We believe Russia’s objective was to keep the United States constrained while it quietly built and deployed a force of illegal missiles that threaten Europe.
Speaking at a press briefing earlier this week, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats showed that Russia has intentionally violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and did so to create a technology that will be used to bend Europe to its will.
“The treaty banned GROUND-launched ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as their launchers, with a range capability between 500 and 5,500 km,” Coats said during his opening remarks. “The Treaty applies to missiles with nuclear or conventional warheads.”
The Intelligence Community assesses that Russia has flight-tested, produced, and deployed cruise missiles with a range capability prohibited by the Treaty and they have shown no sign that it is willing to acknowledge its violation, let alone return to full and verifiable compliance.
“Russia began the covert development of an intermediate-range, ground-launched cruise missile designated 9M729 probably by the mid-2000s. The 9M729 has a conventional and nuclear warhead capability,” Coats stated. “Russia began testing the missile in the late 2000’s and by 2015 had completed a comprehensive flight test program consisting of multiple tests of the 9M729 missile from both fixed and mobile launchers.”
Russia circumvented normal monitoring of the INF treaty in a sort of shell-game with missile launchers.
While the INF Treaty bans all ground based missile systems within the prohibited range, it allows you to test missiles from a fixed launcher as long as you do not intend to base them on the ground. For example, basing missiles on ship or aircraft.
Aware of this treaty provision, Russia initially flight tested the 9M729 – a ground based missile – to distances well over 500 kilometers (km) from a fixed launcher. Russia then tested the same missile at ranges below 500km from a mobile launcher
By putting the two types of tests together, Russia was able to develop a missile that flies to the intermediate ranges prohibited by the INF Treaty and launches from a ground-mobile platform.(Article Continues Below Advertisement)Sponsored Content
Russia probably assumed parallel development – tested from the same site – and deployment of other cruise missiles that are not prohibited by the INF Treaty would provide sufficient cover for its INF violation.
“We believe that Russia probably wants to be unconstrained by the INF Treaty as it modernizes its military with precision-strike missiles that we assess are designed to target critical European military and economic infrastructure, and thereby be in position to coerce NATO allies,” Coats asserted. “We believe Russia’s objective was to keep the United States constrained while it quietly built and deployed a force of illegal missiles that threaten Europe.”
“Russia continues to press forward, and as of late 2018, has fielded multiple battalions of 9M729 missiles, which pose a direct conventional and nuclear threat against most of Europe and parts of Asia,” he added.
It is unclear how the international community will react given the validity of the U.S. claim and the admission by Russia that the 9M729 missiles do exist, but the United States has plans to reply in-kind by, reportedly, developing a complementary system.
“The idea here is we need to send a message to the Russians that they will pay a military price for violation of this treaty,” an unnamed U.S. government told The Wall Street Journal. “We are posturing ourselves to live in a post-INF world … if that is the world the Russians want.”
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