By Jason Ditz
(ANTIWAR.COM) — On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree which suspended Russian participation in the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The decision came after the US announced their intention to withdraw from the same treaty earlier this year.
The INF was negotiated in 1987 between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and banned land-based nuclear missiles of a certain range. It effectively took nuclear arms out of Europe.
The deal was successful for years, though in the past decade the US started accusing Russia of a perceived violation surrounding a single class of missile. Russia offered inspections of the missiles, and even put one on public display for foreign reporters and officials to access. The US insisted this was insufficient.
The alleged violation was based around the potential range of the missile. Russia maintained it was tested and fitted for shorter range than the INF covers. The US saw it as similar enough to a sea-based missile that it would have a range that the INF might cover. But the US never proved it, and instead spent years complaining until they finally abandoned the deal this year.
This has led Russia to believe that the US intends to put missiles back into Europe, which the US denies. Putin has threatened a substantial nuclear buildup if the US does so, and in suspending the deal, might start developing missiles that are actually designed to violate INF.
If the US is telling the truth about not wanting missiles in Europe, then the decision to withdraw from the INF was foolish, as it only ends Russia’s obligations, and permits them to develop more missiles.
Either way, the INF seems virtually dead now, and the US has made all the decisions on killing it. The failure to engage with Russia on the perceived violation shows it was never about a single class of missiles, but about giving the US a pretext to dishonor the deal.