Russia Breaches Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
NATO: Russia in Material Breach of INF Treaty
NATO allies agree that Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and have decided to start planning for a post-INF Treaty world, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels, December 4.
The secretary general spoke following a meeting of foreign ministers at NATO headquarters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo represented the United States at the meeting.
“All allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a new ground-launched cruise missile system – the SSC-8, also known as the 9M729,” Stoltenberg said. This is probably the SSC-X-8, a new ground-launched cruise missile first tested by Russia in September 2015. Since 2015, this weapon has been considered a breach of the Treaty.
“Allies agree,” continued Stoltenberg, “that this missile system violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security. And they agree that Russia is therefore in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty.”
Russian Nuclear Missiles Can Reach Every City in Europe
The treaty – signed by President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 – was a pillar of European security. The treaty eliminated an entire category of destabilizing weapons. Russia’s deployment ratchets up tension on the continent.
“This is really serious, because, of course, all missiles are dangerous, but these missiles are in particular dangerous because they are hard to detect, they are mobile [and] they are nuclear-capable,” the secretary general said at a news conference.
The new Russian missiles can reach European cities, thus reducing warning time. “And they also reduce the threshold for nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict,” he said. “That’s the reason why the INF Treaty has been so important, and that is why it is so serious that this treaty risks breaking down because of the Russian violations.”
Stoltenberg said the United States has made every effort to engage with Russia, and to seek answers about the new missile. “The U.S. has raised the matter formally with Russia at senior levels more than 30 times,” he said. “Other allies have raised it with Russia, too. We did so, a few weeks ago, in the NATO-Russia Council here in Brussels.”
Russian SSC-X-8 Violation Undermines Allied Security
But Russia has not listened and continues to produce and deploy the missiles. This violation “erodes the foundations of effective arms control and undermines allied security,” Stoltenberg said. “This is part of Russia’s broader pattern of behavior, intended to weaken the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture.”
The United States fully complies with the INF Treaty. “There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles in Europe,” he said. “Arms control agreements are only effective if they are respected by all sides. A situation where the U.S. abides by the treaty and Russia does not is simply not sustainable.”
The NATO allies call on Russia once again to comply with the treaty. At the same time, the alliance will take appropriate actions to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of NATO’s deterrence and defense strategy, he said. “We will continue to keep Russia’s military posture and deployments under close review,” Stoltenberg said.
Russia Given Last Chance as NATO Prepares for New Nuclear Arms Race
No one in NATO wants a new Cold War with a new arms race, he said. “We seek dialogue, not confrontation, with Russia,” the secretary general said. “Russia now has a last chance to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, but we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”
Commenting on the issue, General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “In a perfect world, what I would say would be best is if Russia would comply with the INF, it would set the conditions for broader conversations about other arms-control agreements, to include the extension of [the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty].”
It is believed that the Russians now have two battalions of the prohibited cruise missiles. Each missile battalion is thought to have four mobile launchers and a larger supply of missiles. In 2017, one was still at Russia’s missile test site at Kapustin Yar in the country’s southeast. The other was mmoved in December 2017 from the test site to an operational base elsewhere in the country.
The controversial cruise missile has been at the centre of NATO concerns since 2015.
Image: a land-launched Russian cruise missile.