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INF Treaty

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress No Funding for U.S. INF Missiles in Europe

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The INF Treaty prohibited all U.S. and Soviet missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The official figures above show missiles deployed November 1, 1987, shortly before the INF Treaty was signed. The treaty also required destruction of 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 GLCMs in the Netherlands, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. The Pershing IAs, under joint U.S.-German control, were not formally covered by the INF Treaty but were also to be eliminated by U.S. and West German agreement. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty led to the verifiable elimination of over 2,500 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe and helped bring an end to the Cold War.

But now, the United States and Russia are on course to withdraw from the INF Treaty in six months over a long-running dispute over Russian compliance with the treaty.

Termination of the INF Treaty opens the door for Russia and the United States to develop and deploy more and new types of ground-launched intermediate-range missiles–a move that would increase the risks of a destabilizing new missile race.

You can help stop this!

A group of leading U.S. Senators has re-introduced the "Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019," which would prohibit funding for the procurement, flight-testing, or deployment of a U.S. ground-launched or ballistic missile until the Trump Administration meets seven 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.

This bill is a step in the right direction. New U.S. ground-launched cruise deployments in Europe or elsewhere would cost billions of dollars, take years to complete, and are militarily unnecessary to defend NATO allies because existing weapons systems can already hold key Russian targets at risk.

Your Senators need to hear from you.

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Posted: February 6, 2019

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 (anticipated Feb. 2) unless Russia returns to compliance. On Feb. 1, the administration confirmed that the United States would simultaneously suspend its obligations...

INF Treaty Crisis: Background and Next Steps

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The INF Treaty crisis is a global security problem. Nations will need to step forward with creative and pragmatic solutions that create the conditions necessary to ensure that the world’s two largest nuclear actors meet their legal obligations to end the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.

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Volume 11, Issue 4, February 1, 2019

The Trump administration announced today that effective tomorrow, Feb. 2, the United States will suspend implementation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and formally notify other parties to the treaty that it will withdraw in six months if Russia does not return to compliance by eliminating its ground-launched 9M729 missile, which the United States alleges can fly beyond the 500-kilometer range limit set by the treaty.

The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. intelligence agencies assess that the Russians now have four (up from three) battalions of the offending missile, with a total of just under 100 missiles, including spares. The compliance dispute has festered since 2014 and it has worsened since Russia began deploying the system in the field in 2017.

The 1987 INF Treaty, negotiated and signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, is one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements in history.

The INF Treaty led to the verifiable elimination of 2,692 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe. The treaty helped bring an end to the Cold War and paved the way for agreements to slash bloated strategic nuclear arsenals and to withdraw thousands of tactical nuclear weapons from forward-deployed areas.

The INF Treaty continues to serve as a check on some of the most destabilizing types of nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia could deploy. Without the treaty, there is a serious risk of a new intermediate-range, ground-based missile arms race in Europe and beyond.

Trump Policy Is Counterproductive and A New Approach Is Needed

Unfortunately, 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.

Worse yet, the Trump administration has no viable strategy to prevent Russia from building and fielding more intermediate-range missiles in the absence of the agreement.

Diplomatic options that could bring Russia back into compliance are possible but have not yet been explored. Each side appears to be more interested in winning the blame game than taking the steps necessary to save the treaty.

Any new efforts by the Trump administration to develop or deploy missiles once prohibited by the treaty will be strongly opposed by many NATO members, and the U.S. Congress should withhold funding for procurement of such weapons systems.

This week, 11 U.S. senators reintroduced the "Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019," which would prohibit funding for the procurement, flight-testing, or deployment of a U.S. ground-launched or ballistic missile – with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers – until the Trump Administration provides a report that meets seven 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.

Any new U.S. intermediate-range missile deployments would cost billions of dollars, take years to complete, and are militarily unnecessary to defend NATO allies because existing weapons systems can already hold key Russian targets at risk.

With the INF Treaty’s days numbered, new arms control arrangements are needed to head off a dangerous and costly new missile race in Europe. One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that no alliance member will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not field treaty-prohibited systems that can reach NATO territory.

And if the treaty is terminated, it becomes more important than ever for Washington and Moscow to agree to extend the New START agreement by five years beyond its 2021 scheduled expiration date. Otherwise, there will be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

The INF Treaty prohibited all U.S. and Soviet missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The official figures above show missiles deployed November 1, 1987, shortly before the INF Treaty was signed. The treaty also required destruction of 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 GLCMs in the Netherlands, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. The Pershing IAs, under joint U.S.-German control, were not formally covered by the INF Treaty but were also to be eliminated by U.S. and West German agreement.

Where Do Efforts to Resolve the Compliance Dispute Stand?

Since President Trump threatened on Oct. 20, 2018 to “terminate” the INF Treaty, there have been two meetings between U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov (in Geneva on Jan. 16 and in Beijing Jan. 31 on the margins of a P5 meeting on disarmament issues). Neither meeting led to progress.

While the recent Russian offer to exhibit the 9M729 is a useful first (and overdue) step in the direction of greater transparency, it has been deemed insufficient by the U.S. side (because it doesn’t allow for independent verification). U.S. officials could propose an alternative that does, but they do not seem to pursue this path because they believe the missile violates the treaty.

Another problem is that the United States is not recognizing the validity of the Russian concerns that U.S. Mk-41 launchers (that are part of the Aegis Ashore missile defense deployment in Romania) could be used to launch offensive missiles. To be clear, Russia is not saying the Mk-41s are an INF violation, they are saying they could be in the future. This is a valid concern and one that could be addressed through site visits or other confidence-building arrangements.

U.S. officials want Russia admit it has violated the treaty (which of course it will not do) and eliminate all of the 9M729s. The U.S. government believes that Russia has, to this point, deployed four battalions of the missiles (probably just under100 total, including spares) with some of those located in Western or Southern Russia, which puts targets in Europe within their estimated range (probably around 1,500-2,000 kilometers). It is not clear whether these missiles are nuclear-armed (probably not), but they are nuclear capable.

Russia claims the 9M729 has a range of 480 kilometers and that they have not conducted any surface-to-surface missile flight tests between 2008 and 2014 that exceeded 500 kilometers. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence says Russia did test the 9M729 from a fixed launcher at a range in excess of 500 kilometers, which means the 9M729 has that capability and is noncompliant.

Diplomatic Options Before August Termination Deadline

Both sides can still pursue diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue. But there is no chance for progress so long as the two sides refuse to adjust their current positions.

The Arms Control Association and our independent, nongovernmental colleagues in the U.S.-Russian-German "Deep Cuts Commission" and others have proposed the following solution that begins with reciprocal verification and inspections of the two systems at issue. This could be negotiated and implemented bilaterally. So far, the United States has rejected this idea, which has been proposed to Trump administration officials by some NATO governments:

  • Washington and Moscow should agree to reciprocal site visits by their respective technical experts to examine the missiles or launchers in dispute (the 9M729s and the SM-3/Mk-41s) at their deployment sites. If the 9M729 missile is determined to have a range that exceeds the INF Treaty’s 500-kilometer range limit (which the U.S. experts will likely claim it does) Russia should, as a matter of ‘good faith’ agree to either modify the missile to ensure it no longer violates the treaty or, ideally, halt production and eliminate any such missiles in its possession, including those 9M729s that have been deployed.
     
  • For its part, the United States should agree to modify the Mk-41 missile-defense launchers that Russia believes could be used for offensive purposes, in a way that allows to Russia to clearly distinguish them from launchers that fire offensive missiles from U.S. warships, or agree to other transparency measures to allay Russian suspicions that the launchers contain offensive missiles.

This could be a win-win deal. Such an arrangement would address the concerns of both sides and restore compliance with the treaty without Russia having to acknowledge its original violation of the treaty.

What Missiles Could Each Side Deploy in the Absence of the INF Treaty?

As Kingston Reif reports in Arms Control Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on Dec. 18 that if the United States “breaks the treaty,” Russia will be “forced to take additional measures to strengthen [its] security.” He further warned that Russia could easily conduct research to put air- and sea-launched cruise missile systems “on the ground, if need be.” This could include additional numbers of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile on mobile launchers.

For its part, the Trump administration is already seeking to develop new conventionally armed cruise and ballistic missiles to “counter” Russia’s 9M729 missile. The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act required “a program of record to develop a conventional road-mobile [ground-launched cruise missile] system with a range of between 500 to 5,500 kilometers,” including research and development activities.

The Defense Department requested, and Congress approved, $48 million in fiscal year 2019 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 INF Treaty.

One option might be a ground-launched variant of the Air Force’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile or the Navy’s Tomahawk sea-based cruise missile. Another option could be an intermediate-range ballistic missile could be derived from the U.S. Army’s short-range Army Tactical Missile System, a surface-to-surface missile with a reported range of just under 500 kilometers. The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. officials say, "It is unlikely that flight tests of these new systems would be conducted before the end of the [the INF Treaty’s] six-month withdrawal period.”

However, key NATO states have already expressed opposition to basing any such systems in Europe. Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister told Spiegel Online Jan. 11, 2019: "Even if we are unable to save the INF Treaty, we cannot allow the result to be a renewed arms race. European security will not be improved by deploying more nuclear-armed, medium-range missiles. I believe that is the wrong answer."

Alternative Risk Reduction Strategies in the Absence of INF

Because the loss of the INF Treaty would open the door to a new Euro-missile race, there are steps that can and must be pursued that would benefit the security interests of Russia, Europe, and the United States, as well as the prospects of future arms controls agreements.

  • One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that no alliance members will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not field treaty-prohibited systems that can reach NATO territory. This would require Russia to remove those 9M729 missiles that have been deployed in western Russia. This would also mean forgoing Trump’s plans for a new ground-launched, INF Treaty-prohibited missile. Because the United States and its NATO allies can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten key Russian targets, there is no need for such a system. Key allies, including Germany, have already declared their opposition to stationing new intermediate-range missiles in Europe. Key members of Congress have introduced legislation that would block procurement funding for any U.S. system currently banned by the treaty.
     
  • Another possible approach would be to negotiate a new agreement that verifiably prohibits ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic or cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. As a recent United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research study explains, the sophisticated verification procedures and technologies already in place under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) can be applied with almost no modification to verify the absence of nuclear warheads deployed on shorter-range missiles. Such an approach would require additional declarations and inspections of any ground-launched, INF Treaty-range systems. To be of lasting value, such a framework would require that Moscow and Washington agree to extend New START by five years. New START is now scheduled to expire in 2021 and talks on extension have not yet begun.
     
  • A third variation would be for Russia and NATO to commit reciprocally to each other – ideally including a means of verifying the commitment - that neither will deploy land-based, intermediate-range ballistic missiles, or nuclear-armed cruise missiles (of any range), capable of striking each other’s territory.

There may be still other options that would meet each sides’ security and help to avoid a replay of the 1980s, in which each side had a justifiable fear of sudden nuclear attack.

INF Termination Is Bad. Failure to Extend New START Would Make Things Worse.

If the INF Treaty collapses, as appears likely, the only remaining agreement regulating the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles will be New START. That 2010 treaty, which limits the two sides’ long-range missiles and bombers and caps the warheads they carry to no more than 1,550 each, is due to expire in 2021 unless Trump and Putin agree to extend it by a period of up to five years, as allowed for in the accord’s Article XIV.

Key Republican and Democratic senators, former U.S. military commanders, and U.S. NATO allies are on record in support of the treaty’s extension, which can be accomplished without further Senate or Duma approval.

Unfortunately, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton may try to sabotage that treaty too. Since arriving at the White House in April, he has been slow-rolling an interagency review on whether to extend New START and refusing to take up Putin’s offer to begin extension talks.

Extension talks should begin now, in order to resolve outstanding implementation concerns that could delay the treaty’s extension.

Without New START, there would be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972. Both countries would be in violation of their Article VI nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament....”

Bottom Line

The INF Treaty crisis is a global security problem. Without serious talks and new proposals from Washington and Moscow, other nations will need to step forward with creative and pragmatic solutions that create the conditions necessary to ensure that the world’s two largest nuclear actors meet their legal obligations to end the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.—DARYL G. KIMBALL, Executive Director

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Posted: February 1, 2019

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: February 2019

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 IIINF TreatySTART ISTART IISTART IIISORT

New START

StatusExpiredNever Entered Into ForceIn Force*ExpiredNever Entered Into ForceNever NegotiatedReplaced by New STARTIn Force
Deployed Warhead LimitN/AN/AN/A6,0003,000-3,5002,000-2,5001,700-2,2001,550
Deployed Delivery Vehicle LimitUS: 1,710 ICBMs & SLBMs
USSR: 2,347
2,250Prohibits ground-based missiles of 500-5,500 km range1,600N/AN/AN/A700
Date SignedMay 26, 1972June 18, 1979Dec. 8, 1987July 31, 1991Jan. 3, 1993N/AMay 24, 2002April 8, 2010
Date Ratifed, U.S.Aug. 3, 1972N/AMay 28, 1988Oct. 1, 1992Jan. 26, 1996N/AMarch 6, 2003Dec. 22, 2010
Ratification Vote, U.S.88-2N/A93-693-687-4N/A95-071-26
Date Entered Into ForceOct. 3, 1972N/AJune 1, 1988Dec. 5, 1994N/AN/AJune 1, 2003Feb. 5, 2011
Implementation DeadlineN/AN/AJune 1, 1991Dec. 5, 2001N/AN/AN/AFeb. 5, 2018
Expiration DateOct. 3, 1977N/Aunlimited durationDec. 5, 2009N/AN/AFeb. 5, 2011Feb. 5, 2021**

*On Feb. 2, 2019, both the United States and Russia announced they were suspending their obligations to the treaty.

**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. The Trump administration provided official notice to the other treaty states-parties on Feb. 2, that it would both suspend its obligations to the treaty and withdraw from the agreement in six months—per the treaty's terms—and "terminate" the agreement. The administration has stated that it may reverse the withdrawal if Russia returns to compliance by eliminating its ground-launched 9M729 missile, which the United States alleges is the noncompliant missile which can fly beyond the 500-kilometer range limit set by the treaty. 

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: February 1, 2019

After the INF Treaty, What Is Next?

U.S. and Russia trade blame as they look to develop new weapons systems.


January/February 2019
By Kingston Reif

If the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty collapses in 2019, the United States, key U.S. allies, and Russia will face critical questions of how to respond, including whether to develop and deploy new intermediate-range missile systems and whether to seek restraint measures to prevent a renewed missile race in Europe and beyond.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on the screen during an annual meeting with high-ranking military officers on December 18, 2018 in Moscow. Putin told them that if the United States “breaks the [INF] treaty,” Russia will be “forced to take additional measures to strengthen [its] security.” (Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)Washington and Moscow have not shown a willingness to go the extra mile to resolve their years-long INF Treaty compliance dispute, as the clock runs down on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Dec. 4 ultimatum, under which Russia has 60 days to return to “full and verifiable compliance” or the United States will suspend its obligations and issue a formal notice of its intent to withdraw from the treaty.

Rather, each side has been laying the groundwork to blame the other for the treaty’s demise and, in that case, to advance new weapons systems.

At the direction of Congress, the Defense Department began early research and development activities on concepts and options for conventional, intermediate-range missile systems in late 2017. If the administration moves to withdraw from the treaty, it could ramp up funding to accelerate development.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on Dec. 18 that if the United States “breaks the treaty,” Russia will be “forced to take additional measures to strengthen [its] security.” He further warned that Russia could easily conduct research to put air- and sea-launched cruise missile systems “on the ground, if need be.”

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.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in November that Russia has “fielded multiple battalions of 9M729 missiles, which pose a direct conventional and nuclear threat against most of Europe and parts of Asia.”

Moscow has denied these 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.

“If Russia admits its violations and fully and verifiably comes back into compliance, we will, of course, welcome that course of action,” Pompeo said at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Dec. 4. “But Russia, and Russia only, can take this step.”

The impasse is complicated by the fact that neither President Donald Trump, Pompeo, nor any other administration official has publicly acknowledged as legitimate Russia’s concerns about U.S. compliance or suggested that Washington would be willing to engage in talks that address the concerns of both sides.

Pompeo also cited China, which is not a party to the treaty, as a reason why the agreement no longer makes sense for the United States. This suggests the administration sees benefits to withdrawal from the treaty beyond its concerns about Russia’s noncompliance.

“There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China,” Pompeo declared, “in particular when these weapons are being used to threaten and coerce the United States and its allies in Asia.”

For its part, Russia continues to deny that the 9M729 violates the treaty while suggesting that it remains open to dialogue. But Russia does not appear to have tabled any specific proposals to address the U.S. and Russian concerns and rather has ramped up public statements blaming the United States.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in a Dec. 19 interview with Kommersant that U.S. officials made it clear to Russia that Trump’s announcement in October that he intended to “terminate” the treaty was “final and is not ‘an invitation for dialogue.’”

Although Russia has open production lines for the 9M729, the United States is still in the early stages of development of a treaty-busting missile. The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act required “a program of record to develop a conventional road-mobile [GLCM] system with a range of between 500 to 5,500 kilometers,” including research and development activities. (See ACT, December 2017.)

The law also required “a report on the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, modifying United States missile systems in existence or planned as of such date of enactment for ground launch with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers as compared with the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, developing a new ground-launched missile using new technology with the same range.” Such existing and planned systems include the Tomahawk cruise missile, the Standard Missile-3 anti-missile interceptor, the long-range standoff weapon, and the Army tactical missile system.

As of the end of 2018, the Pentagon had yet to submit this report.

The Defense Department requested and Congress approved $48 million in fiscal year 2019 for R&D on and concepts and options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems in response to Russia’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty. (See ACT, November 2018.)

Prior to the conclusion of the INF Treaty in 1987, the United States deployed several hundred nuclear-armed, intermediate-range Pershing II ballistic missiles and GLCMs in Europe, the latter of which were an adaption of the Tomahawk. The Pentagon spent $2.6 billion, in fiscal year 1987 dollars, to develop and procure 247 Pershing II missiles and associated launchers and $3.5 billion to develop and procure 442 GLCMs through fiscal year 1987, according to a 1988 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

Yet, the cost today to develop a new ballistic missile system would be higher given that several decades have passed since the development of the Pershing II. In addition, the range of the new missile would likely need to be much greater than the 1,800-kilometer range of the Pershing II to have any utility against China in the Pacific region.

Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in March 2017 that “there are no military requirements we cannot currently satisfy due to our compliance with the INF Treaty.” But a U.S. withdrawal could lead to the establishment of a new military requirement and accelerated efforts to develop ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles.

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.

At an event in Washington on Dec. 14, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said that the Pentagon should rapidly develop new intermediate-range missiles despite uncertainty about where they could be fielded. “Basing questions can obviously be controversial, but that will be a decision to be made for the future,” he said.

The collapse of the INF Treaty also raises questions about how to prevent the buildup of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Asia.

Russia approached the United States in 2007 and the two sides then jointly proposed in a UN General Assembly resolution to multilateralize the INF Treaty. The idea of multilateralizing the treaty has been around for more than a decade, but neither Moscow nor Washington have devoted serious effort into the concept, and China is highly unlikely to join an agreement that would require eliminating the bulk of its missile arsenal.

Other options that might be pursued include a pledge from the United States and Russia not to be the first to deploy intermediate-range missile systems anywhere in or within range of NATO members in Europe, limiting the number of intermediate-range missiles instead of banning them completely, and prohibiting nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

 

U.S. Counts Down to Quitting INF Treaty

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a 60-day countdown to notification of U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia during a Dec. 4 press conference, drawing warnings from Russian officials and criticism from congressional Democrats.

Administration officials rolled out the U.S. case supporting President Donald Trump’s decision to “terminate” the 1987 treaty after five years of unresolved U.S. complaints that Russia’s 9M729 missile violates the INF Treaty’s range restrictions. Russian officials now acknowledge the missile exists, but deny that it has been tested at or is able to fly at treaty-prohibited ranges.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, at a Nov. 30 news briefing, said that Russia’s noncompliance stems from having first conducted legally allowable tests of the 9M729 from a fixed launcher at a range well beyond 500 kilometers followed by tests from a mobile launcher at a range of less than 500 kilometers. Taken together, however, the tests show Russia has developed and fielded an INF Treaty-noncompliant missile that could be launched from a ground-mobile platform.

Coats’ briefing provided the public foundation for Pompeo’s announcement on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend treaty obligations after 60 days unless Russia returns to “full and verifiable compliance.”

Pompeo indicated that the administration would issue a formal notice of withdrawal at the end of the 60 days, which would begin a six-month withdrawal period under the treaty. The 60-day waiting period was largely attributed to the request of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Pompeo sought to respond to criticism that Trump’s decision was hasty, noting that the United States had raised the issue of Russian noncompliance “on at least 30 occasions” since 2013. Abiding by the INF Treaty constraints, which Russia is violating and which do not bind U.S. adversaries such as China, means the United States will “get cheated by other nations, expose Americans to greater risk, and squander our credibility,” he said.

Although the U.S. move worries European allies, Pompeo succeeded in having the NATO foreign ministers for the first time publicly back the U.S. conclusion that Russia is violating the INF Treaty. “It is now up to Russia to preserve the treaty,” they said in a Dec. 4 statement that did not include an endorsement of Pompeo’s ultimatum.

In response to U.S. and NATO statements, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that Moscow would respond “accordingly” to a U.S. withdrawal. Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Russian military chief of staff, reportedly warned European officials that U.S. missile defense sites on allied territory could become “targets of subsequent military exchanges.”

Since then, Russian Foreign Ministry officials have raised the prospect of mutual inspections to address Russian allegations of U.S. noncompliance with respect to the Mk-41 U.S. missile defense launch system in Europe, which can also be used to fire cruise missiles.

Russian media reported there was no U.S. response after Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu, in several messages sent to the U.S. embassy in Moscow, suggested holding discussions with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Any prospective movement on such a high-level military-to-military dialogue is uncertain given Mattis’ protest resignation following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and to reduce their numbers in Afghanistan.

At the United Nations, Russia sought General Assembly approval of a resolution calling on states-parties to renew their efforts to preserve and strengthen the INF Treaty through “full and strict compliance,” continue consultations on compliance with treaty obligations, and resume a “constructive dialogue on strategic issues premised on openness, mutual confidence and real opportunities.” The resolution failed on Dec. 21 by a vote of 43–46, with 78 abstaining.

Meanwhile, congressional reaction to Trump’s withdrawal plan was divided along partisan lines.

On the Republican side, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) led a Nov. 29 letter to Trump signed by more than 40 House Republicans commending the decision to withdraw, and Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) led 24 other Republican senators in a Nov. 28 letter to Trump against extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because of Russia’s INF Treaty noncompliance.

Among Democrats, 26 senators, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) called on the president in a Dec. 13 letter to redouble diplomatic efforts to salvage the treaty. In a Dec. 3 letter, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jack Reed (R.I.), and Mark Warner (Va.), the ranking members of the foreign relations, armed services, and intelligence committees, respectively, urged Trump to engage with Congress on the implications of withdrawal before taking steps to withdraw or suspend participation in the treaty.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: January 8, 2019

Preventing a New Euro-Missile Race

Next month, it is very likely the Trump administration will take the next step toward fulfilling the president’s threat to “terminate” one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements: the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which led to the verifiable elimination of 2,692 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe.


January/February 2019
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Next month, it is very likely the Trump administration will take the next step toward fulfilling the president’s threat to “terminate” one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements: the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which led to the verifiable elimination of 2,692 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe. The treaty helped bring an end to the Cold War and paved the way for agreements to slash bloated strategic nuclear arsenals and to withdraw thousands of tactical nuclear weapons from forward-deployed areas.

Russia's 9M729 missile reportedly has been tested using a mobile launcher system similar to that used by the 9K720 Iskander-M pictured here on September 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian FederationOn Dec. 4, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Russia had fielded a ground-launched missile system, the 9M729, that exceeds the INF Treaty’s 500-kilometer range limit. He also announced that, in 60 days, the administration would “suspend” U.S. obligations under the treaty and formally announce its intention to withdraw in six months unless Russia returns to compliance. Suspension will allow the administration to try to accelerate the development of new missiles currently prohibited by the treaty.

Noncompliance with the treaty is unacceptable and merits a strong response. But Trump’s public declaration that he will terminate the treaty and pursue new U.S. nuclear capabilities will not bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty. Worst of all, blowing up the INF Treaty with no substitute plan in place could open the door to a dangerous new era of unconstrained military competition with Russia.

Without the treaty, already severe tensions will grow as Washington considers deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in Europe and perhaps elsewhere and Russia considers increasing 9M729 deployments and other new systems.

These nuclear-capable weapons, if deployed again, would be able to strike targets deep inside Russia and in western Europe. Their short time-to-target capability increases the risk of miscalculation in a crisis. Any nuclear attack on Russia involving U.S. intermediate-range, nuclear-armed missiles based in Europe could provoke a massive Russian nuclear counterstrike on Europe and on the U.S. homeland.

In delivering the U.S. ultimatum on the treaty, Pompeo expressed “hope” that Russia will “change course” and return to compliance. Hope that Russia will suddenly admit fault and eliminate its 9M729 system is not a serious strategy, and it is not one on which NATO leaders can rely.

Instead, NATO members should insist that the United States and Russia redouble their sporadic INF Treaty discussions, agree to meet in a formal setting, and put forward proposals for how to resolve issues of mutual concern about the treaty.

Unfortunately, U.S. officials have refused thus far to take up Russia’s offer to discuss “any mutually beneficial proposals that take into account the interests and concerns of both parties.” That is a serious mistake. Failure by both sides to take diplomatic engagement more seriously since the 9M729 missile was first tested five years ago has bought us to this point.

Barring an unlikely 11th-hour diplomatic breakthrough, however, the INF Treaty’s days are numbered. Doing nothing is not a viable option.

With the treaty possibly disappearing later this year, it is not too soon to consider how to head off a dangerous and costly new missile race in Europe.

One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that none of them will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not field treaty-prohibited systems that can reach NATO territory. This would require Russia to remove those 9M729 missiles that have been deployed in western Russia.

This would also mean forgoing Trump’s plans for a new ground-launched, INF Treaty-prohibited missile. Because the United States and its NATO allies can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten key Russian targets, there is no need for such a system. Key allies, including Germany, have already declared their opposition to stationing new intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

In the absence of the INF Treaty, another possible approach would be to negotiate a new agreement that verifiably prohibits ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic or cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. As a recent United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research study explains, the sophisticated verification procedures and technologies already in place under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) can be applied with almost no modification to verify the absence of nuclear warheads deployed on shorter-range missiles.

Such an approach would require additional declarations and inspections of any ground-launched INF Treaty-range systems. To be of lasting value, such a framework would require that Moscow and Washington agree to extend New START, which is now scheduled to expire in 2021.

The INF Treaty crisis is a global security problem. Without serious talks and new proposals from Washington and Moscow, other nations will need to step forward with creative and pragmatic solutions that create the conditions necessary to ensure that the world’s two largest nuclear actors meet their legal obligations to end the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.

Posted: January 7, 2019

U.S. INF Treaty Termination Strategy Falls Short

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

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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

The INF Treaty: European Perspectives on the Impending U.S. Withdrawal

With Russia and the United States at an impasse, what can be done to save a landmark arms control treaty?


December 2018
By Katarzyna Kubiak

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on October 20 that he intends to have the United States “terminate” the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty took many European policymakers and security experts by surprise.

Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in the East Room of the White House on December 8, 1987. (Photo: Corbis via Getty Images)Although European NATO allies now agree with the United States on the alleged Russian material breach of the treaty, the unilateral U.S. withdrawal threat is divisive within NATO. A technical solution is possible, but it does not appear to be politically feasible. Although the ultimate decision belongs to Washington, which has yet to deliver the official withdrawal notification to Russia, its execution will incur serious implications for European security, NATO cohesion, and the future of arms control.

The landmark 1987 accord between the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the United States removed a major threat to European security by eliminating an entire class of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles, those with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, together with their launchers.

The treaty contributes to strategic stability and reduces the risk of miscalculation that could lead to conflict, yet its future has become increasingly uncertain due to a festering U.S. dispute with Russia. In 2014, Washington publicly alleged that Moscow had violated the pact by testing and, since 2017, deploying a prohibited cruise missile system, known as the SSC-8 or 9M729 in U.S. and Russian designations, respectively.1

Russian officials have responded with counteraccusations, including that the Mk-41 launchers for the U.S. ground-based ballistic missile defense interceptors deployed now in Romania and soon in Poland could be used to launch offensive INF Treaty-range cruise missiles.2 Further, Russia takes the position that U.S. target missiles for ballistic missile defense interceptor tests and U.S. armed drones should be counted under the INF
Treaty restrictions.

Both parties have discussed their mutual allegations at two meetings of the Special Verification Commission (SVC), a treaty-mandated forum to address compliance disputes, and through other diplomatic channels.3 Yet, they have consistently failed to agree on the facts, let alone find a solution. Each side claims to be in compliance. The U.S. Department of State has “repeatedly refuted baseless Russian allegations in detail.”4 Moscow denies the “absolutely groundless [U.S.] accusations.”5 Meanwhile, however, Russia acknowledged that the 9M729 cruise missile exists, but claims that it has neither been developed nor tested for a range banned by the INF Treaty and its deployment is taking place in strict compliance with the treaty.6

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Russia considers that the INF Treaty, “though not ideal in modern conditions,” still has value, and that “scrapping one of the key arms control mechanisms would be fundamentally counterproductive.” Speaking at a Moscow news briefing November 26, he said, “We are ready to work to maintain its viability. Russia is open to any mutually beneficial proposals that takes into account the interests of both parties.”

European Reactions

Although the INF Treaty is a cornerstone of European security, most European governments have remained on the sidelines in this dispute because, for one thing, no European NATO allies are party to the agreement. Hence, they do not see themselves as empowered to pressure Moscow or Washington publicly on solutions. Further, the INF Treaty is more of a political symbol to Europeans than a military restraint because they already are within range of Russia’s conventional and nuclear missiles. In addition, some European governments initially viewed the U.S. evidence of presumed Russian violation as not compelling enough.7 As a consequence, it took Washington more than three years to persuade its NATO allies. Finally and probably most importantly, European allies differ among themselves in their preferred approach toward Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg meets with NATO forces in Trondheim, Norway, on October 30 during their Trident Juncture 2018 military exercise. Commenting on the possible demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Stoltenberg said in November that NATO “has no intention to deploy new nuclear missiles in Europe.” (Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)European responses to Trump’s termination announcement reflect this variation. On one end of the spectrum, allies that support strengthening NATO in a manner that deters but does not threaten Russia prefer to remain in dialogue with Moscow. For example, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was the first to express regret about Trump’s announcement.8 Despite sympathy for U.S. frustration in dealing with Russia, he called the decision a “mistake” and pledged diplomatic engagement with Moscow and Washington to save the accord.9 Maas also made it clear that Germany has no appetite for an arms race in Europe.10 Similarly, immediately after the withdrawal announcement, French President Emmanuel Macron picked up the phone and reminded his counterpart in the White House of the importance France ascribes to the treaty, in particular for European security and strategic stability.11

On the other end of the spectrum, some European allies believe that strength is the only currency that the Kremlin understands and put very little trust in a dialogue with Moscow. Standing “absolutely resolute” with the U.S. president, UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson accused Russia of “making a mockery” of the INF Treaty.12 Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz declared “a similar” stance on and “understanding” for the U.S. decision.13

The announcement of an impending U.S. withdrawal has yet another dimension exposing the deterioration of NATO cohesion. By threatening withdrawal, Washington is acting against NATO’s official stance. At the July 2018 summit in Brussels, 29 heads of state and government of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s most senior decision-making body, declared their commitment to the “preservation of this landmark arms control treaty” and pledged to “engage Russia on this issue in bilateral and multilateral formats.”14

Three weeks before the announcement, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis assured NATO allies that any U.S. decision on the INF Treaty would be made “in concert with our allies, as always.”15 Yet, the White House acted unilaterally. As a result, the announcement only adds another setback to relations between the Trump administration and European allies, for whom display of NATO unity and solidarity is of utmost importance when facing Russia.

Europe Bears the Consequences

If the threat of withdrawal succeeds in bringing Russia back to compliance, it will certainly be an achievement that could reinvigorate arms control more broadly. Nevertheless, the attempt is risky. If it fails, its consequences could generate predominantly unfavorable side effects for Europe without visible advantages on the horizon.

First, the threat of withdrawal will not automatically bring Russia back to compliance; an actual withdrawal even less so. At the same time, dumping the treaty means that the United States and subsequently NATO give up the legal basis on which they are entitled to insist on Russia’s return to compliance. No INF Treaty means no possibility to pressure Moscow on the elements of its alleged missile and limits avenues to verify whether it violated the treaty.

Second, without the INF Treaty, Russia could freely field an unlimited number of the allegedly developed intermediate-range cruise missiles in the vicinity of Europe, while NATO has neither offensive nor defensive capablities with which to credibly respond in the short term.

Third, no European government has offered to host U.S. INF Treaty-range missiles. According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, “NATO has no intention to deploy new nuclear missiles in Europe.”16 Yet, the potential appetite of some European governments to capitalize on hosting conventional intermediate-range cruise missiles, should the United States decide to field them, could deepen NATO’s divide and play into Moscow’s hands.

Fourth, what happens with the INF Treaty will likely determine the future of arms control. The death of the INF Treaty without solving the compliance issue could impede prospects for extending existing agreements, such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and negotiating new ones.

At their July 2018 Brussels Summit, 29 heads of state and government of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s most senior decision-making body, declared their commitment to the preservation of the “landmark” Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  (Photo: NATO)Finally, the way NATO deals with the INF Treaty reflects on its credibility and leadership within the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. Just last year, European NATO allies stood side by side with United States in opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, aligning themselves with the position that a step-by-step approach on nuclear disarmament is a better course. With the U.S. termination of the Iran nuclear deal, an INF Treaty deathwatch underway, and an extension of New START in question, the standing of NATO’s nuclear and non-nuclear countries as trustworthy partners, although differently, will be heavily at stake.

Can the INF Treaty Be Saved?

So far, Washington and NATO have been unsuccessful in their attempts to induce Russia to address compliance concerns.17 In line with the Trump Administration INF Treaty Integrated Strategy,18 the administration pursued diplomatic measures, including convening that month the second SVC meeting. At a June 2018 round of expert-level talks in Geneva, U.S. officials called on Russia to halt testing, production, and deployment of the 9M729 missile, but there have been no follow-on discussions, apparently due to Moscow’s refusal.19

The Helsinki summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2018 and the August 2018 talks in Geneva between U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev also made no progress. Neither did imposing sanctions on Russian companies involved in research and development of the disputed missile, nor pursuing research on its own INF Treaty-noncompliant missile system. Earlier this year, for its part, NATO tried to create political pressure on Moscow by stating that, absent a credible response, it will assume Russia is in violation.20

Because diplomatic, economic, and military measures have not prompted Russia to address compliance concerns in a sufficient manner, announcing the intent to withdraw appears a logical consequence. Yet, not only is its timing questionable, but both sides have failed to exhaust all potential avenues to address mutual concerns.

Although development of a noncompliant missile carries a different qualitative weight than deployment of an alleged launcher, both are legitimate concerns. In expecting Russia to prove its compliance with the INF Treaty, the United States did not offer to demonstrate its own adherence. European allies have unconditionally sided with Washington, not pressing the United States on compliance questions, judged to be spurious at best.21

Provided enough political will in Moscow, Washington, and NATO capitals, mutual inspections could shed more light on the compliance questions. In exchange for Russia addressing concerns about the alleged missile system, NATO allies could assure Russia that NATO’s ballistic missile defense launchers will not and cannot be used for offensive purposes. Such an approach has strong backing by former high-level officials and experts from Vancouver to Vladivostok.22

Yet, such a solution might be far more complicated. The United States now publicly alleges that Moscow initially flight tested the 9M729 to distances well over 500 kilometers from a fixed launcher and then tested the same missile at ranges below 500 kilometers from a mobile launcher. By putting the two types of tests together, Russia was able to develop a missile that flies more than 500 km and launches from a ground-mobile platform, which would put it in violation of the INF Treaty.23 If Moscow were to offer credible exhibitions of the alleged missile that show it to indeed be noncompliant with the INF Treaty, the logical outcome would require Russia to eliminate the missiles plus halt any further testing, production, and deployment.

If Russia does not agree to mutual verification, the United States and its NATO allies could reclaim the moral high ground by demonstrating that Moscow, not Washington, is scrapping arms control treaties. This seems like a pragmatic offer because the United States is convinced of its own compliance and because, in other spheres, military transparency is such a point of pride for the United States and NATO.

Initiating goodwill on NATO side, however, will be no a small feat. Allies predominantly blame Russia for the current state of the INF Treaty. After countless unsuccessful attempts to reach out to Moscow, they consider the ball to be in Russia’s court.24 Also, winning NATO unanimity on such a proposal will be politically challenging. Furthermore, allies endeavor not to create any impression of getting back to what they call “business as usual” with Moscow, and any offer going beyond the current agenda could be seen as crossing this line. Yet, apart from the INF Treaty, NATO has nothing to lose.

Questions for the Future

With the accord in severe jeopardy, the alliance faces the “need to assess the implications of the new Russian missile,” according to Stoltenberg.25 Such an assessment has military and arms control dimensions.

The motivation for the alleged Russian breach remains largely unclear. Successive U.S. administrations have not attributed a motive either. Only the recent U.S. Nuclear Posture Review report states that “Moscow believes these systems may provide useful options for escalation advantage.”26 A new, land-based, INF Treaty-range missile could compliment already existing Russian sea- and air-launched cruise missiles with additional mobility and agility, more difficult detection capabilities, and reduced warning time,27 enabling a faster or surprise attack (e.g., against U.S. Aegis Ashore installations in Europe).

European allies and Washington reportedly have been weighing a set of some three dozen military and diplomatic responses to the Russian breach.28 The former could include extending NATO ballistic missile defense with capabilities to defend against cruise missiles, increasing the readiness level of NATO dual-capable aircraft proscribed for its nuclear mission, strengthening the credibility of U.S. extended nuclear deterrence in Europe, deploying a conventional INF Treaty-range ground-launched cruise missile in Europe,29 and introducing new nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles to the U.S. arsenal.30 Except for cruise missile defense,31 however, these measures would neither directly defend Europe from noncompliant Russian cruise missiles nor plausibly be explained as a response to the INF Treaty violation.

To some degree, military responses could worsen NATO-Russian relations. Additional military measures bear the risk of fueling Moscow’s sense of being under siege and thus leading to a Russian military counterreaction. Pledges to refrain from deploying INF Treaty-class missiles in Europe, provided the other side does not deploy them, would be one option to mitigate an unnecessary and costly arms spiral in Europe.

The demise of the INF Treaty and internal NATO deliberations over an appropriate response could require reopening a broader discussion on the NATO deterrence and defense posture. Allies went through this difficult process a decade ago and were barely able to find agreement. Although the security situation differs today from when NATO perceived Russia its “partner,” reopening such discussions holds the potential risk of strengthening the role of nuclear weapons, an issue tremendously sensitive for individual NATO allies.

At the same time, the current INF Treaty crisis marks yet another blow to the European security architecture and raises a more general question: What shall future arms control look like? Should the INF Treaty eventually collapse, Europe and the United States could offer Moscow the chance to work on a modern successor. Utilizing the INF Treaty as a blueprint, they could think of limiting the number of intermediate-range missiles instead of banning them completely, limiting cruise missile deployments geographically, prohibiting nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, or multilateralizing and extending the treaty’s scope.

Such a preservation effort should not be seen as a reward for Russia’s bad behavior. Rather, it should be recognized as an investment in preventing an arms race, as a step to realize the European commitment to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, and as a way for Europe to remain central in shaping the global nuclear weapons landscape. As with the Iran nuclear accord, Europe has a major role to play and a major stake in the outcome.

ENDNOTES

1. U.S. Department of State, “2014 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” July 2014, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/230108.pdf. See Gen. Paul Selva, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, March 8, 2017, https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/military-assessment-nuclear-deterrence-requirements. See also Gen. John E. Hyten, Testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, March 20, 2018, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Hyten_03-20-18.pdf.

2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Comment by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Regarding the Report of the U.S. Department of State on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” August 1, 2014, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/675835.

3. U.S. Department of State, “INF Diplomacy Highlights Timeline,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287411.htm.

4. U.S. Department of State, “Refuting Russian Allegations of U.S. Noncompliance With the INF Treaty,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287413.htm.

5. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Russia’s Assessment of the U.S. Department of State’s Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” April 14, 2018, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3192916. See “Russian Ambassador Calls U.S. Accusations of INF Treaty Violation ‘Ungrounded,’” Tass, March 2, 2018.

6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova,” December 21, 2018, http://www.mid.ru/en/diverse/-/asset_publisher/zwI2FuDbhJx9/content/brifing-oficial-nogo-predstavitela-mid-rossii-m-v-zaharovoj-moskva-21-dekabra-2017-goda?_101_INSTANCE_zwI2FuDbhJx9_redirect=http://www.mid.ru/en/diverse%3Fp_p_id%3D101_INSTANCE_
zwI2FuDbhJx9%26p_p_lifecycle%3D0%26p_p_
state%3Dnormal%26p_p_mode%3Dview%26p_p_col_id%3Dcolumn-1%26p_p_col_pos%3D2%26p_p_col_count%3D6#8
.

7. U.S. Mission to NATO, “October 2, 2018: Press Briefing by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison,” October 2, 2018, https://nato.usmission.gov/october-2-2018-press-briefing-by-ambassador-kay-bailey-hutchison/.

8. German Federal Foreign Office, “Foreign Minister Maas on the U.S. Announcement That It Is Withdrawing From the INF Treaty,” October 21, 2018, https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/newsroom/news/maas-inf-treaty/2151874, German Federal Government, “Zur Ankündigung der USA, sich aus dem INF-Abkommen zurückzuziehen,” October 21, 2018, https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/suche/zur-ankuendigung-der-usa-sich-aus-dem-inf-abkommen-zurueckzuziehen-1540744.

9. German Federal Foreign Office, October 24, 2018, https://twitter.com/AuswaertigesAmt/status/1055114684083462144; German Federal Foreign Office, “Preventing a New Arms Race,” October 23, 2018, https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/newsroom/news/maas-funke-mediengruppe-inf-treaty/2152660.

10. German Federal Foreign Office, “Preventing a New Arms Race.”

11. Embassy of France in London, “France Reminds U.S. of Nuclear Treaty’s Importance,” October 21, 2018, https://uk.ambafrance.org/France-reminds-US-of-nuclear-treaty-s-importance.

12. Peter Stubbly, “UK Stands 'Absolutely Resolute' With the U.S. After Trump Pulls Out of Russia Nuclear Weapons Treaty,” Independent, October 21, 2018.

13. “Jacek Czaputowicz: Polska ze zrozumieniem dla decyzji USA w sprawie INF,” PolskieRadio24.pl, October 22, 2018, https://polskieradio24.pl/5/3/Artykul/2205658,Jacek-Czaputowicz-Polska-ze-zrozumieniem-dla-decyzji-USA-w-sprawie-INF.

14. NATO, “Brussels Summit Declaration,” July 11, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_156624.htm.

15. “U.S. Withdrawal From Nuke Treaty Worries Europeans,” Der Spiegel, October 30, 2018.

16. NATO, “Keynote Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the ‘NATO Talk Around the Brandenburg Tor’ Conference,” November 12, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_160241.htm.

17. U.S. Department of State, “Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” n.d., https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/index.htm (accessed November 22, 2018).

18. U.S. Department of State, “Trump Administration INF Treaty Integrated Strategy,” December 8, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/12/276363.htm.

19. U.S. Department of State, “INF Diplomacy Highlights Timeline,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287411.htm.

20. German Federal Government, “Regierungspressekonferenz vom 22. Oktober 2018,” October 22, 2018, https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/suche/regierungspressekonferenz-vom-22-oktober-2018-1541072. See NATO, “Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Ahead of Exercise Trident Juncture 2018,” October 24, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_159666.htm?selectedLocale=en.

21. U.S. Department of State, “Refuting Russian Allegations of U.S. Noncompliance With the INF Treaty,” November 16, 2018, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/inf/287413.htm.

22. European Leadership Network, “ELN Group Statement: A European Response to U.S. Withdrawal From the INF Treaty,” November 7, 2018, https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/group-statement/eln-group-statement-a-european-response-to-us-withdrawal-from-the-inf-treaty/; “Letter to POTUS on US-RF Arms Control 11-7,” November 7, 2018, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kdGky0NumiWz4MWwyFNirxP9NTB9a37h/view; “Statement of the Deep Cuts Commission on the INF-Treaty Crisis and the Way Forward,” November 16, 2018, http://deepcuts.org/files/pdf/Statement_of_the_Deep_Cuts_Commission_on_the_INF_Treaty_final.pdf; “No Nuclear Arms Race in Europe!” n.d., https://kein-wettruesten.de/en/ (accessed November 22, 2018).

23. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, "Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats on Russia’s INF Treaty Violation," November 30, 2018, https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/speeches-interviews/item/1923-director-of-national-intelligence-daniel-coats-on-russia-s-inf-treaty-violation

24. NATO, “NATO-Russia Council Beets in Brussels,” October 31, 2018, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_160005.htm?selectedLocale=en.

25. NATO, “Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Ahead of Exercise Trident Juncture 2018.”

26. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review,” February 2018, p. 9, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF (hereinafter NPR Report).

27. NATO, “Keynote Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the ‘NATO Talk Around the Brandenburg Tor’ Conference.”

28. Lena Kampf and Georg Mascolo, “Nato: Russlands Atomprogramm verstößt gegen Abkommen,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, August 31, 2017.  

29. NPR Report.

30. Ibid.

31. Because cruise missile defense is not an off-the-shelf-product, its development would require years. Only the U.S. Congress has shown an interest in funding the development of active defenses to counter ground-launched missile systems within the INF Treaty ranges. See National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-91, 131 Stat. 1283 (2017).

 


Katarzyna Kubiak is a policy fellow on nuclear and arms control policy at the European Leadership Network in London.

 

Posted: December 1, 2018

DOCUMENT: Bipartisan Experts Urge Trump to Save Nuclear Treaties With Russia

Bipartisan Experts Urge Trump to Save Nuclear Treaties With Russia

 

November 7, 2018

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Dear Mr. President:

As national security professionals and public servants who have spent their careers working for and with Republican and Democratic presidents to protect our nation’s national security, we urge you to ensure that we sustain meaningful, verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals in order to provide more predictability, transparency, and stability in our nuclear relationship with Russia.

We have been deeply troubled by the unresolved problem of Russia’s noncompliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. In July, NATO members, including the United States, affirmed their commitment to the INF Treaty, stating that it was “crucial to Euro-Atlantic security.” We agree. The INF Treaty has prevented the unchecked deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe, significantly reducing the risk of rapid escalation towards nuclear war.

Rather than move to terminate the INF Treaty, however, we urge you to direct your team to redouble efforts to negotiate technical solutions to U.S. (and Russian) INF compliance concerns. Russia’s deployment of a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile must be addressed; Moscow is concerned that launchers at the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense sites in Romania (and the planned site in Poland) are capable of firing offensive missiles. A senior adviser to President Putin has said that Russia is still ready to address “mutual grievances” related to the treaty. We urge you to pursue this option.

In the absence of the INF Treaty, the only remaining agreement regulating our nuclear stockpiles will be the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits the two sides’ long-range missiles and bombers, and caps the warheads they carry to no more than 1,550 each. U.S. military leaders continue to see value in New START. Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told Congress last March that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.”

New START is due to expire on February 5, 2021 unless you and President Putin agree to extend it by up to five years (to 2026), as allowed for in Article XIV of the treaty. We urge you to take up Russia’s offer to engage in talks on the extension of New START. These talks should begin immediately to address any outstanding treaty compliance concerns before the treaty expires.

With your decision to extend New START, the two sides would have the time necessary to work together on a new deal that addresses obstacles that prevented your predecessors in the White House from achieving further limits and deeper reductions in the two countries’ nuclear arsenals.

Every American president since John F. Kennedy has successfully concluded at least one agreement with Russia to reduce nuclear dangers. Without New START, there would be no legally-binding, verifiable limits on the U.S. or Russian nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

In March of this year, you said you wanted to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.” We respectfully urge you to do so.

Sincerely,

Susan Burk, former Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, and head of the U.S. delegation to the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference

Richard R. Burt, former Ambassador to Germany and chief negotiator for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

Thomas Countryman, former acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, and Chairman of the Arms Control Association

Thomas Graham Jr., Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, Disarmament

Jill Hruby, former Director, Sandia National Laboratories

Lt. Gen. Arlen D. Jameson, (USAF, Ret.), former Deputy Commander, U.S. Strategic Command

Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, (R-Kansas) 1978–1997

Laura E. Kennedy, former U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament and former Ambassador to Turkmenistan

Sen. Richard Lugar, (R-Ind.) former Chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Sen. Sam Nunn, (D-Ga.) former Chairman, U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee

William J. Perry, former Secretary of Defense

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and former Ambassador to the United Nations, to Russia, India, Israel, Nigeria, Jordan and El Salvador

Joan Rohlfing, President and COO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative

George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State

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

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