Russia’s Alleged INF Violation

I’ve been looking for an objective and authoritative explanation of the US allegation that Russia is in violation of the INF (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) arms control treaty … and I just found it. My colleague, Dr. Pavel Podvig, has precisely that kind of analysis in his article in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Here are some key excerpts (emphasis added):

In early June, the United States released its annual Compliance Report for the year 2015, which assesses whether countries are adhering to their arms control agreements. The report accuses Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. … Most unfortunately, many news stories and commentaries seem to assume that the accusations of non-compliance mean that Russia is already building its cruise missiles and is poised to target them at Europe and maybe even has already. …

Before we bring back the Cold War confrontation over intermediate-range missiles in Europe, it would be useful to look at what Russia’s new missiles actually are and, more importantly, what they are not. In the Compliance Reports, the United States deliberately published very little information about the alleged violation of the INF Treaty, giving rise to speculation and numerous theories.

Even though the information on the violation is extremely thin, we can say with high certainty that the system in question is a long-range cruise missile that is being developed for deployment on submarines. The INF Treaty does not prohibit development and deployment of sea-launched cruise missiles, even though for all practical purposes the same missiles could easily be deployed on land. The treaty also allows the parties to test their sea-launched cruise missiles from land, as long as the trials are conducted from a fixed launcher at a site that is used solely for testing. And here is where Russia came into conflict with the treaty: It either tested its cruise missile from a launcher that is not “fixed,” or from one that was used for another purpose at some point. Neither of these concepts is clearly defined in the treaty and although they seem self-explanatory, there is some room for interpretation and disagreement. …

Most of the solution is in Russia’s hands … [but] the United States could also help calm the situation down. … at this point it would be wise for Washington to reveal more details about the accusations and say clearly that Russia is not pointing its missiles at Europe. This alone would bring much-needed sanity to the discussion.

While Dr. Podvig is a Russian national, in my many conversations with him, I have found him to be both objective and authoritative. If you like what he has to say, watch his blog Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces.

Martin Hellman

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." Its soon to open website explains: https://anewmap.com.
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