For several years now, Russia has been violating the INF Treaty. The Obama administration has known about this since 2009, but it was withholding this information from the Congress until 2014, in order not to endanger the New START treaty’s ratification. Nonetheless, while few non-Russians dispute that Moscow has violated the accord, there is debate as to how exactly has she done it. Most reports say the exact violation was the testing of the R-500 ground-launched cruise missile (which has not been deployed yet); others, like blogger Pavel Podvig, believe that it was the use of a ground-based launcher for the missile that constituted the violation that the US State Department laments. Of course, the most ardent russophiles and pacifists, like Danish anti-nuclear propagandist Hans Kristensen (ex-Greenpeace) still deny that Russia has violated the treaty at all?
Who is right? How can we know? By looking first to the text of INF Treaty itself.
The accord was signed on December 8th, 1987 by President Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. It required the dismantlement of all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, as well as their launchers and all of their production, test, and support facilities. It also prohibited such missiles, launchers, and facilities from ever being reconstituted in the future. To wit, Article IV paragraph 2 subparagraph b) says clearly that
(b) by the end of the second phase, that is, no later than three years after entry into force of this Treaty, all intermediate-range missiles of each Party, launchers of such missiles and all support structures and support equipment of the categories listed in the Memorandum of Understanding associated with such missiles and launchers, shall be eliminated.
Gorbachev’s Soviet Union and Yeltsin’s Russia complied with the treaty. Putin’s Russia, however, has not – it has violated every arms control accord that Russia is party to (including the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Budapest Memorandum, the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, and a host of other agreements).
Specifically, Russia has violated the INF Treaty by:
1) Testing the R-500 ground-launched cruise missile (whose range is 2,000 kilometers). The INF Treaty prohibits such tests, saying:
1. Upon entry into force of this Treaty and thereafter, neither Party shall:
(a) produce or flight-test any intermediate-range missiles or produce any stages of such missiles or any launchers of such missiles; or
(b) produce, flight-test or launch any shorter-range missiles or produce any stages of such missiles or any launchers of such missiles.
2) Maintaining test ranges for such missiles. Their test ranges – as well as their production and sustainment facilities – are called “support facilities”, and therefore are prohibited, by the INF Treaty:
9. The term “missile support facility,” as regards intermediate-range or shorter-range missiles and launchers of such missiles, means a missile production facility or a launcher production facility, a missile repair facility or a launcher repair facility, a training facility, a missile storage facility or a launcher storage facility, a test range, or an elimination facility as those terms are defined in the Memorandum of Understanding.
3) Test-launching, producing, and deploying the Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) ground-launched ballistic missile, which has a maximum range of exactly 500 kms, thus making it illegal under the INF Treaty (evidence here and here). Additionally, since (as Pavel Podvig has observed) an Iskander launcher was used to test-launch the above-mentioned R-500 cruise missile, ALL Iskander launchers are considered launchers of that illegal cruise missile:
For the purposes of this Treaty:
1. If a ballistic missile or a cruise missile has been flight-tested or deployed for weapon delivery, all missiles of that type shall be considered to be weapon-delivery vehicles.
2. If a GLBM or GLCM is an intermediate-range missile, all GLBMs or GLCMs of that type shall be considered to be intermediate-range missiles. If a GLBM or GLCM is a shorter-range missile, all GLBMs or GLCMs of that type shall be considered to be shorter-range missiles.
On the other hand, launching ground-based ballistic missiles as test targets solely for testing a nation’s missile defense system is not prohibited by the INF Treaty, contrary to Russia’s false claims:
For the purposes of this Treaty:
3. If a GLBM is of a type developed and tested solely to intercept and counter objects not located on the surface of the earth, it shall not be considered to be a missile to which the limitations of this Treaty apply.
11. A ballistic missile which is not a missile to be used in a ground-based mode shall not be considered to be a GLBM if it is test-launched at a test site from a fixed land-based launcher which is used solely for test purposes and which is distinguishable from GLBM launchers. A cruise missile which is not a missile to be used in a ground-based mode shall not be considered to be a GLCM if it is test-launched at a test site from a fixed land-based launcher which is used solely for test purposes and which is distinguishable from GLCM launchers.
The Russian Federation has flagrantly violated the INF Treaty in at least three ways. Sadly, the Obama administration has chosen to do nothing effective to counter this violation. The next administration should impose heavy sanctions on Russia to force her to resume compliance with the treaty (i.e. impose a so-called “comprehensive sanctions” regime on Moscow), or, should such an attempt fail, withdraw the US from this failed accord.
It makes no sense whatsoever to unilaterally adhere to a treaty which the other party is flagrantly and continually violating. Such a unilateral adherence only makes the US less secure and gravely jeopardizes US national interests. It is in America’s best interest to withdraw from this failed treaty.