Russia will present the expected withdrawal of the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Elimination Treaty (INF) as a step forcing a military response from Moscow. Even if the Russian Federation were to violate the INF by deploying new cruise missiles with a range greater than 500 km, the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty creates opportunity to blur responsibility. In the event of divided opinions within NATO, Russia’s position in arms control might be stronger vis-à-vis Europe and, indirectly, the United States. Moreover, Russia will continue expansion of its arsenal of ground-launched missiles.
Last week, US officials began talks in Moscow regarding Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The agreement bans the testing or deployment of intermediate range cruise and ballistic missiles, those with a range between 500km and 5500 km. In its annual 2014 arms control Compliance Report, the Department of State noted that Russia had violated the pact when it deployed a ground-launched cruise missile, whose unique Iskandar system can fire both cruise and ballistic missiles and a system Russia plans to deploy to Crimea. This cruise missile is not a new development; it was first tested in 2007 and has been deployed in the banned ground-launched configuration since 2009. Nor is it Russia’s only INF violation. Moscow also has converted a single-warhead ICBM into a three-warhead intermediate-range ballistic missile, a violation missing from the 2014 Compliance Report. » More