By Jason Ditz
Initially ratified in 1987, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which famously kept all nuclear missiles out of Europe for decades, is set to collapse, with US officials saying they will withdraw from the treaty next month.
The US has been accusing Russia of violating the INF for years related to a single missile design, called the 9m729, and its maximum range. The INF forbids all nuclear missiles with ranges between 500 km and 5,500 km.
The core of this issue is that the 9m729 is being designed as a replacement for the 9k720 Iskander, a short-range ballistic missile that has a range of 400 km, and is subsequently compliant with IMF. Russia maintains that the new missile has only been tested to the 400 km range itself, and is therefore also complaint.
US officials, however, have accused the new missile of being comparable to the 3M-54 Kalibr, a submarine-launched missile with a range of 660 km. A submarine-launched missile of that range is allowed under INF, but a ground-based version would be banned. The US saw the similarity and concluded the new missile must have a similar, banned range.
Russia made a last-minute bid to save the INF on Wednesday, offering the US a “static display” look at the new missile to confirm what it is. US officials are demanding complete access to it, and unsurprisingly Russia isn’t willing to hand over a brand new missile system to the United States to take apart and study, which US officials are claiming is the only way to really know its potential maximum range.