It’s official: On Aug. 2 the U.S. formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, widely known as the INF, stirring up fears of a new arms race in Europe. The 1987 pact with Moscow banned both nuclear and conventional missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers and was historic in that it “marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons” and use “extensive on-site inspections for verification,” according to the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
Speaking a day earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Washington's position that “Russia remains in material breach of its treaty obligations,” a charge first leveled during the Obama administration. Russia has denied the allegations in the past and has leveled accusations of its own concerning U.S. compliance. This week Moscow called on the U.S. and other NATO members to declare a moratorium on INF-range missiles “in certain regions,” news agencies reported.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the treaty “an invaluable brake on nuclear war,” warning that its demise “will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballistic missiles.”
For those who want to delve deeper into still relevant aspects of the treaty and its collapse—like possible consequences and prospects for a follow-on—we offer some of the best INF-focused articles to appear on Russia Matters:
- “Expert Survey: Is Nuclear Arms Control Dead or Can New Principles Guide It?” July 30, 2019: What arrangements could emerge from the rubble of U.S.-Russian arms control and what should be their guiding principles? Eight leading international experts weigh in.
- “The INF Quandary: Preventing a Nuclear Arms Race in Europe. Perspectives from the U.S., Russia and Germany,” Jan. 24, 2019: Three highly respected experts—William Tobey, Pavel Zolotarev and Ulrich Kühn—weigh in on the consequences of the INF’s demise and prospects for some sort of INF follow-on.
- “Withdrawing From the INF Treaty: Consequences and Costs,” Oct. 23, 2018: Ten eminent experts from the Belfer Center and three highly regarded Moscow-based experts assess the consequences and costs of the U.S. withdrawal.
- “After the INF Treaty: An Objective Look at US and Russian Compliance, Plus a New Arms Control Regime,” Dec. 7, 2017: Retired Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan explains which Russian concerns about U.S. compliance with the INF Treaty are legitimate and proposes a new treaty focusing on warheads instead of delivery systems.
- “A Strategy for (Modestly Increasing the Chance of) Saving the INF Treaty,” May 11, 2017: James Acton argues that, while it was highly unlikely (even two years ago) that Russia would return to compliance with the INF Treaty, the U.S. should make every effort to create three realities that Moscow can’t ignore.
- “Russia's Missile Gamble: Is the INF Treaty Dead?,” March 9, 2017: William McHenry explores the root causes of Russian misbehavior with regard to the INF.
Photo: Sculpture made of shrapnel from a Soviet missile destroyed per the terms of the INF Treaty. Gift to U.S. Ambassador Eileen Malloy. Collections of the U.S. Diplomacy Center.