The United States is faced with a serious challenge to an important treaty which could have dire consequences if not handled well.
The New York Times reported this week that Russia has deployed nuclear-capable cruise missiles which could be a critical threat to the countries of western Europe.
Officials believe that the missiles were 9M729s, which are ground-based missiles similar to Russia’s Kalibr missiles. The Kalibr were used to hit targets in Syria from a range of 1,000 miles away in the Caspian Sea.
Experts say these missiles are in violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, INF, because they can reach targets from 620 to 3,420 miles away, from ground-based launchers. If this is true, then Russia has the capability of hitting a slew of European capital cities from home.
“We knew it was coming for a long time,” said one expert of the missiles. The Russians “started testing in 2008. In 2011, the Obama administration decided it was a compliance problem.”
The INF treaty is one of the few success stories from the arms-control talks between the two powerful nuclear-enabled countries. During the 1980s Russia had already begun to develop nuclear missiles with intermediate range which had the power to strike western European cities.
President Obama decided in 2014 that Russia had indeed violated INF. During an INF special verification meeting the US presented Russia with the evidence that they were in violation of the treaty. The Russians answered with “capricious arguments,” saying that the US had also violated the treaty.
“None of the Russian accusations amount to the US, in secret, deploying a large number of missiles that violate the treaty,” the expert said. “The US does not have ground-launched intermediate-range forces anywhere.”