Reliable Security Information
Russia's INF Treaty Violation: More Questions than Answers

In its recently released 2014 Compliance Report, the U.S. Department of State has formally accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.1 Regrettably, the unclassified version of the report does not specify the exact nature of the treaty violation.2 This has allowed Russian officials to refute the charges in public,3 issue counter-allegations, and some U.S. legislators to urge Washington to withdraw from the accord in response.4 These developments are destabilizing. For its part, Moscow should work to "restore its compliance with the INF Treaty in a transparent and verifiable manner,"5 or risk isolation at the 2015 Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference. In calibrating its response, Washington should remain in compliance with the INF accord, and "not retaliate against the Russians by violating the treaty and deploying its own prohibited medium-range [missile] system."6


The INF treaty, signed by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1987, bans Moscow and Washington from testing ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles, with a range of 300 miles (500 kilometers) - 3,400 miles (5,500 kilometers). It can be argued that the current violation is overdue and insufficient. On the first point, Moscow first test-launched one of the ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM) prohibited by the treaty (the R-500) in May 2007.7 Importantly, although the R-500 has a stated range of 500 km, Russian officials "have been clear that they could easily extend the range beyond the 500 km limit imposed by the INF treaty."8 By the end of 2011, Obama administration officials had concluded that the tests constituted a compliance concern, and in May 2013 Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department, "first raised the possibility of a violation with Russian officials."9


Moscow rebuffed the charges, and instead alleged that the American Aegis missile system in Romania "could be used to fire prohibited cruise missiles,"10 a claim refuted by U.S. authorities. The time lag between the first Russian cruise missile test in 2007 and the Department of State's finding Moscow in violation of the INF treaty this year may be attributable to several factors. These include; "the wildly different range estimates" which might have made it difficult to discern between treaty-compliant and treaty non-compliant GLCMs, "serious disagreements and a prolonged debate inside the Intelligence Community about the capability of the GLCM,"11 and the inability or unwillingness of Russian officials to assuage Under Secretary Gottemoeller's concerns of possible accord violations earlier this year.13 Moreover, this is not the only system currently tested by Russia that raises INF compliance issues.


Moscow's ongoing testing of the RS-26 ballistic missile "might be a bigger threat" over the long term.13 Despite this, U.S. officials have decided to utilize Russia's R-500 GLCM tests to make the case of an INF treaty violation. According to Jeffrey Lewis, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, this was because the R-500 launches were viewed by the U.S. administration as "the more blatant [treaty] violation," and thus easier to prove. By contrast, the RS-26 tests, according to Lewis, constitute merely a "circumvention" of the INF, making them more difficult to characterize as a violation of the INF accord. Agreement on this point is not universal.


For instance, Hans Kristensen, of the Federation of American Scientists, points out that the "Compliance Report does not say that any Russia [sic] ballistic missiles violate the INF." Thus, Kristensen concludes that the compliance report "indirectly confirms that Russian longer-range ballistic missiles have not been found to be in violation of the INF."14 Notwithstanding the above-mentioned challenges of proving that Russian RS-26 ballistic missile testing constitutes a violation of the INF treaty, the absence of this development in the compliance report is surprising, given the threat it poses.


Instead of focusing on Moscow's testing of ballistic missiles as constituting a violation of the INF accord, the unclassified version of the Department of State's compliance report asserts that "the United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles."15 The vague nature of the alleged treaty violation has allowed Russian officials, again, to deny the charges.16However, NATO members, such as Poland, have noted the findings of the report "with concern."17 Going forward, several options are advanced.


It is possible that Russia may withdraw from the INF treaty.18 Select American lawmakers advocate that Washington likewise withdraw from the accord. Specifically, the chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee introduced legislation which would require the U.S. government "to establish and carry out a program to research and develop ground-launched cruise missiles and groundlaunched ballistic missile capabilities" with ranges of 310 - 3,400 miles.19 Neither course of action is advisable.


Instead, reflecting the consensus among analysts, neither Russia nor the United States should use this development as a reason to withdraw from the INF accord. Doing so would weaken the international arms control regime and perhaps embolden the parties, or other countries, to withdraw from other agreements. Instead, Russia should take steps to assure future INF treaty compliance and the U.S. should continue to maintain and promote the norms of the INF accord, to the extent possible.



1 U.S. Department of State. "Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments." July 2014. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/230108.pdf. Accessed on August 2, 2014
.
2 Kristensen, Hans M. "Russia Declared in Violation of INF Treaty: New Cruise Missile May Be Deploying." The Federation of American Scientists. July 30, 2014. http://fas.org/blogs/security/2014/07/russia-inf/. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

3 Unattributed. "Russia Disputes U.S. Allegations of Arms-Control Pact Violation." Global Security Newswire. July 30, 2014. http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/russia-disputes-us-allegations-arms-control-pactviolation/.Accessed August 2, 2014.

4 Unattributed. "NATO, Poland Voice Concerns on Russia's Missile-Treaty Compliance." Global Security Newswire. July 31, 2014. http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/nato-poland-voice-concerns-about-russiannuclear-treaty-compliance/. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

5 Kristensen, Hans M. "Russia Declared in Violation of INF Treaty: New Cruise Missile May Be Deploying." The Federation of American Scientists. July 30, 2014. http://fas.org/blogs/security/2014/07/russia-inf/. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

6 Gordon, Michael R. "U.S. Says Russia Tested Cruise Missile, Violating Treaty." The New York Times. July 28, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/world/europe/us-says-russia-tested-cruise-missile-inviolation-of-treaty.html?_r=0. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

7 Kristensen, Hans M. "Russia Declared in Violation of INF Treaty: New Cruise Missile May Be Deploying." The Federation of American Scientists. July 30, 2014. http://fas.org/blogs/security/2014/07/russia-inf/. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

8 Lewis, Jeffrey. "The Problem With Russia's Missiles." Foreign Policy. July 29, 2014. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/07/29/the_problem_with_russia_s_missiles_r500_rs26_inf_treaty. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

9 Gordon, Michael R. "U.S. Says Russia Tested Cruise Missile, Violating Treaty." The New York Times. July 28, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/world/europe/us-says-russia-tested-cruise-missile-inviolation-of-treaty.html?_r=0. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

10 Gordon, Michael R. "U.S. Says Russia Tested Cruise Missile, Violating Treaty." The New York Times. July 28, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/world/europe/us-says-russia-tested-cruise-missile-inviolation-of-treaty.html?_r=0. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

11 Kristensen, Hans M. "Russia Declared in Violation of INF Treaty: New Cruise Missile May Be Deploying." The Federation of American Scientists. July 30, 2014. http://fas.org/blogs/security/2014/07/russia-inf/. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

12 Lewis, Jeffrey. "The Problem With Russia's Missiles." Foreign Policy. July 29, 2014. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/07/29/the_problem_with_russia_s_missiles_r500_rs26_inf_treaty. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

13 Lewis, Jeffrey. "The Problem With Russia's Missiles." Foreign Policy. July 29, 2014. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/07/29/the_problem_with_russia_s_missiles_r500_rs26_inf_treaty. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

14 For this and the previous quotation, see Kristensen, Hans M. "Russia Declared in Violation of INF Treaty: New Cruise Missile May Be Deploying." The Federation of American Scientists. July 30, 2014. http://fas.org/blogs/security/2014/07/russia-inf/. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

15 U.S. Department of State. "Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments." July 2014. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/230108.pdf. Accessed on August 2, 2014. p. 8.

16 Unattributed. "Russia Disputes U.S. Allegations of Arms-Control Pact Violation." Global Security Newswire. July 30, 2014. http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/russia-disputes-us-allegations-arms-control-pactviolation/.Accessed August 2, 2014.

17 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland. "MFA statement on information about Russia's non-compliance with the INF Treaty." July 30, 2014. http://www.msz.gov.pl/en/news/mfa_statement_on_information_about_russia_s_non_compliance_with_the_inf_treaty. Accessed on August 3, 2014.

18 Kristensen, Hans M. "Russia Declared in Violation of INF Treaty: New Cruise Missile May Be Deploying." The Federation of American Scientists. July 30, 2014. http://fas.org/blogs/security/2014/07/russia-inf/. Accessed on August 2, 2014.

19 Unattributed. "NATO, Poland Voice Concerns on Russia's Missile-Treaty Compliance." Global Security Newswire. July 31, 2014. http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/nato-poland-voice-concerns-about-russiannuclear-treaty-compliance/. Accessed on August 3, 2014.

 
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