Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

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Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles
Reagan and Gorbachev signing.jpg
Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan sign the INF Treaty.
Type Nuclear disarmament
Signed8 December 1987, 1:45 p.m. [1]
Location White House, Washington, D.C.
Effective1 June 1988
Condition Ratification by the Soviet Union and United States
Expiration1 February 2019
LanguagesEnglish and Russian
Text of the INF Treaty

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty, formally Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles; Russian : Договор о ликвидации ракет средней и меньшей дальности / ДРСМД, Dogovor o likvidatsiy raket sredney i menshey dalnosti / DRSMD) was an arms control treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union (and its successor state, the Russian Federation). U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the treaty on 8 December 1987. [1] [2] The United States Senate approved the treaty on 27 May 1988, and Reagan and Gorbachev ratified it on 1 June 1988. [2] [3]

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Arms control is a term for international restrictions upon the development, production, stockpiling, proliferation and usage of small arms, conventional weapons, and weapons of mass destruction. Arms control is typically exercised through the use of diplomacy which seeks to impose such limitations upon consenting participants through international treaties and agreements, although it may also comprise efforts by a nation or group of nations to enforce limitations upon a non-consenting country.

Treaty Express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law

A treaty is an agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an (international) agreement, protocol, covenant, convention, pact, or exchange of letters, among other terms. Regardless of terminology, all of these forms of agreements are, under international law, equally considered treaties and the rules are the same.


The INF Treaty banned all of the two nations' land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (310–620 mi) (short medium-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (620–3,420 mi) (intermediate-range). The treaty did not apply to air- or sea-launched missiles. [4] [5] By May 1991, the nations had eliminated 2,692 missiles, followed by 10 years of on-site verification inspections. [6]

Ballistic missile missile that follows a sub-orbital ballistic flightpath

A ballistic missile follows a ballistic trajectory to deliver one or more warheads on a predetermined target. These weapons are only guided during relatively brief periods of flight—most of their trajectory is unpowered, being governed by gravity and air resistance if in the atmosphere. Shorter range ballistic missiles stay within the Earth's atmosphere, while longer-ranged intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), are launched on a sub-orbital flight trajectory and spend most of their flight out of the atmosphere.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on 20 October 2018 that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the treaty, accusing Russia of non-compliance. [7] The U.S. formally suspended the treaty on 1 February 2019, [8] and Russia did so on the following day in response to the U.S. withdrawal. [9]

Donald Trump 45th and current president of the United States

Donald John Trump is the 45th and current president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality.


In March 1976, the Soviet Union first deployed the RSD-10 Pioneer (called SS-20 Saber in the West) in its European territories, a mobile, concealable intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) containing three nuclear 150-kiloton warheads. [10] The SS-20's range of 4,700–5,000 kilometers (2,900–3,100 mi) was great enough to reach Western Europe from well within Soviet territory; the range was just below the SALT II minimum range for an intercontinental ballistic missile, 5,500 km (3,400 mi). [11] [12] [13] The SS-20 replaced aging Soviet systems of the SS-4 Sandal and SS-5 Skean, which were seen to pose a limited threat to Western Europe due to their poor accuracy, limited payload (one warhead), lengthy preparation time, difficulty in being concealed, and immobility (thus exposing them to pre-emptive NATO strikes ahead of a planned attack). [14] Whereas the SS-4 and SS-5 were seen as defensive weapons, the SS-20 was seen as a potential offensive system. [15]

RSD-10 Pioneer intermediate range ballistic missile

The RSD-10 Pioneer was an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, deployed by the Soviet Union from 1976 to 1988. It carried GRAU designation 15Ж45 (15Zh45). Its NATO reporting name was SS-20 Saber.

Intermediate-range ballistic missile ballistic missile with a range of 3,000–5,500 km

An intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) is a ballistic missile with a range of 3,000–5,500 km, between a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Classifying ballistic missiles by range is done mostly for convenience; in principle there is very little difference between a low-performance ICBM and a high-performance IRBM, because decreasing payload mass can increase range over ICBM threshold. The range definition used here is used within the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. Some other sources include an additional category, the long-range ballistic missile (LRBM), to describe missiles with a range between IRBMs and true ICBMs. The more modern term theater ballistic missile encompasses MRBMs and SRBMs, including any ballistic missile with a range under 3,500 km (2,175 mi).

Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle ballistic missile payload containing several warheads capable of independent targeting

A multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) is a missile payload containing several warheads, each capable of being aimed to hit a different target. The concept is almost invariably associated with intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying thermonuclear warheads, even if not strictly being limited to them. By contrast, a unitary warhead is a single warhead on a single missile. An intermediate case is the multiple reentry vehicle (MRV) missile which carries several warheads which are dispersed but not individually aimed. Only China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are currently confirmed to possess functional MIRV missile systems. India, Israel and Pakistan are known or suspected to be developing or possessing MIRVs.

The US, then under President Jimmy Carter, initially considered its strategic nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable aircraft to be adequate counters to the SS-20 and a sufficient deterrent against possible Soviet aggression. In 1977, however, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany argued in a speech that a Western response to the SS-20 deployment should be explored, a call which was echoed by NATO, given a perceived Western disadvantage in European nuclear forces. [13] Leslie H. Gelb, the US Assistant Secretary of State, later recounted that Schmidt's speech pressured the US into developing a response. [16]

Jimmy Carter 39th president of the United States

James Earl Carter Jr. is an American politician and philanthropist who served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as a Georgia State Senator from 1963 to 1967 and as the 76th Governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975. After his presidency, Carter has remained active in the private sector; in 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in co-founding the Carter Center.

Strategic nuclear weapon nuclear weapon designed to be used on targets as part of a strategic plan

A strategic nuclear weapon refers to a nuclear weapon which is designed to be used on targets often in settled territory far from the battlefield as part of a strategic plan, such as military bases, military command centers, arms industries, transportation, economic, and energy infrastructure, and heavily populated areas such as cities and towns, which often contain such targets. It is in contrast to a tactical nuclear weapon, which is designed for use in battle, as part of an attack with and often in close proximity to friendly conventional forces possibly on contested friendly territory.

Helmut Schmidt Chancellor of West Germany 1974-1982

Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt was a German politician and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), who served as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1974 to 1982.

SS-20 launchers Miss launch veh.jpg
SS-20 launchers

On 12 December 1979, following European pressure for a response to the SS-20, Western foreign and defense ministers meeting in Brussels made the NATO Double-Track Decision. [13] The ministers argued that the Warsaw Pact had "developed a large and growing capability in nuclear systems that directly threaten Western Europe": "theater" nuclear systems (i.e., tactical nuclear weapons [17] ). In describing this "aggravated" situation, the ministers made direct reference to the SS-20 featuring "significant improvements over previous systems in providing greater accuracy, more mobility, and greater range, as well as having multiple warheads". The ministers also attributed the altered situation to the deployment of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M strategic bomber, which they believed to display "much greater performance" than its predecessors. Furthermore, the ministers expressed concern that the Soviet Union had gained an advantage over NATO in "Long-Range Theater Nuclear Forces" (LRTNF), and also significantly increased short-range theater nuclear capacity. [18]

Brussels Capital region of Belgium

Brussels, officially the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. Brussels is the most densely populated and the richest region in Belgium in terms of GDP per capita. It covers 161 km2 (62 sq mi), a relatively small area compared to the two other regions, and has a population of 1.2 million. The metropolitan area of Brussels counts over 2.1 million people, which makes it the largest in Belgium. It is also part of a large conurbation extending towards Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven and Walloon Brabant, home to over 5 million people.

The NATO Double-Track Decision is the decision of NATO from December 12, 1979, to offer the Warsaw Pact a mutual limitation of medium-range ballistic missiles and intermediate-range ballistic missiles combined with the threat that in case of disagreement NATO would deploy more middle-range nuclear weapons in Western Europe, following the so-called "Euromissile Crisis".

Warsaw Pact international military alliance of Communist states

The Warsaw Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, was a collective defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland between the Soviet Union and seven Eastern Bloc satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CoMEcon), the regional economic organization for the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955 per the London and Paris Conferences of 1954, but it is also considered to have been motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe.

To address these developments, the ministers adopted two policy "tracks". One thousand theater nuclear warheads, out of 7,400 such warheads, would be removed from Europe and the US would pursue bilateral negotiations with the Soviet Union intended to limit theater nuclear forces. Should these negotiations fail, NATO would modernize its own LRTNF, or intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF), by replacing US Pershing 1a missiles with 108 Pershing II launchers in West Germany and deploying 464 BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCMs) to Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom beginning in December 1983. [12] [19] [20] [21]


Early negotiations: 1981–1983

The Soviet Union and United States agreed to open negotiations and preliminary discussions, named the Preliminary Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Talks, [12] which began in Geneva in October 1980. On 20 January 1981, Ronald Reagan was sworn into office as President after defeating Jimmy Carter in an election. Formal talks began on 30 November 1981, with the US then led by Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union by Leonid Brezhnev. The core of the US negotiating position reflected the principles put forth under Carter: any limits placed on US INF capabilities, both in terms of "ceilings" and "rights", must be reciprocated with limits on Soviet systems. Additionally, the US insisted that a sufficient verification regime be in place. [22]

Paul Nitze, a longtime hand at defense policy who had participated in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), led the US delegation after being recruited by Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Though Nitze had backed the first SALT treaty, he opposed SALT II and had resigned from the US delegation during its negotiation. Nitze was also then a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, a firmly anti-Soviet group composed of neoconservatives and conservative Republicans. [16] [23] Yuli Kvitsinsky, the well-respected second-ranking official at the Soviet embassy in West Germany, headed the Soviet delegation. [15] [24] [25] [26]

Paul Nitze, 1983 Paul Nitze (1983).jpg
Paul Nitze, 1983

On 18 November 1981, shortly before the beginning of formal talks, Reagan made the Zero Option proposal (or the "zero-zero" proposal). [27] The plan called for a hold on US deployment of GLCM and Pershing II systems, reciprocated by Soviet elimination of its SS-4, SS-5, and SS-20 missiles. There appeared to be little chance of the Zero Option being adopted, but the gesture was well received in the European public. In February 1982, US negotiators put forth a draft treaty containing the Zero Option and a global prohibition on intermediate- and short-range missiles, with compliance ensured via a stringent, though unspecific, verification program. [24]

Opinion within the Reagan administration on the Zero Option was mixed. Richard Perle, then the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, was the architect of the plan. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who supported a continued US nuclear presence in Europe, was skeptical of the plan, though eventually accepted it for its value in putting the Soviet Union "on the defensive in the European propaganda war". Reagan later recounted that the "zero option sprang out of the realities of nuclear politics in Western Europe". [27] The Soviet Union rejected the plan shortly after the US tabled it in February 1982, arguing that both the US and Soviet Union should be able to retain intermediate-range missiles in Europe. Specifically, Soviet negotiators proposed that the number of INF missiles and aircraft deployed in Europe by one side be capped at 600 by 1985 and 300 by 1990. Concerned that this proposal would force the US to withdraw aircraft from Europe and not deploy INF missiles, given US cooperation with existing British and French deployments, the US proposed "equal rights and limits"—the US would be permitted to match Soviet SS-20 deployments. [24]

Between 1981 and 1983, US and Soviet negotiators gathered for six rounds of talks, each two months in length—a system based on the earlier SALT talks. [24] The US delegation was composed of Nitze, General William F. Burns of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Thomas Graham of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), and officials from the US Department of State, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and US National Security Council. Colonel Norman Clyne, a SALT participant, served as Nitze's chief of staff. [15] [28]

There was little convergence between the two sides over these two years. A U.S. effort to separate the question of nuclear-capable aircraft from that of intermediate-range missiles successfully focused attention on the latter, but little clear progress on the subject was made. In the summer of 1982, Nitze and Kvitsinsky took a "walk in the woods" in the Jura Mountains, away from formal negotiations in Geneva, in an independent attempt to bypass bureaucratic procedures and break the negotiating deadlock. [29] [15] [30] Nitze later said that his and Kvitsinsky's goal was to agree to certain concessions that would allow for a summit meeting between Brezhnev and Reagan later in 1982. [31]

Nitze's offer to Kvitsinsky was that the US would forego deployment of the Pershing II and continue deployment of GLCMs, but limited to 75 missile launchers. The Soviet Union, in return, would also have to limit itself to 75 intermediate-range missile launchers in Europe and 90 in Asia. Due to each GLCM launcher containing four GLCMs and each SS-20 launcher containing three warheads, such an agreement would have resulted in the US having 75 more intermediate-range warheads in Europe than the Soviet Union, though SS-20s were seen as more advanced and maneuverable than GLCMs. While Kvitsinsky was skeptical that the plan would be well received in Moscow, Nitze was optimistic about its chances in Washington. [31] The deal ultimately found little traction in either capital. In the US, the Office of the Secretary of Defense opposed Nitze's proposal, as it opposed any proposal that would allow the Soviet Union to deploy missiles to Europe while blocking US deployments. Nitze's proposal was relayed by Kvitsinsky to Moscow, where it was also rejected. The plan accordingly was never introduced into formal negotiations. [29] [15]

Thomas Graham, a US negotiator, later recalled that Nitze's "walk in the woods" proposal was primarily of Nitze's own design and known beforehand only to William F. Burns, another arms control negotiator and representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and Eugene V. Rostow, the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In a National Security Council following the Nitze-Kvitsinsky walk, the proposal was received positively by the JCS and Reagan. Following protests by Richard Perle, working within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Reagan informed Nitze that he would not back the plan. The State Department, then led by Alexander Haig, also indicated that it would not support Nitze's plan and preferred a return to the Zero Option proposal. [15] [30] [31] Nitze argued that one positive consequence of the walk in the woods was that the European public, which had doubted US interest in arms control, became convinced that the US was participating in the INF negotiations in good faith. [31]

In early 1983, US negotiators indicated that they would support a plan beyond the Zero Option if the plan established equal rights and limits for the US and Soviet Union, with such limits valid worldwide, and excluded British and French missile systems (as well as those of any other third party). As a temporary measure, the US negotiators also proposed a cap of 450 deployed INF warheads around the world for both the US and Soviet Union. In response, Soviet negotiators expressed that a plan would have to block all US INF deployments in Europe, cover both missiles and aircraft, include third parties, and focus primarily on Europe for it to gain Soviet backing. In the fall of 1983, just ahead of the scheduled deployment of US Pershing IIs and GLCMs, the US lowered its proposed limit on global INF deployments to 420 missiles, while the Soviet Union proposed "equal reductions": if the US cancelled the planned deployment of Pershing II and GLCM systems, the Soviet Union would reduce its own INF deployment by 572 warheads. In November 1983, after the first Pershing IIs arrived in West Germany, the Soviet Union walked out of negotiations, as it had warned it would do should the US missile deployments occur. [32]

Restarted negotiations: 1985–1987

Reagan and Gorbachev shake hands after signing the INF Treaty ratification during the Moscow Summit on 1 June 1988. President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev shake hands after signing the INF Treaty.jpg
Reagan and Gorbachev shake hands after signing the INF Treaty ratification during the Moscow Summit on 1 June 1988.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher played a key role in brokering the negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986–1987. [33]

In March 1986, negotiations between the US and the Soviet Union resumed, covering not only the INF issue, but also separate discussions on strategic weapons (START I) and space issues (Nuclear and Space Talks). In late 1985, both sides were moving towards limiting INF systems in Europe and Asia. On 15 January 1986, Gorbachev announced a Soviet proposal for a ban on all nuclear weapons by 2000, which included INF missiles in Europe. This was dismissed by the US and countered with a phased reduction of INF launchers in Europe and Asia to none by 1989. There would be no constraints on British and French nuclear forces. [34]

A series of meetings in August and September 1986 culminated in the Reykjavík Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev on 11 and 12 October 1986. Both agreed in principle to remove INF systems from Europe and to equal global limits of 100 INF missile warheads. Gorbachev also proposed deeper and more fundamental changes in the strategic relationship. More detailed negotiations extended throughout 1987, aided by the decision of West Germany Chancellor Helmut Kohl in August to unilaterally remove the joint US-West German Pershing 1a systems. Initially, Kohl had opposed the total elimination of the Pershing Missiles, claiming that such a move would increase his nation's vulnerability to an attack by Warsaw Pact Forces. [35] The treaty text was finally agreed in September 1987. On 8 December 1987, the Treaty was officially signed by President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev at a summit in Washington and ratified the following May in a 93-5 vote by the United States Senate. [36] [37]


The treaty [38] prohibits both parties from possessing, producing or flight-testing ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500km. Possessing or producing ground-based launchers of those missiles is also prohibited. The ban extends to weapons with both nuclear and conventional warheads, but does not cover air-delivered or sea-based missiles.

Existing weapons had to be destroyed, and a protocol for mutual inspection was agreed upon.

Each party has the right to withdraw from the treaty with six months' notice, "if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests".


A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missile in 1988 prior to its destruction. INF inspection.JPEG
A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missile in 1988 prior to its destruction.
Accompanied by their NATO counterparts, Soviet inspectors enter a nuclear weapons storage area in Greenham, UK, 1989. Soviet inspectors at RAF Greenham Common 1989.JPEG
Accompanied by their NATO counterparts, Soviet inspectors enter a nuclear weapons storage area in Greenham, UK, 1989.
Ambassador Eileen Malloy, chief of the arms control unit at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow at the destruction site in Saryozek in early 1990. Ambassador Malloy Witnesses the Elimination of the Last Soviet Short-Range Missiles Under the INF Treaty.jpg
Ambassador Eileen Malloy, chief of the arms control unit at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow at the destruction site in Saryozek in early 1990.
(1988) A Soviet train with SS-12 Scaleboard medium-range ballistic missiles ready to leave for the Soviet Union from Czechoslovakia's Hranice na Morave railroad station RIAN archive 478718 A Soviet missile train.jpg
(1988) A Soviet train with SS-12 Scaleboard medium-range ballistic missiles ready to leave for the Soviet Union from Czechoslovakia's Hranice na Morave railroad station

By the treaty's deadline of 1 June 1991, a total of 2,692 of such weapons had been destroyed, 846 by the US and 1,846 by the Soviet Union. [39]

As provided by the treaty, onsite inspections ended in 2001. After that time, compliance was checked primarily by satellites. [40]

Affected weapons

The following specific missiles, their launcher systems and their transporter vehicles were destroyed: [41]

Post-Soviet states

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the United States considered twelve of the post-Soviet states to be inheritors of the treaty obligations (the three Baltic states are considered to preexist their annexation by the USSR). Of the six having inspectable INF facilities on their territories, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine became active participants in the treaty process, while Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, having less significant INF sites, assumed a less active role. [42]

Russian criticism

In February 2007, the Russian president Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the Munich Security Conference in which he said the INF Treaty should be revisited to ensure security, as it only restricted Russia and the U.S. but not other countries. [43]

Dan Blumenthal of the American Enterprise Institute wrote that the actual Russian problem with the INF was that China is not bound by it and continued to build up their own intermediate-range forces. [44]

Alleged violations

In 2007, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Yuri Baluyevsky said that Russia was planning to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in response to deployment of adaptable defensive NATO missile system and because other countries were not bound to the treaty. [45]

According to US officials, Russia violated the treaty by testing the SSC-8 cruise missile in 2008. [46] The US representatives briefed NATO on a Russian nuclear treaty breach again in 2014 [47] [48] and 2017. [46] [49] In 2013, reports came out that Russia had tested and planned to continue testing two missiles in ways that could violate the terms of the treaty: the SS-25 road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile and the newer RS-26 ICBM, although neither missile is considered intermediate range. [50]

According to Russian officials, the American decision to deploy the missile defense system in Europe was a violation of the treaty. [51] [52] [53] Russian experts also stated that the US usage of target missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, such as the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-4, violated the INF Treaty. [54] The Western press has been dismissive of Russian claims that U.S. missile defense in Eastern Europe, ostensibly meant to intercept missiles from Iran, presents a formidable offensive force near Russian borders. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published a report in February 2019, using publicly available documents, on how the Aegis-based missile defense installations in Poland and Romania are not capable of providing missile defense against Iran due to the limited range of the Aegis radar, but retain offensive capabilities that are in violation of the INF. [55]

In 2013, the United States launched test launches from the ground of the AGM-158B aviation cruise missile with a range of a thousand kilometers and in December 2017, President Trump signed a bill on defense, which, among others, provided for the allocation of $ 25 million to develop a new cruise missile of this type. According to Russian diplomats this was a violation of the INF Treaty. [56]


The United States declared its intention to withdraw from the treaty on 20 October 2018. [57] [58] [59] Donald Trump mentioned at a campaign rally that the reason for the pullout was because "they've [Russia has] been violating it for many years". [58] This prompted Putin to state that Russia would not launch first in a nuclear conflict but would "annihilate" any adversary, essentially re-stating the policy of "Mutually Assured Destruction". Putin claimed Russians killed in such a conflict "will go to heaven as martyrs". [60]

It was also reported that the United States' need to counter a Chinese arms buildup in the Pacific was another reason for their move to withdraw, because China is not a signatory to the treaty. [57] [58] [59] US officials extending back to the Obama period have noted this. For example, Kelly Magsamen, who helped craft the Pentagon's Asian policy under the Obama administration, said China's ability to work outside of the INF treaty had vexed policymakers in Washington, long before Trump came into office. [61] A Politico article noted the different responses U.S. officials gave to this issue: "either find ways to bring China into the treaty or develop new American weapons to counter it" or "negotiating a new treaty with that country". [62] Bringing an ascendant China into the treaty, or into a new comprehensive treaty including other nuclear powers, was further complicated by relationships between China, India and Pakistan. [63]

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said a unilateral U.S. withdrawal would have a negative impact and urged the United States to "think thrice before acting". John R. Bolton, US National Security Advisor, said on Echo of Moscow that recent Chinese statements indicate that it wants Washington to stay in the treaty, while China itself is not bound in a treaty. [61]

On 26 October 2018, Russia called but lost a vote to get the U.N. General Assembly to consider calling on Washington and Moscow to preserve and strengthen the treaty. [64] Russia had proposed a draft resolution in the 193-member General Assembly's disarmament committee, but missed the 18 October submission deadline [64] so it instead called for a vote on whether the committee should be allowed to consider the draft. [64] On the same day, John R. Bolton said in an interview with Reuters that the INF Treaty was a cold war relic and he wanted to hold strategic talks with Russia about Chinese missile capabilities. [65]

Four days later, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to comply with the treaty at a news conference in Norway saying "The problem is the deployment of new Russian missiles". [66]

Russian president Vladimir Putin announced on 20 November 2018 that the Kremlin was prepared to discuss INF with Washington but would "retaliate" if the United States withdrew. [67]

Starting on 4 December 2018, the United States said Russia had 60 days to comply with the treaty. [68] On 5 December 2018, Russia responded by revealing their Peresvet combat laser, stating they had been deployed to Russia armed forces as early as 2017 "as part of the state procurement program". [69]

Russia presented the 9M729 (SSC-8) missile and its technical parameters to foreign military attachés at a military briefing on 23 January 2019, held in what it said was an exercise in transparency it hoped would persuade Washington to stay in the treaty. [70] The Russian Defence Ministry said diplomats from the United States, Britain, France and Germany had been invited to attend the static display of the missile, but they declined to attend. [70] The United States had previously rejected a Russian offer to do so because it said such an exercise would not allow it to verify the true range of its warheads. [70]

The summit between U.S. and Russia on 30 January 2019 failed to find a way to preserve the treaty. [71]

The United States suspended its compliance with the INF Treaty on 2 February 2019 following an announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the day prior. In addition the US said there was a six-month timeline for full withdrawal and INF Treaty termination if the Russian Federation did not come back into compliance within those six months given. [72] [63] The same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had also suspended the INF Treaty in a 'mirror response' to President Donald Trump's decision to suspend the treaty, effective that day. [9] The next day, Russia started work on new intermediate range (ballistic) hypersonic missiles along with land based (club kalibr - biryuza) systems (both nuclear armed) in response to the USA announcing it would start to conduct research and development of weapons prohibited under the treaty. [73]

On March 8, 2019, the foreign ministry of Ukraine announced that since the United States and Russian Federation have both pulled out of the INF treaty, it now has the right to develop intermediate-range missiles, citing Russian aggression as a serious threat to the European continent, and the presence of Russian Iskander-M nuclear-capable missile systems in Crimea. [74] Ukraine had about forty percent of Soviet space industry, but never developed a missile with the range to strike Moscow [75] (only having both longer and shorter-ranged missiles). Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said "We need high-precision missiles and we are not going to repeat the mistakes of the Budapest Memorandum". [75] Ukraine remains a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Reactions to the withdrawal

Numerous prominent nuclear arms control experts, including George Shultz, Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn, urged Trump to preserve the treaty. [76] Mikhail Gorbachev commented that Trump's nuclear treaty withdrawal is "not the work of a great mind" and that "a new arms race has been announced". [77] [78]

The decision was criticized by chairmen of the United States House of Representatives Committees on Foreign Affairs and Armed Services who said that instead of crafting a plan to hold Russia accountable and pressure it into compliance, the Trump administration has offered Putin an easy way out of the treaty and has played right into his hands. [79] Similar arguments were brought previously, on 25 October 2018 by European members of NATO who urged the United States "to try to bring Russia back into compliance with the treaty rather than quit it, seeking to avoid a split in the alliance that Moscow could exploit". [64]

Stoltenberg has suggested the INF Treaty could be expanded to include countries such as China and India, whose non-inclusion, Stoltenberg said, Russia had previously admonished. [80]

On 15 February 2019, Tulsi Gabbard introduced the proposed INF Treaty Compliance Act (H.R. 1249), designed to stop the United States from using Government funds to develop missiles prohibited by the treaty. [81] [82] [83] [84]

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In nuclear strategy, a first strike is a preemptive surprise attack employing overwhelming force. First strike capability is a country's ability to defeat another nuclear power by destroying its arsenal to the point where the attacking country can survive the weakened retaliation while the opposing side is left unable to continue war. The preferred methodology is to attack the opponent's strategic nuclear weapon facilities, command and control sites, and storage depots first. The strategy is called counterforce.

START I treaty

START I was a bilateral treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms. The treaty was signed on 31 July 1991 and entered into force on 5 December 1994. The treaty barred its signatories from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers. START negotiated the largest and most complex arms control treaty in history, and its final implementation in late 2001 resulted in the removal of about 80 percent of all strategic nuclear weapons then in existence. Proposed by United States President Ronald Reagan, it was renamed START I after negotiations began on the second START treaty.

Nuclear arms race

The nuclear arms race was an arms race competition for supremacy in nuclear warfare between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies during the Cold War. During this period, in addition to the American and Soviet nuclear stockpiles, other countries developed nuclear weapons, though none engaged in warhead production on nearly the same scale as the two superpowers.

START II contract

START II was a bilateral treaty between the United States of America and Russia on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. It was signed by United States President George H. W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 3 January 1993, banning the use of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Hence, it is often cited as the De-MIRV-ing Agreement. Despite negotiations, it never entered into effect. It was ratified by the U.S. Senate on 26 January 1996 with a vote of 87-4. Russia ratified START II on 14 April 2000, but on 14 June 2002, withdrew from the treaty in response to U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.

RT-2PM Topol intercontinental ballistic missile

The RT-2PM Topol is a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile designed in the Soviet Union and in service with Russia's Strategic Missile Troops. By the early 2020s, all SS-25 ICBMs will be replaced by versions of Topol-M.

Able Archer 83 is the codename for a command post exercise carried out in November 1983 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). As with Able Archer exercises from previous years, the purpose of the exercise was to simulate a period of conflict escalation, culminating in the US military attaining a simulated DEFCON 1 coordinated nuclear attack. Coordinated from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) headquarters in Casteau, Belgium, it involved NATO forces throughout Western Europe, beginning on November 7, 1983, and lasting for five days.

TR-1 Temp theatre ballistic missile

The TR-1 Temp was a mobile theatre ballistic missile developed and deployed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was assigned the NATO reporting name SS-12 Scaleboard and carried the industrial designation 9M76 and the GRAU index 9К76. A modified version was initially identified by NATO as a new design and given the SS-22 reporting name, but later recognized it as merely a variant of the original and maintained the name Scaleboard. The Temp entered service in the mid-1960s.

OTR-23 Oka theater ballistic missile

The OTR-23 Oka was a mobile theatre ballistic missile deployed by the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War to replace the obsolete SS-1C 'Scud B'. It carried the GRAU index 9K714 and was assigned the NATO reporting name SS-23 Spider. The introduction of the Oka significantly strengthened Soviet theatre nuclear capabilities as its range and accuracy allowed it not only to strike hardened NATO targets such as airfields, nuclear delivery systems, and command centers, but moving targets as well. It also had a fast reaction time, being able to fire in approximately five minutes, and was nearly impossible to intercept, thereby allowing it to penetrate defenses.

Reykjavík Summit

The Reykjavík Summit was a summit meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, held in Reykjavík, Iceland, on 11–12 October 1986. The talks collapsed at the last minute, but the progress that had been achieved eventually resulted in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.

BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile

The Ground Launched Cruise Missile, or GLCM, was a ground-launched cruise missile developed by the United States Air Force in the last decade of the Cold War and destroyed under the INF Treaty.

Nuclear triad nuclear weapons launchable from strategic bombers, submarines and ICBMs

A nuclear triad is a three-pronged military force structure that consists of land-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear-missile-armed submarines and strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles. Specifically, these components are land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers. The purpose of having this three-branched nuclear capability is to significantly reduce the possibility that an enemy could destroy all of a nation's nuclear forces in a first-strike attack. This, in turn, ensures a credible threat of a second strike, and thus increases a nation's nuclear deterrence. The main theory of creating the nuclear triad was to spread the assortment of weapons across various platforms, making military forces more likely to survive an attack and able to respond to a first strike successfully. The military strategy of distributing weapons over the three platforms developed as an answer to countries' concerns when surviving a nuclear strike. This would ensure that nuclear forces could survive a first strike and be deployed in a retaliatory strike, resulting in "mutual assured destruction."

Trust, but verify is a Russian proverb. The phrase became internationally known in English when used by President Ronald Reagan on several occasions in the context of nuclear disarmament discussions with the Soviet Union.

RK-55 cruise missile

The Novator RK-55 Relief is a Soviet land-based or submarine-launched cruise missile with a nuclear warhead. It was about to enter service in 1987, when such weapons were banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. A version launched from submarine torpedo tubes, the S-10 Granat, has apparently been converted to carry conventional warheads and continues in service to this day. The Russian Federation was reported to have deployed the derivative SS-CX-7/SS-CX-8 systems on February 14, 2017.

The "Zero Option" was the name given to an American proposal for the withdrawal of all Soviet and United States intermediate-range nuclear missiles from Europe. This term was subsequently expanded to describe the vision of eliminating all nuclear weapons everywhere.

Moscow Summit (1988)

The Moscow Summit was a summit meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. It was held on May 29, 1988 – June 3, 1988. Reagan and Gorbachev finalized the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) after the U.S. Senate's ratification of the treaty in May 1988. Reagan and Gorbachev continued to discuss bilateral issues like Central America, Southern Africa, the Middle East and the pending withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Reagan and Gorbachev continued their discussions on human rights. The parties signed seven agreements on lesser issues such as student exchanges and fishing rights. A significant result was the updating of Soviet history books, which necessitated cancelling some history classes in Soviet secondary schools. In the end, Reagan expressed satisfaction with the summit.

The RS-26 Rubezh SS-X-31 or SS-X-29B, is a Russian solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile, equipped with a thermonuclear MIRV or MaRV payload. The missile is also intended to be capable of carrying the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle. The RS-26 is based on RS-24 Yars, and constitutes a shorter version of the RS-24 with one fewer stages. The development process of the RS-26 has been largely comparable to that of the SS-20 Saber, a shortened derivative of the SS-16 Sinner. Deployment of the RS-26 is speculated to have a similar strategic impact as the SS-20.

Pershing II American ballistic missile

The Pershing II Weapon System was a solid-fueled two-stage ballistic missile designed and built by Martin Marietta to replace the Pershing 1a Field Artillery Missile System as the United States Army's primary nuclear-capable theater-level weapon. The U.S. Army replaced the Pershing 1a with the Pershing II Weapon System in 1983, while the German Air Force retained Pershing 1a until all Pershings were eliminated in 1991. The U.S. Army Missile Command (MICOM) managed the development and improvements, while the Field Artillery Branch deployed the systems and developed tactical doctrine.


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Further reading