 100) interceptors each, and the Interim Agreement, an executive agreement that capped U.S. and Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) forces. Under the Interim Agreement, both sides pledged not to construct new ICBM silos, not to increase the size of existing ICBM silos “significantly,” and capped the number of SLBM launch tubes and SLBM-carrying submarines. The agreement ignored strategic bombers and did not address warhead numbers, leaving both sides free to enlarge their forces by deploying multiple warheads (MIRVs) onto their ICBMs and SLBMs and increasing their bomber-based forces. The agreement limited the United States to 1,054 ICBM silos and 656 SLBM launch tubes. The Soviet Union was limited to 1,607 ICBM silos and 740 SLBM launch tubes. In June 2002, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the ABM treaty.

SALT II

In November 1972, Washington and Moscow agreed to pursue a follow-on treaty to SALT I. SALT II, signed in June 1979, limited U.S. and Soviet ICBM, SLBM, and strategic bomber-based nuclear forces to 2,250 delivery vehicles (defined as an ICBM silo, a SLBM launch tube, or a heavy bomber) and placed a variety of other restrictions on deployed strategic nuclear forces. The agreement would have required the Soviets to reduce their forces by roughly 270 delivery vehicles, but U.S. forces were below the limits and could actually have been increased. However, President Jimmy Carter asked the Senate not to consider SALT II for its advice and consent after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, and the treaty was not taken up again. Both Washington and Moscow subsequently pledged to adhere to the agreement’s terms despite its failure to enter into force. However, on May 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan said that future decisions on strategic nuclear forces would be based on the threat posed by Soviet forces and not on "a flawed SALT II Treaty.”

START I

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), first proposed in the early 1980s by President Ronald Reagan and finally signed in July 1991, required the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to 1,600 delivery vehicles, carrying no more than 6,000 warheads as counted using the agreement’s rules. The agreement required the destruction of excess delivery vehicles which was verified using an intrusive verification regime that involved on-site inspections, the regular exchange of information, including telemetry, and the use of national technical means (i.e., satellites). The agreement’s entry into force was delayed for several years because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing efforts to denuclearize Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by returning their nuclear weapons to Russia and making them parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and START I agreements. START I reductions were completed in December 2001 and the treaty expired on Dec. 5, 2009.

START II

In June 1992, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin agreed to pursue a follow-on accord to START I. START II, signed in January 1993, called for reducing deployed strategic arsenals to 3,000-3,500 warheads and banned the deployment of destabilizing multiple-warhead land-based missiles. START II would have counted warheads in roughly the same fashion as START I and, also like its predecessor, would have required the destruction of delivery vehicles but not warheads. The agreement's original implementation deadline was January 2003, ten years after signature, but a 1997 protocol moved this deadline to December 2007 because of the extended delay in ratification. Both the Senate and the Duma approved START II, but the treaty did not take effect because the Senate did not ratify the 1997 protocol and several ABM Treaty amendments, whose passage the Duma established as a condition for START II’s entry into force. START II was effectively shelved as a result of the 2002 U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty.

START III Framework

In March 1997, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed to a framework for START III negotiations that included a reduction in deployed strategic warheads to 2,000-2,500. Significantly, in addition to requiring the destruction of delivery vehicles, START III negotiations were to address “the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads…to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” Negotiations were supposed to begin after START II entered into force, which never happened.

SORT (Moscow Treaty)

On May 24, 2002, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty) under which the United States and Russia reduced their strategic arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each. The warhead limit took effect and expired on the same day, Dec. 31, 2012. Although the two sides did not agree on specific counting rules, the Bush administration asserted that the United States would reduce only warheads deployed on strategic delivery vehicles in active service, i.e., “operationally deployed” warheads, and would not count warheads removed from service and placed in storage or warheads on delivery vehicles undergoing overhaul or repair. The agreement’s limits are similar to those envisioned for START III, but the treaty did not require the destruction of delivery vehicles, as START I and II did, or the destruction of warheads, as had been envisioned for START III. The treaty was approved by the Senate and Duma and entered into force on June 1, 2003. SORT was replaced by New START on February 5, 2011.

New START

On April 8, 2010, the United States and Russia signed New START, a legally binding, verifiable agreement that limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers), and limits deployed and nondeployed launchers to 800. The treaty-accountable warhead limit is 30 percent lower than the 2,200 upper limit of SORT, and the delivery vehicle limit is 50 percent lower than the 1,600 allowed in START I. The treaty has a verification regime that combines elements of START I with new elements tailored to New START. Measures under the treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. The treaty also provides for the continued exchange of telemetry (missile flight-test data on up to five tests per year) and does not meaningfully limit missile defenses or long-range conventional strike capabilities. The U.S. Senate approved New START on Dec. 22, 2010. The approval process of the Russian parliament (passage by both the State Duma and Federation Council) was completed Jan. 26, 2011. The treaty entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011 and will expire in 2021, though both parties may agree to extend the treaty for a period of up to five years. Both parties met the treaty’s central limits by the Feb. 4, 2018 deadline for implementation.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements
 SALT  I SALT IISTART ISTART IISTART IIISORT

New START

StatusExpiredNever Entered Into ForceExpiredNever Entered Into ForceNever NegotiatedReplaced by New STARTIn Force
Deployed Warhead LimitN/AN/A6,0003,000-3,5002,000-2,5001,700-2,2001,550
Deployed Delivery Vehicle LimitUS: 1,710 ICBMs & SLBMs
USSR: 2,347
2,2501,600N/AN/AN/A700
Date SignedMay 26, 1972June 18, 1979July 31, 1991Jan. 3, 1993N/AMay 24, 2002April 8, 2010
Date Ratifed, U.S.Aug. 3, 1972N/AOct. 1, 1992Jan. 26, 1996N/AMarch 6, 2003Dec. 22, 2010
Ratification Vote, U.S.88-2N/A93-687-4N/A95-071-26
Date Entered Into ForceOct. 3, 1972N/ADec. 5, 1994N/AN/AJune 1, 2003Feb. 5, 2011
Implementation DeadlineN/AN/ADec. 5, 2001N/AN/AN/AFeb. 5, 2018
Expiration DateOct. 3, 1977N/ADec. 5, 2009N/AN/AFeb. 5, 2011Feb. 5, 2021*

*New START allows for the option to extend the treaty beyond 2021 for a period of up to five years.

Nonstrategic Nuclear Arms Control Measures

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

Signed Dec. 8, 1987, the INF Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to verifiably eliminate all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Distinguished by its unprecedented, intrusive inspection regime, including on-site inspections, the INF Treaty laid the groundwork for verification of the subsequent START I. The INF Treaty entered into force June 1, 1988, and the two sides completed their reductions by June 1, 1991, destroying a total of 2,692 missiles. The agreement was multilateralized after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and current active participants in the agreement include the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are also parties to the agreement but do not participate in treaty meetings or on-site inspections. The ban on intermediate-range missiles is of unlimited duration.

Both the United States and Russia have raised concerns about the other side’s compliance with the INF Treaty. The United States first publicly charged Russia with developing and testing a ground-launched cruise with a range that meets the INF Treaty definition of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km in 2014.

Russia denies that it is breaching the agreement and has raised its own concerns about Washington’s compliance. Moscow is charging that the United States is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can also be used to fire cruise missiles, using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to INF Treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles, and is making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles. On Oct. 20, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the agreement citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s missiles, and on Dec. 4, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and began a 60-day countdown for Russia to return to compliance before the United States would suspend its implementation of the treaty and officially notify the treaty parties of its intent to withdraw. Per the treaty’s terms, the U.S. withdrawal would formally take effect six-months after the notification.

Presidential Nuclear Initiatives 

On Sept. 27, 1991, President George H. W. Bush announced that the United States would remove almost all U.S. tactical (nonstrategic) nuclear forces from deployment so that Russia could undertake similar actions, reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation as the Soviet Union dissolved. Specifically, Bush said the United States would eliminate all its nuclear artillery shells and short-range nuclear ballistic missile warheads and remove all nonstrategic nuclear warheads from surface ships, attack submarines, and land-based naval aircraft. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocated on Oct. 5, pledging to eliminate all nuclear artillery munitions, nuclear warheads for tactical missiles, and nuclear landmines. He also pledged to withdraw all Soviet tactical naval nuclear weapons from deployment. Under these initiatives, the United States and Russia reduced their deployed nonstrategic stockpiles by an estimated 5,000 and 13,000 warheads, respectively. However, significant questions remain about Russian implementation of its pledges, and there is considerable uncertainty about the current state of Russia’s tactical nuclear forces. The Defense Department estimates that Russia possess roughly 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons and the numbers are expanding. The United States maintains several hundred nonstrategic B61 gravity bombs for delivery by short-range fighter aircraft. 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Posted: December 12, 2018

Select Reactions to the INF Treaty Crisis

The Trump administration’s sudden decision and announcement Oct. 20 to “terminate” the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty due to Russian violations of the treaty has been met with bipartisan and international concern. On Dec. 4 , Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Russia to be in "material breach" of the treaty, and announced that the United States plans to suspend U.S. obligations under the treaty in 60 days unless Russia returns to compliance. A collection of select reactions from international partners, members of Congress, and former national security policymakers, from...

U.S. INF Treaty Termination Strategy Falls Short

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Description: 

Analysis from Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, and Kingston A. Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

Body: 


Volume 10, Issue 10, December 4, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today declared Russia in material breach of the landmark 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and announced that the United States plans to suspend U.S. obligations under the treaty in 60 days unless Russia returns to compliance.

In a new statement on the INF Treaty also released today, NATO foreign ministers collectively declared for the first time “that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty. The ministers also stated: “It is now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty.”

In delivering the Trump administration’s ultimatum, Pompeo expressed the “hope” that Russia will “change course” and return to compliance with the treaty.

But hope is not a strategy.

If NATO member states want to preserve a key arms control treaty that has enhanced their security for more than two decades, they will insist that the United States and Russia exhaust diplomatic options and should put forward proposals for how the two sides can resolve issues of concern about treaty implementation.

Unfortunately, Pompeo provided no indication that the administration wants to make a final effort to save the treaty by engaging in talks with Russia to address the compliance concerns raised by Washington and Moscow.

Notably, the NATO foreign ministers statement does not express support for, or even reiterate, Pompeo's ultimatum that the United States will suspend its obligations in 60 days unless Russia returns to compliance.

Once a withdrawal notification is issued, Article XV of the treaty requires the United States to wait six months before it can leave the agreement. Pompeo said the administration will issue a withdrawal notice in 60 days. 

Reports last week indicated that the Trump administration planned to give formal notice of withdrawal from and suspend implementation of the treaty today, but the administration was persuaded to postpone that action for two months following President Trump’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Saturday at the G-20 summit in Argentina.

European Concerns

Several NATO allies have expressed concern about president Trump’s announcement last October that he planned to withdraw from the treaty and that they had not been consulted about the decision. For example, the European Union declared in a statement that the United States should “consider the consequences of its possible withdrawal from the INF on its own security, on the security of its allies and of the whole world.”

Russia’s production, testing, and deployment of an illegal, ground-launched cruise missile with a range between 500 to 5,500 kilometers is unacceptable and merits a strong response from all nations that value arms control and the reduction of nuclear risks. Without the INF Treaty, we will likely see the return of Cold War-style tensions over U.S. and Russian deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and perhaps elsewhere.

A Path Forward

Clearly, diplomatic options to resolve the INF crisis and avoid a new missile race in Europe (and Asia) have not yet been exhausted. To date, diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue have been limited and unsuccessful. Since Trump took office, U.S. and Russian officials have met only twice at the working level to try to resolve the compliance dispute, the last time being in June 2018.

However, the delay of the suspension notification provides little time and will be of little value unless NATO governments, along with Russia and the United States, use the time productively. The focus should be on negotiating a solution that addresses U.S. and NATO concerns about Russia’s noncompliant 9M729 missile and addresses Russia concerns about, in particular, U.S. Mk-41 Aegis Ashore missile-interceptor launchers in Romania (and by 2020 in Poland) that could be used for offensive missiles.

Averting the collapse of the treaty at this point requires NATO members (starting at the NATO foreign ministerial Dec. 4-5 in Brussels) to call on the United States and Russia to immediately meet to redouble off-and-on diplomatic efforts to resolve the INF Treaty compliance crisis. It is disappointing the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has not yet done so.

On Nov. 26, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said that Russia is “open to any mutually beneficial proposals that take into account the interests and concerns of both parties.” If Washington is serious about removing the 9M729 missile threat, NATO should explore what that means and table a serious proposal.

If Russia is serious about preserving the INF Treaty, it will agree to discuss U.S. concerns, agree to implement transparency measures, and, if the 9M729 is found to be noncompliant, either modify or eliminate the illegal missile as a “sign of good faith.”

In addition, the United States needs to acknowledge Russia’s concerns about U.S. implementation of the agreement, specifically the Mk-41 launchers for the Aegis ashore missile interceptors in Romania (and soon in Poland) and agree to transparency measures that reduce concerns that the launchers could be used to deploy offensive missiles.

There is precedent for using diplomacy to resolve treaty violations. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan continued to observe the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Moscow despite its determination that a large radar located at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia violated the treaty. It also engaged in negotiations with the Soviet Union on the INF Treaty and what became the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty during this period. It took time, but diplomacy worked, and the Soviets eventually tore down the radar.

“No New Missiles” Pledge

The United States must ensure that Russia does not gain a military advantage from 9M729 ground-launched missile, which the U.S. intelligence community assesses has a range capability beyond the 500km range limit set by the INF Treaty and has been deployed in areas of Russia that enable it to reach parts of Europe. But even without the INF Treaty, there is no military need for the United States to develop a new and costly treaty-noncompliant missile for deployment in Europe.

The United States can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets that new ground-launched missiles prohibited by INF Treaty would. In addition, no European nation has agreed to host such a missile, which could take years to develop, and even if one did, it would be a significant source of division within the alliance—one Russia would be eager to try and exploit.

Instead of accepting the U.S. intention to begin “developing and deploying” new ground-based missiles to counter Russia, the U.S. Congress, as well as NATO member states should insist that if the United States and Russia do not find an 11th hour diplomatic solution to preserve the INF Treaty, they will at least pledge not to be the first to deploy intermediate-range missile systems anywhere in or in-range of NATO Europe.

And regardless of the fate of the INF Treaty, responsible governments and members of the U.S. Congress should also insist that Presidents Trump and Putin agree to extend the 2010 New START agreement by five years (from 2021 to 2026) to guard against the possibility of an unconstrained nuclear arms race.

—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director and KINGSTON A. REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

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Posted: December 4, 2018

Russian Chemical Weapons Use Draws More Sanctions

Russian Chemical Weapons Use Draws More Sanctions


U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin as they gather with other leaders for a November 11 ceremony in Paris marking the 100th anniversary of the 1918 armistice that ended World War I.   (Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)The United States confirmed on Nov. 6 that it will impose a second, more severe round of sanctions on Russia for its use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom. To avoid the additional sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, Russia had to provide reliable assurances that it is no longer using chemical weapons, will not do so in the future, and will allow international inspectors to verify its assurances. Russia continues to deny that it used or possesses chemical weapons. Robert Palladino, a State Department spokesman, said on Nov. 7 that the U.S. administration was considering implementation plans. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), outgoing chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement pressed for action, stating that “hesitation only encourages more Russian aggression.”

U.S. options for additional sanctions include banning multilateral development bank assistance or U.S. bank loans except loans for food or agricultural commodities, imposing additional export prohibitions or import restrictions, suspending diplomatic relations, and terminating air carrier landing rights. After an Aug. 6 U.S. determination that Russia had used a nerve agent in an attack against a former spy in the UK, the first round of sanctions took effect Aug. 27 and included a ban on U.S. exports to Russia related to national security, such as gas turbine engines, electronics, integrated circuits, and testing and calibration equipment that were previously allowed on a case-by-case basis. (See ACT, September 2018).—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: December 1, 2018

Getting Off the Treadmill to Catastrophe

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “[t]he Cold War is back...but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present.”


December 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “[t]he Cold War is back...but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present.”

Russian Topol-M ICBM crosses Red Square in Moscow during a Victory Day parade on May 9, 2008.  (Photo: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)Indeed, the United States and Russia are planning to spend trillions of dollars to replace and upgrade their nuclear arsenals at force levels that far exceed what is required to deter nuclear attack. China is also improving its nuclear weapons capabilities.

All three countries are pursuing new strategic-range weapons systems, including hypersonic missiles, and the weaponization of other emerging technologies, such as cyberweapons, that could upset the uneasy balance of nuclear terror that exists among the world’s major nuclear actors.

Meanwhile, U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements designed to reduce nuclear risks, including the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), are in serious jeopardy. Currently, there is no bilateral dialogue on strategic stability to help avoid misperception and worst-case assumptions.

President Donald Trump, unfortunately, seems to believe that if he builds up the U.S. nuclear arsenal, other nations will back down. “Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,” Trump said to reporters Oct. 22 outside the White House. His simplistic notion of getting ahead in the nuclear game is a dangerous illusion.

In a nuclear arms race, the only finish line is catastrophe. As the veteran U.S. diplomat Paul Warnke wrote in 1975 as the United States and the Soviet Union were amassing new strategic nuclear weapons, “We can be first off the treadmill. That is the only victory the arms race has to offer.”

As Democrats prepare to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January, there is an opportunity to check and balance Trump’s nuclear impulses. Members of Congress of both parties, along with key U.S. allies and middle powers, should encourage the United States to get off the treadmill and take the first steps to reduce the role, size, and cost of its bloated nuclear arsenal.

Rather than ape Russia’s nuclear behavior, the United States should size and orient its nuclear force on the basis of its defense requirements alone. In 2013, a Pentagon review determined that the U.S. deployed strategic nuclear force is one-third larger than necessary to deter a nuclear attack. That means the United States can reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads from roughly 1,400 today to 1,000 or fewer and challenge Russia to do the same.

A thousand deployed warheads provide far more nuclear firepower than is needed to deter any current or potential nuclear adversary. Just one U.S. nuclear-armed submarine, carrying 192 thermonuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 100 kilotons or greater, could devastate a large country and kill tens of millions of people.

To lock in mutual reductions, Washington and Moscow should agree to extend New START for another five years, to 2026, and call for talks on a new agreement on new limits on all types of strategic offensive and defensive, nuclear and non-nuclear weapons systems that could affect strategic stability. Such a strategy could prompt Russia to rethink its own new weapons projects and possibly reduce its nuclear arsenal.

Further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, which comprise 95 percent of global stockpiles, would increase pressure on China to halt its own slow but steady nuclear buildup and join the nuclear disarmament enterprise.

By scaling back its nuclear force to 1,000 deployed strategic warheads and making associated reductions to the hedge stockpile, the United States could trim billions of dollars from today’s excessive and unsustainable $1.2 trillion, 30-year plan to replace and upgrade its nuclear weapons delivery systems and warheads.

U.S. policymakers also need to shift away from outdated policies that increase the risk of nuclear war by accident or design. Current U.S. and Russian strategies call for the prompt launch of land-based missiles in the event of an impending nuclear attack. Each side also retains the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. Worse still, the Trump administration wants new, “more-usable” low-yield nuclear weapons to counter Russia and has expanded the circumstances under which the United States would consider first use.

Instead, as Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, recommends, the United States should adopt a no-first-use nuclear policy, forgo new nuclear war-fighting weapons, and shed excessive nuclear force structure. There is no plausible circumstance that could justify legally, morally, or militarily the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. Once nuclear weapons are employed in war, there is no guarantee the other side would not respond in kind and trigger an all-out nuclear exchange.

It is still within the power of U.S. and other world leaders to avoid a new global nuclear arms race, save billions of defense dollars on redundant and unnecessary nuclear weapons, and reduce the risk of nuclear use. The time to start is now.

 

Posted: December 1, 2018

What Can the EU Do to Reduce the Nuclear Threat?

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann for the Polis 180 Fireside Chat: Powerless Europe? The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy in Europe, Berlin, Germany

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann
Polis 180 Fireside Chat
Powerless Europe? The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy in Europe
Berlin, Germany
November 28, 2018

Toward the end of October, President Donald Trump announced at a political rally that the United States would be withdrawing from the 31-year old Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (“INF”) Treaty, which had banned an entire category of ground-based missiles from the U.S. and Russian arsenals. There has since been considerable discussion about what this decision portends for the entire nuclear arms control enterprise. I cannot presume to know how Germany and other European states can best protect their national security interests. But I can offer some thoughts on how Europe can help America cope with the Trump phenomenon, which I see as America’s greatest leadership crisis in my lifetime.

My first job as a diplomat in the Department of State was to help implement the 1979 “Dual-Track” decision of NATO (der Doppelbeschluss)–according to which NATO planned to deploy 572 nuclear-tipped missiles in Europe while seeking to negotiate equal but lower limits on the 600 Soviet theater missiles already deployed against NATO. The government of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt played a critical role in pushing for such action. He worried that the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Talks process had left Europe vulnerable to a growing force of Mittelstrecken Raketen for which it had no comparable counter. Indeed, the SS-20s being deployed were more mobile, longer-range, less vulnerable, and more accurate than the SS-4 and SS-5 missiles they were replacing. Moreover, they would carry three times as many warheads.

The only U.S. nuclear weapons based in Europe which could reach Soviet territory then were carried by medium-range bombers, themselves increasingly vulnerable to Soviet anti-aircraft weapons. And thus, the scene was set for a highly-charged contest of wills between the Soviet Union, the United States, and the five NATO countries that had agreed to station new INF missiles on their territories. Germany would have the largest and most critical contingent, including 108 very accurate and fast Pershing II ballistic missiles.

I was present in Geneva at the opening of the negotiations 37 years ago this Friday. I was also present for three years in Embassy Bonn’s Political Section, when the first U.S. deployments arrived in 1983–the “Year of the missile”–and when the Soviet negotiators walked out of the Geneva negotiations.

But with the coming to power of Mikhael Gorbachev in 1985, the mood changed and negotiations resumed the next year. By the end of 1987, the Soviet leader and Ronald Reagan had signed a “zero-zero” treaty with an even lower range floor on banned missiles than the parties had first discussed. Within three years of the treaty entering into force, nearly 2,700 missiles had been eliminated.

This saga is worth recalling–partly to appreciate how unlikely such an outcome seemed in 1979 and how much the treaty ultimately contributed to the reductions of Cold War tensions. It is also important to realize how important the treaty’s verification provisions were for establishing precedents applied to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which followed in 1991. And to remember the creative and hard-working personnel on both sides, who conscientiously fulfilled the treaty obligations.

During the last decade, there have been voices raised in both Moscow and Washington, arguing that the treaty had outlived its usefulness in a post-Cold War world where the European situation was fundamentally different and a world where third countries were increasing their arsenals of intermediate-range missiles.

In 2014, the United States officially accused Russia of testing a cruise missile with a range in excess of that allowed by the treaty. Russia, in turn, levied three charges against the United States, the most serious being that the U.S. missile defense launchers being deployed in Romania were prohibited because they were capable of launching cruise missiles banned under the treaty.

These compliance concerns have now been subject to confidential discussions between the United States and Russia for five years without resolution. Although Trump’s announcement that the United States intended to withdraw from the INF Treaty appeared to be the beginning of the end, it was not the first step taken in that direction. Moscow appears to have decided a decade ago to ignore the treaty’s range limits on cruise missiles. Last year’s U.S. defense budget included research and development funding for new ground-based missiles, which would eventually violate the treaty when they are first flight-tested.

It is my contention, and the view of the U.S.-Russian-German “Deep Cuts Commission” (of which I’m a member) that neither side has made sufficient efforts to use the treaty’s verification mechanism to address this problem.

There is still time. The treaty requires six months notice before withdrawal can occur, and that notice has still not been officially provided.

Ironically, the U.S. revelation in public last year of the Russian manufacturer and designator of the offending missile has opened up a path to resolution, which has not yet been explored. After years of Moscow saying it did not know what the United States was talking about, it now acknowledges having developed and deployed the missile in question–the Novator 9M729—but says the United States is wrong about its capabilities. There is now a curious parallelism in the U.S. response to Russia’s complaints about the missile defense launchers in Romania and Poland. Washington contends that the Aegis Ashore Mk 41 launchers are not capable of doing what the Mk 41 launchers at sea can do.

The argument is now ripe for an invitation to experts for mutual on-site inspection and technical discussions to examine the capabilities of the systems in dispute. Yet neither side has made such a proposal! Here is where Germany and its fellow NATO members can play a constructive role. Russia’s 9M729 cruise missiles threaten the territory of NATO’s European members. The U.S. missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe have been endorsed by NATO. The alliance should press hard for Washington and Moscow to get serious about resolving this issue by conducting mutual inspections and taking necessary confidence-building steps. The onus for the dissolution of the treaty should fall heavily on the side, which refuses this obvious path on INF and fails to pursue the rejuvenation of talks on strategic arms control.

Germany can buttress its diplomatic initiatives on this and other nuclear issues by fulfilling its commitment to increase its defense budget. Russia takes seriously NATO’s policy of regarding an attack on any member as an attack on all members. The best way to increase the credibility of NATO’s mutual defense commitment is for Germany to strengthen its conventional defenses, continue hosting the deployment of U.S. troops, and participating in the modest but important defense measures in the Baltic states.

I hope Germany will remember that Trump became president through our peculiar electoral college system, which awarded him the job after losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million. Although our system may be flawed, it does self-correct, and that slow process has begun. America is, at long last, rising to the challenge that Trump poses to our institutions and our friends in the world. Our press is vibrant; our courts remain independent; and the mid-term elections have just returned control of the U.S. House of Representatives to the opposition party; even the executive branch agencies have just delivered a stinging rebuke to the administration’s shameful denial of climate change science.

I especially want to highlight the significance of the Democratic Party winning control over the House of Representatives. Defense funding must pass the Senate and the House to become law. Democratic Party leaders have been opposed to Trump’s plan to introduce new nuclear weapons and they advocate a “no-first-use” policy for the U.S. deterrent.

There will be tensions as Germany looks after its obligations and pursues its national interests. But Americans need to remember what close friends do to protect each other from folly. My model is the refusal of Germany to join the United States and Britain in their disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. Our long-term interests were betrayed by London; not by Berlin. Likewise, when the United States violated its commitments under the 7-party Iran Nuclear Deal, Germany, Britain, and France are trying to honor theirs. A focus on our mutual long-term interests is important for the difficult days ahead.

 

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Posted: November 28, 2018

Statement of the Deep Cuts Commission on the INF Treaty Crisis and the Way Forward

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U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Statement on the INF Treaty Crisis and the Way Forward

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For Immediate Release: November 19, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104.

(Washington, Hamburg, Moscow)—In the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent announcement to “terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in response to Russian violations of the agreement, an international group consisting of high-level experts and former officials is warning of the dangers of the collapse of the treaty and urging a diplomatic resolution to the dispute.
 
Echoing the concerns of many European allies, the statement, which was published on November 16 ahead of a planned meeting between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Argentina later this month, notes that “[t]he repercussions of a collapse of the INF treaty would be tremendous: it could trigger a new arms race, significantly increase the risk of nuclear escalation, [and] further undermine political relations between the United States, Russia and Europe.”
 
The statement was organized by the members of a 21-member German-Russian-U.S. Deep Cuts Commission, which was established in 2013 to develop proposals to overcome obstacles to sensible arms control agreements and further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.
 
Trump’s plan to withdraw from the INF Treaty has raised concerns about exacerbating military and political tensions with Russia and the future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The statement notes that without either of these treaties, there would be no legally-binding, verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, or anywhere else in the world.
 
The signers of the statement urge the two nations to ”exhaust all cooperative options to solve the INF Treaty crisis instead of scrapping the treaty.”
 
Furthermore, the signers recommend that at the planned meeting between Trump and Putin, the two leaders should:

  • acknowledge the other side’s INF concerns and direct their experts to find a solution that resolves compliance concerns;
  • agree to relaunch immediately a genuine and regular dialogue on strategic stability; and
  • commit to begin talks on the extension of New START by a period of five years, as provided for in Article XIV of the treaty. 

The full statement is available here.
 
The statement echoes similar warnings from other leading American and European experts and former officials about the dangers of terminating the INF Treaty and the need for a diplomatic solution to resolve U.S. and Russian concerns.

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Posted: November 20, 2018

Trump to Withdraw U.S. From INF Treaty

Trump cites Russian cheating while international allies and rivals decry his action.


November 2018
By Kingston Reif

President Donald Trump announced in October that he plans to “terminate” the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, raising concerns about the return of Cold War-style tensions over U.S. and Russian deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and elsewhere and the future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with John Bolton, U.S. national security adviser, at the Kremlin on October 23. (Photo: Maxim Shipenkov/AFP/Getty Images )Trump’s sudden decision follows a years-long U.S.-Russian dispute about whether Moscow has developed and deployed a prohibited missile, known by its apparent Russian designation 9M729, and comes amid fears expressed by some government officials and defense policy experts that China, which is not a party to the INF Treaty, is gaining a military advantage in East Asia by deploying large numbers of treaty-noncompliant missiles.

Still, critics of Trump’s withdrawal plan argue that it recklessly removes all constraints on the deployment of Russia’s illegal missiles, lets Russia off the hook for its violation, and goes against the wishes of allies in Europe and elsewhere who want to preserve the treaty. They also claim that the administration has not exhausted all diplomatic, economic, and military options to pressure Russia to return to compliance and that the military can counter China by continuing to field air- and sea-launched cruise missiles that do not violate the accord.

The president’s decision to withdraw from the treaty appears to have come together quickly and demonstrates the strong influence of his national security adviser, John Bolton, a forceful, longtime critic of the INF Treaty and New START.

“Russia has violated the agreement; they have been violating it for many years,” Trump said after a Oct. 20 campaign rally in Elko, Nevada. “And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.”

“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” Trump said, referring to the intermediate-range missiles prohibited by the treaty, “unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say, ‘Let’s really get smart, and let’s none of us develop those weapons.’”

“[B]ut if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” he added.

The INF Treaty required Russia and the United States to eliminate permanently their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Since 2014, Washington has accused Moscow of violating its commitment “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) having a range prohibited under the INF Treaty. The Trump administration later identified the missile as the 9M729. In 2017, the Pentagon alleged that Russia began fielding the missile.

Moscow has denied both charges and accused the United States of violating the treaty, most notably by deploying missile defense interceptor platforms in eastern Europe that Russia claims could be used for offensive purposes. Diplomatic efforts to resolve the compliance dispute have been limited and unsuccessful.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the U.S. plan to withdraw from the treaty could lead to a new arms race and said that any nation that hosts U.S. intermediate-range missiles will “put their own territory under the threat of a possible counterstrike.”

Yet, some Russian officials were less harsh in their criticism. After a meeting Oct. 22 between Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, the Russian Security Council issued a statement expressing “its readiness for the joint work aimed at eliminating mutual grievances relating to the implementation of this treaty.”

Trump’s announcement pitted him, once again, against an array of international friends and rivals. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Beijing opposes a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty.

U.S. allies in Europe and Asia also criticized the decision. The European Union declared in a statement that the United States should “consider the consequences of its possible withdrawal from the INF [Treaty] on its own security, on the security of its allies and of the whole world.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “ending the treaty would have many negative consequences.” Likewise, Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese chief cabinet secretary, called a U.S. withdrawal “undesirable.”

Soviet inspectors and their U.S. escorts stand among Pershing II missiles dismantled in accordance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in January 1989. (Photo: U.S. Defense Department)Trump’s withdrawal plan is proving controversial in Congress, drawing a glimmer of bipartisan criticism. In an Oct. 24 letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking members on the House armed services and foreign affairs committees, respectively, said a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty “would risk an arms race, would jeopardize the security of our allies in Europe and Asia, and would significantly undermine U.S. leadership on arms control.”

Some Republican lawmakers also expressed opposition. “I hope we’re not moving down the path to undo much of the nuclear arms control treaties that we have put in place,” retiring Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Oct. 21. “I think that would be a huge mistake.”

Other Republicans backed Trump, including his new close ally Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who said withdrawal is “absolutely the right move” because “the Russians have been cheating.”

Lawmakers cannot prevent the president from withdrawing from the agreement, but they could withhold funding to develop new land-based intermediate-range missiles.

The Republican-controlled Congress in September approved the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2019 budget request of $48 million for research and development on and concepts and options for conventional ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems in response to Russia’s alleged violation of the treaty.

But the opposition of Democratic lawmakers to withdrawing from the treaty could lead to debate over whether to continue to fund such research if Democrats retake either chamber in the November midterm elections.

Even if the United States were to develop the weapons, they would need to be deployed on the territory of allies neighboring Russia and China. So far, no country has said that it would be willing to host such missiles.

Last December, before Bolton joined the administration, the State Department announced an integrated diplomatic, economic, and military strategy designed to pressure Russia to return to compliance with the INF Treaty. (See ACT, December 2017.) But it is not clear what parts of the strategy have been executed and whether the administration presented Russia with a diplomatic proposal to resolve the compliance stalemate.

When asked at an Oct. 23 press conference in Moscow following meetings with Putin and other top Russian officials whether there were options to preserve the treaty, Bolton said that “the treaty was outmoded, being violated, and being ignored by other countries.” He likened the decision to the George W. Bush administration’s decision in 2002 to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Bolton said the United States will deliver to Russia “in due course” a formal withdrawal notification. Once that is done, the treaty requires the United States to wait six months before it can actually leave the agreement.

In the likely event that the INF Treaty collapses, the only remaining U.S.-Russian arms control agreement would be New START, which expires in 2021 but can be extended by up to five years through agreement by both parties.

Bolton, while in Moscow, reiterated that the United States does not yet have a position on whether it favors extending the agreement. (See ACT, September 2018.) If New START is allowed to expire without a replacement, there will be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest strategic arsenals for the first time since 1972.

Posted: November 1, 2018

Russia Charged With OPCW Hacking Attempt

Russia has denounced international agreement to empower watchdog to attribute blame for chemical weapons use.


November 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The European Union established a new mechanism for chemical weapons sanctions, days after several countries blamed Russian intelligence operatives for attempting to hack computers at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Four Russian intelligence agents were caught in April as they allegedly tried to hack into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons using equipment in a car parked adjacent to the OPCW headquarters in The Hague. (Photo: OPCW)The sanctions framework approved by EU foreign ministers last month reflects an effort by the Europeans to bolster international norms against chemical weapons use at a time when the legal prohibition established by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has been violated by Russia and Syria, both states-parties to the accord.

Russian efforts to compromise independent investigations into its own chemical weapons use and that of Syria will be a key issue when CWC states-parties gather for the treaty’s fourth review conference in November. Russia has denounced an agreement to strengthen the OPCW’s ability to investigate and attribute blame for chemical weapons use, and Western governments say Moscow has sought to interfere with the work of the OPCW.

The Dutch Defense Ministry announced on Oct. 4 that, in April, it had disrupted an attempted Russian cyberattack on the chemical weapons watchdog agency. Dutch authorities stated that four agents from Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency were spotted in a car filled with electronic equipment “installed for the purpose of infiltrating the OPCW’s network” parked adjacent to OPCW headquarters in The Hague. The Russian agents were detained and then expelled.

“Our exposure of this Russian operation is intended as an unambiguous message that the Russian Federation must refrain from such actions,” said Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld on Oct. 10.

At the time of the attempted breach, the OPCW was investigating a chemical weapons attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, United Kingdom, which the United Kingdom and other countries have accused Moscow of carrying out with use of the Russian nerve agent Novichok. (See ACT, April 2018.)

The UK seconded Dutch allegations of Russian efforts to hack into the OPCW and published additional accusations of attempted GRU cyberattacks to disrupt investigations of chemical weapons use.

The UK National Security Centre in an Oct. 4 statement identified a number of pseudonyms that GRU personnel used in cyberattacks around the world. Additional attempted Russian attacks included a so-called spear-phishing attack in March aimed at compromising UK Foreign and Commonwealth Offices and a similar May effort in which GRU agents impersonated Swiss federal authorities to target OPCW officials. Spear phishing refers to using deceptive emails that seem to be from a known or trusted sender in order to gain access to a computer or network.

“The GRU’s actions are reckless and indiscriminate,” UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Oct. 4. “This pattern of behavior demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to international law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences.”

Russia rejected the allegations, continuing a pattern of denial of chemical weapons use or possession.

“We are watching with regret how the U.S. authorities continue to poison the atmosphere of Russian-American relations by bringing ever new groundless accusations against Russia, which certain other NATO countries would hurry to repeat at the command from Washington,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov wrote on Oct. 4. “Russia is used to these U.S. methods but the purposeful fomenting of tensions in relations between nuclear powers and internationally is a dangerous path.”

The Europeans and the United States hastened to punish Russia for its alleged cybercrimes and chemical weapons use. On Oct. 4, a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania charged seven GRU agents with planning cyberattacks against various entities including the OPCW and the Spiez Swiss Chemical Laboratory, an OPCW-affiliated laboratory, which was analyzing Novichok agent, as well as U.S. and international anti-doping agencies and sports federations.

On Oct. 15, a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg adopted a new regime of restrictive measures against those who use or develop chemical weapons or those who assist to do so, regardless of nationality. The sanctions include a travel ban to the EU and an asset freeze, according to an Oct. 15 press release.

No individuals have been sanctioned under the new mechanism, although the two GRU individuals identified by the UK as responsible for the UK poisonings in Salisbury and nearby Amesbury will likely be considered.

Members of the OPCW Executive Council, who met shortly after the announcement about the attempted Russian hack into the chemical weapons watchdog, and all CWC states-parties, who are scheduled to meet at the Nov. 21–30 CWC review conference, face pressure to find measures to counter the erosion of the norm against chemical weapons use and attempted Russian meddling into international investigations.

At the Oct. 9–12 OPCW Executive Council meeting, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States proposed adding Novichok to the list of chemicals specifically prohibited by name by the CWC.

Several states also expressed support for OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias to create a new OPCW attribution mechanism approved at the June special session of CWC states-parties, which would investigate and assign blame for chemical weapons attacks. (See ACT, July/August 2018.)

Russia, in a statement by the foreign ministry, denounced the decision to provide the OPCW with the attribution authority, calling it the result of “political manipulations, direct bribery of a number of delegations, and blatant blackmail.” The June 28 statement said the action was outside the limited authority established by the CWC and “jeopardizes the integrity of the CWC.”

The previous attribution mechanism for chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, was forced to shut down after Russia vetoed its continued operation at the UN Security Council. (See ACT, December 2017.) Subsequent attempts at the UN Security Council to restart attribution investigations were also blocked by Russia.

“The upcoming review conference provides an opportunity to reflect on the last five years of the work of this organization and set direction for the next five years,” Peter Wilson, UK ambassador to the Netherlands, said at the OPCW Executive Council meeting. “We must face up to the reality that our hard-won gains against the scourge of chemical weapons are being challenged like never before. We must stand together against chemical weapons use, and we must ensure that the OPCW and our new director-general have the tools they need to face the next five years.”

 

Posted: November 1, 2018

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