After US President Donald Trump’s public statements about Washington’s intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty unilaterally, politicians, diplomats, and other related experts, as well as the entire world community have been focused on this matter. The world is increasingly aware of the risks and threats this rash decision could entail not only for regional but also for global international security and stability as a whole.
At this briefing, we primarily would like to provide an opportunity for the broader public to get a first-hand, undistorted idea of the Russian approaches to the INF problem in their entirety. It is of no less importance for us to provide the world public with a real picture of developments involving the INF Treaty. This is of fundamental significance, given that the information space is filled with dishonest interpretations, idle speculation and clearly false information.
For example, the United States has begun accusing Russia of violating the INF Treaty with even greater zeal as part of its propaganda campaign meant to justify its decision to denounce the treaty. Apart from engaging in unscrupulous attempts to create a false impression that Russia’s alleged non-compliance with the INF Treaty is a firmly established fact, the US Department of State is seeking, no less brazenly, to downplay the importance and validity of Russia’s years-long concerns about the implementation of the INF Treaty by the United States itself. Moreover, unreliable information is being planted about the development and content of the parties’ dialogue on their claims and counterclaims.
In this case, the US is using its traditional trick, which it has been employing more and more often in recent time. Fabricated charges are immaterial and therefore do not need, in Washington’s view, to be confirmed, while it is extremely difficult to refute them by reason of their being divorced from the facts. The situation being what it is, the allies and closest partners of the United States have to support it out of political loyalty and Euro-Atlantic – or other – solidarity.
Significance and disadvantages of the INF Treaty
Approaching the 30th anniversary of the INF Treaty, I certainly must first say a few words about the Treaty itself. We believe three decades is a long enough period to try to give an assessment that can claim to be objective.
There is no doubt that back then, the Treaty between the Soviet Union and the United States on the elimination of their intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles was a major milestone in building a Euro-Atlantic security architecture in the new historical period. It was a landmark agreement, which later played a major role in reformatting the geopolitical landscape in Europe and interstate relations between the key players in this region.
Specifically, following the implementation of the INF Treaty, an entire class, or more precisely, two classes of nuclear weapons were removed from the arsenals of the parties: intermediate-range ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles having ranges from 1,001 to 5,500 km, and shorter-range missiles, i.e. with ranges from 500 to 1,000 km. In addition, the launchers of these missiles, the relevant support structures and equipment, and operational bases were eliminated.
There are varying schools of thought as to whether the agreement fully provided an equivalent mutual benefit to the parties. This probably warrants an expert discussion. However, there is no doubt that the INF Treaty made a significant contribution to the strengthening of international security and stability. It was also an important step towards nuclear disarmament.
Yet, that agreement was still a product of its era. It largely reflects the realities of the late 1980s. A distinctive feature of the INF Treaty is its indefinite term. The sponsors of the INF Treaty rightly believed at the time that this would work to increase predictability and ensure restraint in the military-political sphere in the foreseeable future.
However, life does not stand still, and over time, the immutability of the Treaty as it was drawn up and executed, more than once gave reason to reflect on its compliance with the changing security conditions. At different times, these questions arose among politicians and experts from Russia, the United States and other countries. As events unfolded, including in the area of missile proliferation, it became increasingly clear that the Treaty regime needs strengthening.
That is why, in October 2007, Russia put forward an initiative to make the INF obligations multilateral, and in February 2008, presented a framework for the relevant international legal agreement that would be open for wider accession. However, this initiative was not supported by states with significant missile capabilities. Washington, after first showing some enthusiasm about our idea, quickly lost interest.
At the same time, the main problems and risks for the Treaty turned out to be connected with the long-term actions of the American side contrary to their commitments under the agreement. We consider this topic fundamentally important regardless of the future of the INF Treaty.
Furthermore, some provisions of the INF Treaty are insufficiently clear and may give cause for misinterpretation. The decisive factor here is the good faith and political will of the participating countries to keep the agreement viable. This approach should certainly be mutual.
Be that as it may, given the whole range of factors affecting security and strategic stability, Russia remains fully committed to the Treaty as an important element of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture. We advocate the preservation of the INF Treaty given the American side’s strict compliance with it.
In this context, we are ready to reaffirm, with full responsibility, that we reject any speculation on our alleged violations of this Treaty.
US claim – 9M729
The groundless and unfounded accusations made against us by the United States and the presumptuous manner in which they were publicly voiced are absolutely unacceptable.
As you are aware, the US claims with regard to Russia are based on allegations to the effect that a Russian ground-launched cruise missile was tested for a range that is banned under the INF Treaty for this class of missiles. The United States explains that it provided us with “more than enough information,” including “an exhaustive amount of detailed data.” This allegedly allowed Russia, almost from the outset, to fully understand what the problem was all about and also see the technical subtleties needed in order to immediately begin to address it. Furthermore, the United States claims that for a long time Russia denied the very fact of having this missile, which Washington allegedly consistently and clearly pointed to. As a result, they say, the United States “forced” us to acknowledge its existence and provided “convincing evidence” of Russia’s “violations.”
All this is absolutely inconsistent with reality and is an obvious attempt by the United States to distort reality. It appears that Washington decided to take advantage of the fact that, in view of the confidential nature of the Russian-American expert dialogue, public comments from our side did not necessarily contain certain details. Given the aggressive behaviour of the United States in the information space regarding the INF Treaty, we are now willing to reveal certain details.
From the perspective of formal logic and taking into account the experience of several decades of Russia-US cooperation in the sphere of missile control, it is absolutely clear that in order to start a substantive investigation into the issue raised by the US, the United States was required to provide information on three key aspects. First, to name the missile causing suspicions. Second, to identify specific test launches during which, in the opinion of the United States, we failed to comply with our obligations under the INF Treaty. Third, and most important, to provide objective data which were used to conclude that the range of the missile flight during the test exceeded the range permitted under the Treaty. Only a comprehensive consideration of these three elements would open the way to a professional analysis of the situation by specialists and the elimination of possible ambiguities.
We were entitled to such a serious approach to discussing the problem by Washington from day one, that is, five years ago. So, we consistently and patiently requested the aforementioned information from the United States. However, Washington opted for a fundamentally different path. Initially, we heard only vague allusions from the United States. Then, we were provided with minimal and utterly generalised data to which they began to add, once a year, bits of information to fit the picture painted by the Americans, which remained, nonetheless, blurry.
With regard to indicating a specific missile in the Russian arsenal, initially, the US simply referred to an allegedly available ground-launched cruise missile with a 500-5500 km range, which was allegedly confirmed during tests at the Kapustin Yar testing ground.
A while later, we received a message that Washington was ready to name, and they later did name, Russian enterprises involved in the production of the missile that caused a “problem” for the United States. Primarily, the issue was about Novator, a well-known developer of many missiles of various designations which were already in service or being developed.
A couple of years later, the United States indicated the type of chassis of the launcher which carries the ground-launched cruise missile in question. But they named a universal chassis, on the basis of which an entire family of launchers for missiles of various types and classes has been developed and is being modernised and designed.
At some point, the United States circulated the SSC-8 index in the public space, which they assigned to the missile as part of their own classification. Notably, they did so by way of a media leak. We have received no meaningful clarifications regarding this index. Nevertheless, the United States continued to use this designation until December 2017.
We were also given a “screen shot” from a commercially available satellite imagery website, which showed the contours of the launcher elements and were provided with the coordinates of the corresponding site at the Kapustin Yar testing ground. It was there that, according to the United States, the tests of the Russian missile in question were carried out. We explained to the Americans that test launches of missiles of various designations and different classes were carried out in the specified area using various types of launchers. The INF requirements were fully complied with.
In the course of many years of discussions, the United States stubbornly refused to tell us about the testing instances that, as we understand, raised questions in Washington. They continued to refer to an extensive period of several years, during which, they believed, the “wrong” missile had been allegedly tested. At some point, we were even asked to designate the dates for all tests of missiles of this class during this long-term period in order for the United States to choose the dates of “questionable” launches. Of course, we didn’t comply with such an intrusive approach.
Thus, for a long time we were asked to put together, of our own accord, a “puzzle” of scattered elements received at different times, and then to name a missile, which, according to the United States, is inconsistent with the INF Treaty. That is, in fact, to confess to a violation that we never committed.
Of course, we did not disclose to Washington sensitive information about Russian missile development for the sake of their senseless attempts to identify among them a missile on the basis of its alleged inconsistency with the INF Treaty. We told the Americans that we were not going to engage in reading tea leaves. We know our weapons perfectly. We also know that none of them violate our obligations under the treaty. We continue to insist on this.
Our consistent requests to provide key data on the subject of the US claim along with the facts to support it were ignored by the Americans. In response, we have been hearing the same old phrase year after year – we have reliable information, but we will not disclose it.
Only in December 2017, the Americans finally pointed to the missile in question in the Russian arsenal and came up with Index 9M729. Moreover, they again demonstrated lack of substance in their dialogue with us when they first made this index public at a closed expert event (without our participation), after which it was widely quoted by American NGOs on their Twitter accounts. Only then was this information confirmed to our ambassador in Washington. However, this was done just a few days before the session of the Special Verification Commission under the Treaty. Perhaps, the goal was to thwart preparations of the Russian delegation for it at the last moment.
However, this did not prevent us from responding substantively. We told the Americans that the Russian Armed Forces do have a 9M729 ground-launched missile in service, which is an upgraded version of the Iskander-M system missile. Mostly its warhead was upgraded. We informed the United States that the 9M729 missile was launched at its maximum range at the Kapustin Yar testing ground on September 18, 2017 as part of the West-2017 exercises. It covered less than 480 km. We emphasised that the specified missile, as well as its previous versions, was not developed or tested for the range banned by the Treaty.
After the United States finally focused the discussion on a specific missile with the 9M729 index, a “technical” information exchange ensued, during which we received several questionnaires. Many questions focused on things that were far from Russia’s obligations under the Treaty and were reasonably perceived by us as an attempt to get a glimpse of our progress in rocket technology. Nevertheless, we considered it possible to allow in good faith some transparency with respect to the 9M729 missile, even though it does not fall within the scope of the INF Treaty because of its range. In doing so, we largely went beyond what is required of us under the INF Treaty.
In particular, we informed the United States that the timeframe it previously specified for testing activities regarding the 9M729 missile was incorrect. We provided the actual timeframe and clarifications on Washington’s erroneous ideas about the types of launchers that were used in testing.
The nature of the US questions led us to believe that the United States was engaged in some kind of a “creative search.” We noted that they never once specified their suspicions regarding the range of the 9M729 missile and continued to refer exclusively to the maximum range of 500 to 5500 km under the Treaty. In addition, they assumed that Russia could carry out tests of a missile with a smaller amount of fuel than provided for by the design. For our part, we highlighted the specifics of the fuel system of our missile, which preclude such experiments.
In turn, Russia has consistently continued to ask the United States to provide the necessary specifics regarding its claims. In the end, the Americans did share the dates of the test launches that caused their suspicion. However, this was done not only five years after the beginning of this debate, but also five days prior to President Trump announcing his intention to withdraw from the Treaty. Notably, at the time of this announcement, we had our responses to the most recent US questionnaire regarding the 9M729 missile almost ready. Clearly, the United States was no longer interested in obtaining our substantive response to their questions. This once again showed us that our efforts at transparency have no impact on the decisions taken by the United States, and that they have taken all their decisions a long time ago, and are only waiting for Russia to plead guilty.
Let’s summarise this part. Of the three key technical data blocks requested by Russia several years ago, the first one (clear designation of the missile) was presented less than a year ago, the second (namely, the launch dates) was indicated a month ago, and the third most important element related to factual substantiation of the US claims was never received by us. Thus, in the course of a five-year discussion of this issue, we were not presented with a single piece of evidence of our violation of the Treaty.
It is difficult for us to judge what exactly triggered the US charges against us. Given the constant references by the United States to certain “classified information,” this could be both an obliging adjustment of intelligence to meet political demands, or erroneous assessments of the intelligence agencies themselves. We are well aware of precedents for either case. In any case, references to “classified information” cannot be the basis for a productive dialogue. Addressing serious matters in the sphere of arms control does not work that way.
Overall, the evasive manner in which the conversation was conducted amid the provocative US public campaign accusing Russia of violating the INF Treaty tells us that the true goals of the United States are far from strengthening the Treaty’s viability.
Russian claims: armed UAVs
In turn, we have displayed maximum possible patience, while demanding for many years that the United States itself remedy obvious violations of the INF Treaty.
For example, this concerns the problematic issue of US unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with strike potential. We raised the issue for the first time in the early 2000s at the INF’s Special Verification Commission when the United States tested its first offensive Predator UAV that hit targets with missiles. This heralded the creation of a US weapons system, unequivocally covered by the INF Treaty.
The thing is that certain types of armed UAVs completely match the definition of ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs), as stipulated by the INF Treaty. Under the Treaty, a GLCM denotes a ground-launched cruise missile serving as a weapon-delivery vehicle. The very term “cruise missile” denotes an unmanned, self-propelled vehicle that sustains flight through the use of aerodynamic lift over most of its flight path. Whether or not this suits our colleagues in Washington, the relevant INF Treaty provision was formulated in this manner, and the parties therefore cannot and should not ignore this aspect.
At the same time, we don’t focus solely on legal nuances, and we also try to look deep inside the issue. In effect, a new class of weapons has essentially been developed, and this is a substantial factor. This class of weapons has nearly the same combat potential as GLCMs and can accomplish tasks similar to those previously accomplished by ground-launched intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.
In turn, the United States presents armed UAVs as part of another class of military systems, noting that, unlike cruise missiles, UAVs do not use launchers and return to their permanent bases after completing missions.
Therefore the United States is trying to remove an entire class of weapons systems, similar to intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles (in the terms of the INF Treaty), from the scope of the INF Treaty using a method that does not meet its provisions. This approach obviously runs counter to the Treaty’s goals, especially if we consider the impressive size of the fleet of armed UAVs currently wielded by the United States.
It would be appropriate to recall that, while defining the term GLCM, the Treaty makes no mention of launchers, as well as their one-time or multiple use. Therefore the US position runs counter to the letter and spirit of the INF Treaty and amounts to a unilateral and bad-faith interpretation of Treaty provisions.
Despite our longtime appeals, the United States stubbornly refuses to address this matter within the framework of the Treaty, virtually ignoring the Russian concern.
Instead, the US side has recently started pointing to the development of armed UAVs in Russia. This allegedly confirms the fact that, in reality, Russia shares US approaches towards this issue. This is not so, if only because Russia does not deploy systems of this class that are banned by the Treaty in terms of their range. Regarding current research and development projects, we can counter our US colleagues’ logic with regard to their own military programmes: The INF Treaty does not ban research and development projects. Russia will make hypothetical decisions on the further development of UAV systems with due account of its unsuccessful 18-year-long attempts to resolve this issue with the United States in the context of the INF Treaty and Washington’s actions to prepare to withdraw from the Treaty.
Russian claims: target missiles
Another problem that remains unresolved has to do with the large-scale programmes by the Pentagon to use the so-called target missiles during what is presented as missile defence tests. This is one of the longest standing concerns Russia has had regarding the INF Treaty, since it dates back almost 20 years. The essence of this objection is that in terms of both compliance with the Treaty, as well as out of practical and technical considerations Russia has every reason to suspect that under the guise of these programmes the US is working on maintaining and developing technological, industrial and to some extent combat capabilities of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles that are banned by the INF Treaty.
Using tests of missile defence information systems as a pretext, the Pentagon has carried out multiple launches of various target missiles, which are de facto missiles systems with a range between 500 to 5,500 kilometres, without intercepting them with missile defence assets, but instead covering the whole missile flight cycle, i.e. from the launch to the impact of the reentering payload. Moreover, this payload has all the features of re-entry vehicles and sometimes includes manoeuvring re-entry vehicles, deception targets, etc.
When developing the so-called targets for its missile defence system the US creates, first of all, missiles that are identical to those falling under the scope of the INF Treaty in terms of their range, speed, control mechanisms, as well as weight and dimensions of the re-entry vehicle. As a matter of fact, a missile of this kind becomes a target only when it is targeted by a launched interceptor missile, but quite often this is not the case. This device must be viewed as an ordinary ballistic missile during its production, transportation and operation by the armed forces until the moment when it is launched as a target missile for an interceptor.
Nevertheless, the US claims that target missiles are not weapon-delivery vehicles since they are not tested as such and for this reason their use does not fall under the ban imposed by the Treaty, subject to complying with the corresponding restrictions it stipulates. Among other things, they claim to be using booster systems of this kind only for “research and development purposes to test objects” other than the booster systems themselves.
We cannot agree with this argument, since launches of target missiles that are not intercepted are equivalent to testing weapon-delivery vehicles. Therefore, we have every reason to regard activity of this kind as tests of the booster systems themselves and precisely as weapon-delivery vehicles, meaning intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles as per the INF Treaty.
The US has failed to comply with a number of other Treaty provisions as well. In fact, mobile units that have all the markings of the banned mobile launcher mechanisms are being created for some target missiles apart from fixed launchers that are authorised for such booster systems.
Moreover, in violation of restrictions set forth by the Treaty, in some cases target missiles are launched outside of the launch sites declared under the INF Treaty and without notifying Russia as per the Treaty.
The US has clearly got lost in its own data transferred to us as part of technical data exchange. For example, to a question on whether booster system HERA was launched within the range exceeding 500 kilometres we received two contradictory responses.
The US has not made any attempts to meet us halfway regarding its target missiles.
Russian claims: Мk-41
Another Russian complaint about US actions was also formulated many years ago, though not as long as the previous complaints. This problem became apparent 10 years after the work of the INF’s Special Verification Commission was curtailed in 2003 due to the counterproductive course of the Americans who refused to continue discussions on Russia’s concerns about armed UAVs and target missiles. This is why this matter, which emerged in 2013-2014 and is of the greatest concern for us within the context of the INF Treaty, was raised by us in the bilateral format.
I am referring to the deployment of the Мk-41 universal vertical launcher as part of the Aegis Ashore missile systems in Europe, allegedly for purely anti-missile purposes. However, contrary to the INF Treaty, the Mk-41 system can be used to launch ground-based Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missiles and other strike weapons. We see this as a direct and flagrant violation of the INF Treaty.
As it is known, in accordance with the Treaty the US had destroyed its land-based infrastructure for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were created within a single programme as a universal missile system that could be launched from different platform. The ground- and sea-based Tomahawk missiles were largely identical with nearly no external differences. This subject became a contentious one at the INF talks. US delegates agreed that land-based Tomahawks could be considered as sea-launched missiles when on ships and vice versa. At the same time, they argued that the key element in this case is not the missile itself but its launcher.
The problem was ultimately settled thanks to a compromise understanding that the complete destruction of the land-based infrastructure for the Tomahawk missiles would reliably prevent their deployment on land while preserving the sea-based variant.
But today, several decades later, the US is actually restoring this land-based infrastructure contrary to the INF Treaty and the understandings reached during its elaboration that allowed the sides to agree on the relevant provisions in the form in which they have been incorporated in the text.
Consequently, we cannot accept the US argument that the Aegis Ashore launchers have never been used to test the land-based cruise missiles prohibited under the INF Treaty and that therefore they cannot be essentially regarded as launchers for land-based cruise missiles in the Treaty’s context. In light of the above, the transfer of the Tomahawk cruise missile launchers from ships to land definitely results in their shifting to the category of land-based cruise missile launchers.
Another US argument is that the Aegis Ashore launchers are not equivalent to but are fundamentally different from the sea-based Mk-41 launchers. This argument contradicts the initial information provided by the US military as well as by the designers of the Aegis Ashore system and those who tested it. They pointed out then that the land- and sea-based launchers were “nearly identical”.
We are not convinced by the US presentation of the Aegis Ashore launchers as incapable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The external physical characteristics of these launchers seem the same. The potential absence of certain elements of the sea-based Mk-41 launcher in the Aegis Ashore systems, which the US points out, does not have any decisive significance in this case. First, we are unable to reliably verify the allegedly considerable differences between the sea- and land-based launchers and we cannot be sure that these hypothetical characteristics will not be changed in future.
Second, the parts which the US claims to be absent in the Aegis Ashore launchers as compared to the sea-based Mk-41 launchers are insignificant from the viewpoint of the system’s structural integrity, whereas corresponding changes could be reversed within a short period of time. Consequently, the absence of these parts is not a sufficient reason to say that a system initially designed to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km cannot be used in other missions. Therefore, we consider the sea-based Mk-41 launchers and the Aegis Ashore launchers to be identical.
This matter is important not only from the viewpoint of the legal framework but also for strategic reasons. It concerns the deployment of the US missile and anti-missile infrastructure near the Russian borders with support from the US allies in NATO. Moreover, this infrastructure is being established in a region where it never existed before. The situation is further complicated by the US announcement of plans to restore the nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile capability, possibly by reintroducing nuclear Tomahawks. This means that such missiles could in future be supplied to the Aegis Ashore systems. These are extremely destabilising steps which could not remain unanswered.
Just as in the case of our other concerns, the US has not made any constructive moves regarding the matter of the Mk-41, not to mention any practical proposals on the settlement of this subject.
To sum up, we have to say that no positive changes have taken place over the past years in the US position on any of these Russian complaints. The American side refuses to seriously consider our concerns.
US preparing to withdraw from INF Treaty
Now that we have sorted out the substance of mutual claims in the context of the INF Treaty, let us go back to the topic of US withdrawal from the Treaty. Having stated it publicly, the US has confirmed its intention in the bilateral format as well. We understand it is now only a question of time.
It has to be said that Washington has been preparing this step in a fairly open and methodical manner, so it did not come as a surprise to us. The US Congress has over the past years been actively preparing the legal framework, needless to say, under the pretext of alleged Russian “violations.”
The same pretext was used, among others, by the US Administration to introduce amendments to its military-political doctrine, designating Russia, along with China, as the main geostrategic threat.
Long before unveiling the plans to pull out of the INF Treaty the US announced the launching of several military programmes, some of which are highly provocative and are clearly aimed at destroying the Treaty. Indeed, according to the media, the Pentagon had prepared a confidential report to Congress back in 2013 presenting options for new missiles in the event of withdrawal from the INF Treaty. Work on many of the proposed projects has long been under way.
For example, a programme was launched with Congress approval to build a ground-launched cruise missile exceeding the range stipulated under the Treaty. Ballistic missiles are being developed for ground complexes with an initial declared range of 499 km. Apart from the fact that this parameter is by itself provocative in the context of the INF Treaty, it was also openly declared that the range could be further increased “if necessary.” R&D has been announced to be in progress on a ground-based missile with a glide re-entry vehicle with a range of about 2,000 km and a “hybrid” system combining an artillery piece and some missile-like projectiles with a range of 1,600 km.
Some of these programmes definitely violate the INF Treaty. Others have yet to be analysed thoroughly as details become known, though it is clear that they run counter to the spirit of the Treaty and some of them to its goals and tasks.
Real reasons for US withdrawal from the Treaty
Meanwhile the statements by some US officials and numerous State Department propaganda materials plug the line that Washington is being forced to withdraw from the Treaty in response to alleged Russian “violations.”
This sounds particularly odd against the background of the rhetoric coming from other American agencies, including the National Security Council, and the statements by the US President which name the real reason for the move more forthrightly. Behind the glib language of our American colleagues one can clearly discern the US desire to get a free hand and an opportunity to use an unlimited range of military instruments for a full-scale projection of force and military-political pressure on all the key geopolitical opponents of the US in strategically important regions. Washington lays special emphasis on the Asia Pacific Region where, in the Pentagon’s opinion, it is becoming increasingly difficult to marshal sufficient military capacity to brazenly assert American interests.
In this context, we note that the new US nuclear doctrine justifies the project of recreating the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile capability by citing the alleged need to react to Russia’s “non-compliance” with the INF Treaty. However, the majority of “hawkish” experts build the case for such US weapons by pointing not to Russia, but above all to the Asia Pacific Region.
Incidentally, this means that as far as Russia is concerned the dumping of the INF Treaty would greatly complicate the security situation in two strategically important regions, in Europe and the Asia Pacific Region. This surely gives cause for concern.
In addition to seeking to gain military advantages in the main theatres there is yet another reason prompting the US to withdraw from the INF Treaty and take other destabilising steps in the strategic sphere. This reason is Washington’s overriding reluctance to discuss this and other issues on the basis of equality and respect for the legitimate interests and concerns of the other parties. Unfortunately, an allergy to painstaking diplomatic work and negotiated decisions has become a hallmark of the policy of the US which tends to react in an increasingly nervous and impulsive manner to its waning dominance in the emerging polycentric world.
American defence industry corporations are active supporters and obvious beneficiaries of the scrapping of the INF Treaty. In addition to landing massive domestic military contracts they hope to expand the international market, not least by undermining the competitive potential of Russian defence enterprises. Washington feels that their overall weakening could slow down the modernisation of Russia’s armed forces. These are the tasks that prompt the growing sanctions pressure on our defence enterprises allegedly as “punishment” for the production of weapons that fall foul of the INF Treaty.
It is worth noting that the US propaganda campaign accusing us of violating the INF Treaty dovetails with Washington’s overall strategy of bringing political, military and economic pressure on our country and its “containment.”
The United States evidently sees as another priority the strengthening of the links with its allies, which have loosened somewhat. It is hard to think of a more convenient pretext for rallying in the face of a common threat posed by the Russian missiles which allegedly exceed the range stipulated under the INF Treaty, and therefore are allegedly targeted at the key countries of “Old Europe.”
We have noted media reports to the effect that the US has for years been urging its NATO allies, not without success, to develop options of a military “response” to alleged “Russian violations” of the INF Treaty. These include the option of “expanding nuclear deterrence.” We would like to issue a warning: such a development would be an extremely destabilising step which we would have to take into account in our own military development.
Russia’s efforts to support the INF Treaty
It is clear in this situation, that Russia’s ability to prevent the collapse of the INF Treaty is small.
It is also regrettable that our efforts within international platforms to form a broad coalition of countries to jointly advocate the salvation of the Treaty have not yet gained a sufficient number of supporters. In particular, our attempt to submit a draft resolution supporting the INF Treaty for consideration by the First Committee of the UN General Assembly did not receive adequate support. We are completely bewildered that some countries, while advocating the Treaty in words, used some far-fetched procedural pretext to refuse to substantively discuss the Russian document, which focuses on a constructive call for the preservation and strict observance of the INF Treaty.
We took note that almost all NATO and European Union countries opposed our draft. It was their vote that blocked any consideration of the document. This approach makes one doubt the sincerity of statements in support of the Treaty voiced by many European capitals and their awareness of the seriousness of the situation.
At the same time, we are grateful to those countries that considered it important to join our efforts in the First Committee, especially our allies in the CSTO.
We would also like to draw attention to the joint statement on the INF Treaty adopted on June 11 by the CSTO foreign ministers. It expresses collective concerns regarding US military programmes that are carried out without due regard for their obligations under the Treaty, and calls for efforts to resolve problematic issues. In the CSTO Collective Security Council Declaration, adopted on November 8 at the top level, the member states expressed concern over the announcement of the US intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty and called for maintaining the treaty. As a reminder, two other CSTO member countries are parties to the Treaty alongside Russia – Belarus and Kazakhstan.
We have also appreciated China’s support of our draft resolution on the INF Treaty, as they are fully aware of the motives behind the US decision. After all, it is hard not to notice Washington’s obsession with linking the “Chinese factor” also to the INF Treaty. The awkward attempts to drive a wedge between Russia and China are visible and obvious. We will not allow this, of course. Moreover, Washington’s potential flexing of its nuclear muscles in the Asia-Pacific region without INF Treaty restrictions would pose many shared challenges to our two countries.
At the same time, we do not intend to speculate on the topic of Beijing joining hypothetical agreements in this area which have been grossly planted by the US. We are adamant that any attempts at blackmail are unacceptable – these issues can only be resolved through consensus and consideration for the legitimate interests of all parties.
Based on our contact with our Chinese friends and public statements by China’s representatives, we know that Beijing fully shares our fears about the disastrous consequences that are possible with the collapse of the INF Treaty.
Consequences of abolishing the INF Treaty
Our concern is linked not only to the dramatically growing risks for regional and global security. These risks are largely self-evident; after all, it is clear that the main threat is about entire regions sliding into an arms race, which this time will be multilateral and at a new technological level.
The fact that the destruction of the INF Treaty can provoke an accelerated erosion of the entire arms control and non-proliferation architecture also causes grave concern. For example, the concept of the New START Treaty is being undermined at a time when the treaty is undergoing a test of strength as it is in view of its lax implementation by the US, which in addition is intentionally creating vagueness with regard to extending this agreement.
The international community is yet to assess the full extent of the negative impact that the scrapping of the INF Treaty will have on prospects for further nuclear arms reductions and the effort to ensure the stability of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In this context, we cannot but draw an analogy with the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty undertaken by Washington some time ago to the detriment of strategic stability and in spite of appeals by the overwhelming majority of countries. The destructive consequences of this step for our bilateral relations with the US, interaction with NATO countries and international security as a whole have not been overcome to this day.
What is next?
Much depends on what the US will do next, that is, after its announced withdrawal from the INF Treaty. If Washington goes ahead with deploying its newly developed weapon systems in various regions, the growth of dangerous tensions in the world will become inevitable.
We will be unable to ignore the potential deployment of new US missiles in territories from which they will present a threat to Russia and its allies. Should these deployments take place, the Americans will acquire a considerable additional potential for delivering strikes at targets deep in Russia’s territory. For us, this potential will, in fact, be strategic. We would not want to push things as far as new “missile crises.” We’ve lived through all that and are confident that not a single country will benefit from developments following this scenario, while general security will certainly lose.
If, however, Washington rethinks its destructive approaches and displays readiness for a constructive and truly substantive dialogue on possible coordinated steps to settle the mutual grievances over the INF Treaty, they will not have to persuade us. Although, as was mentioned, the Treaty is not ideal in the current environment, it still preserves its value and we are ready to work on maintaining its viability. Russia is open to any mutually beneficial proposals that take into account the interests and concerns of both sides.
We firmly believe that, given the existing realities, it would be radically counterproductive to destroy one of the key arms control mechanisms. The credibility crisis would reach truly unprecedented proportions and would even further complicate the prospects for launching any system-wide discussion of strategic problems and arms race prevention, a discussion that meets the interests of Russia and the US as well the world community as a whole. We still subscribe to the view that a comprehensive, equitable and result-oriented dialogue is long overdue, given the backlog of problems in this sphere. Our proposals on this score were conveyed back at the Russian-US summit in Helsinki in July of this year. We would like to hope that Washington will after all display the political will and respond to our initiative in a constructive way.