Why Russia Is Cheating on the INF Treaty

Why Russia Is Cheating on the INF Treaty
Iskander missile launchers in Red Square during the Victory Parade marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, Moscow, May 9, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Despite years of warnings, Russia has doubled down on its previously alleged violation of a three-decade-old nuclear arms control treaty by deploying a banned intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile. Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the deployment of the missile to Congress on Wednesday, calling it a violation of “the spirit and intent” of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, commonly known as the INF Treaty. “We believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility,” he added.

Western analysts have voiced bewilderment over why Russia would violate the INF Treaty now, given the potential costs. Among other consequences, the U.S. Senate will not ratify another Russian-U.S. arms control treaty until this issue is resolved. But Russia has its own military reasons to seek intermediate-range ground-based missiles as a supplement to its sea- and air-launched missiles and a complement to its conventional and strategic nuclear forces.

In December 1987, Washington and Moscow signed the INF Treaty, which bans both countries from manufacturing, deploying or flight-testing ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. According to recent reports, the SSC-8 cruise missile that Russia has developed, tested and now deployed violates these very prohibitions. The U.S. previously accused Russia of violating the treaty in 2014.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review