Missile Misdemeanours: Russia and the INF Treaty Contents

3Violation of the Treaty

Indications of Russian violation

18.Concerns on the part of the United States that the Russian Federation had begun violating the Treaty first arose in the late 2000s. At the centre of these concerns is a ground-launched cruise missile known in Russia as the 9M729, to which NATO has given the reporting name SSC-8 ‘Screwdriver’. The US Director of National Intelligence concluded in a briefing published in November 2018:

We assess that Russia began the covert development of an intermediate-range, ground-launched cruise missile designated 9M729 probably by the mid-2000s. The 9M729 has a conventional and nuclear warhead capability… Russia began testing the missile in the late 2000’s and by 2015 had completed a comprehensive flight test program consisting of multiple tests of the 9M729 missile from both fixed and mobile launchers. Russia conducted the flight test program in a way that appeared purposefully designed to disguise the true nature of their testing activity as well as the capability of the 9M729 missile.18

Frank Miller told us that:

the Russian Government made a cynical decision sometime in 2008 or so that they needed to break out of the treaty19

19.These initial concerns were complemented by a number of indications that Russia was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with its obligations under the Treaty. Commentators have suggested that the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his advisors had been contemplating withdrawal from the Treaty as early as 2000.20 Frank Miller told us that that Russia had approached the US Government on multiple occasions during the George W. Bush administration to discuss the continuation of the Treaty and any suggestion that the Treaty be terminated had been rebuffed.21 He had been present at a meeting between the then Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Ivanov, and then US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and recalled that Mr Ivanov had not on that occasion elaborated on the reasons behind Russia’s dissatisfaction with the Treaty.22

20.Mr Rumsfeld’s successor Robert Gates mentioned similar discussions with Mr Ivanov in 2007, Russia’s stated concern being that the US and Russia were constrained by the Treaty from developing missile systems where other nations were not.23 This theme was also present in President Putin’s 2007 speech to the Munich Security Conference:

I would like to recall that in the 1980s the USSR and the United States signed an agreement on destroying a whole range of small- and medium-range missiles but these documents do not have a universal character. Today many other countries have these missiles, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Pakistan and Israel. Many countries are working on these systems and plan to incorporate them as part of their weapons arsenals. And only the United States and Russia bear the responsibility to not create such weapons systems. It is obvious that in these conditions we must think about ensuring our own security.24

This was followed by a Russian proposal to the United Nations in 2007 to open the INF Treaty to all other states possessing short and intermediate range missile systems. This proposal failed to attract support.25 In 2013 President Putin questioned the wisdom of the USSR signing the Treaty in the first place, calling the decision “debatable to say the least”.26 We look at potential Russian motivations for abandoning their obligations in more detail in the next section.

21.In May 2013 officials at the US State Department again raised with their Russian counterparts concerns over compliance. These concerns were met with denials from Russia that there had been any violation. Diplomatic engagement on these issues continued through 2013. The US also began engaging with NATO allies on these concerns in January 2014.27 The first public US accusation of Russian violation came in the July 2014 US State Department’s Annual Compliance Report on adherence to arms control agreements:

The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.28

President Obama wrote to President Putin to convey these findings and underlined that the US was willing to enter into dialogue to sustain the Treaty in the hope that Russia would come back to compliance.29 The Russian response was to call the US allegations “unsupported” and state that no evidence had been presented to substantiate the allegations.30 The NATO 2014 Wales Summit Declaration called on Russia to “preserve the viability of the INF Treaty through ensuring full and verifiable compliance”, the first collective reference by NATO to the issue.31

22.Dialogue between American and Russian representatives continued. The accusation of Russian violation through testing of a GLCM system was repeated in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Compliance Reports. For the first time since 2003 the US requested a meeting of the Special Verification Commission (SVC) in late 2016, but this meeting did not assuage American concerns.32 In March 2017 General Paul Selva, the Vice-Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House of Representatives Armed Service Committee that the Russian GLCM had moved past development and had now been deployed.33

23.After a year of further engagement with Russia and consultation with NATO allies, in November 2017 the US publicly identified the SSC-8 with its Russian designator 9M729 as the system concerned in the Treaty violation. The subsequent presentation by the US Director of National Intelligence quoted in paragraph 18 went into detail on how Russia had sought to disguise the violation by conducting parallel tests from fixed and mobile launchers.34 Russia, which up to this point had denied the existence of the offending missile system, did acknowledge its existence after the US publication of the 9M729 designator, but denied that the missile had exceeded the Treaty limits and continued to claim that the US had provided no evidence to prove the allegations.35

24.The US Government further announced that it would initiate an Integrated Strategy in response to Russian violations. This would encompass a range of diplomatic, economic and military measures. Attempts to find a diplomatic solution through the SVC and other viable channels would continue. New economic sanctions would be placed on companies involved in the development and manufacture of the SSC-8. Research and development of new missile systems would be considered. These coercive economic and military measures would cease if Russia returned to compliance with the Treaty.36 Further details on the military response were given by the US Department of Defense in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The Pentagon confirmed that “the United States is commencing INF Treaty-compliant research and development by reviewing military concepts and options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems.” The NPR continued:

the United States will pursue a nuclear-armed SLCM [sea-launched cruise missile], leveraging existing technologies to help ensure its cost effectiveness. SLCM will provide a needed non-strategic regional presence, an assured response capability, and an INF-Treaty compliant response to Russia’s continuing Treaty violation. If Russia returns to compliance with its arms control obligations, reduces its non-strategic nuclear arsenal, and corrects its other destabilizing behaviors, the United States may reconsider the pursuit of a SLCM. Indeed, US pursuit of a SLCM may provide the necessary incentive for Russia to negotiate seriously a reduction of its non-strategic nuclear weapons, just as the prior Western deployment of intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe led to the 1987 INF Treaty.37

25.A further meeting of the SVC took place in December 2017 at US request, and again ended without progress being made.38 On 15 December 2017, NATO’s North Atlantic Council released a statement supporting the American efforts to engage with Russia and confirming NATO’s position that a Russian missile system had been identified which raised serious concerns about compliance.39 There was also a strong reference to the INF Treaty in the declaration following NATO’s Brussels Summit in July 2018:

A pattern of behaviour and information over many years has led to widespread doubts about Russian compliance. Allies believe that, in the absence of any credible answer from Russia on this new missile, the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the Treaty. NATO urges Russia to address these concerns in a substantial and transparent way, and actively engage in a technical dialogue with the United States. Allies will continue their efforts to engage Russia on this issue in bilateral and multilateral formats.40

26.On 20 October 2018 US President Donald Trump said after a political rally that the US would seek to withdraw from the INF Treaty due to Russian non-compliance.41 US National Security Adviser John Bolton, who was on his way to Moscow at the time, relayed this message to the Russian Government, also stating that the US was “a long way” from taking any decisions on new missile deployments in Europe.42 In spite of this, Russia responded by promising symmetrical counter-action, with President Putin stating that any European nations participating in new missile deployments “put their own territory at risk of a retaliatory strike”.43 The initial reaction from Europe was one of surprise and concern at the potential failure of the Treaty.44 Although it is clear that there had been close engagement between the US and NATO allies on the INF issue over a number of years, the UK Government was not aware of the substance of President Trump’s announcement before it was made, even if the announcement was in hindsight consistent with the American “direction of travel”.45

27.If the suddenness of the announcement caused some initial uncertainty, the US was very successful in moving swiftly to reaffirm consensus among NATO Allies in the face of continuing Russian denials. A robust and unequivocal collective position was the result. On 4 December 2018, a joint statement from the scheduled meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers was issued which concurred with the US view that Russia’s development and fielding of the 9M729 system was in violation of the Treaty and Russia was declared to be in material breach of its obligations.46 Alongside this, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the start of a 60-day period to give Russia an opportunity to return to compliance before the US began the process of formal withdrawal.47 Despite further talks in Geneva and at the NATO-Russia Council in January, Russia continued to deny any violation.48 A Russian effort to showcase the 9M729 publicly in January, to prove that the missile range fell short of the 500 kilometres necessary to bring it within the ambit of the INF Treaty was dismissed by NATO.49 According to a subsequent news report, the US intelligence community’s assessment is that the real 9M729 missile was not part of this display and that the equipment and schematics on display were not compatible with the dimensions of the 9M729 that had previously been observed.50

28.Secretary Pompeo announced on 1 February 2019 that the US was suspending its obligations under the Treaty and giving formal notice of withdrawal under Article 15, which would become effective six months later.51 This was accompanied by a further statement of support issued by the North Atlantic Council, reiterating the collective position that Russia is in material breach of the Treaty through its development and fielding of the 9M729. The statement noted that the US and NATO Allies had remained open to dialogue with Russia, but that no credible response or demonstrable steps to returning to compliance had been provided and that Allies fully supported the action the US had taken to initiate formal withdrawal from the Treaty. The statement also confirmed that NATO was closely reviewing the implications of new Russian intermediate-range missile deployments and taking the necessary steps to review its overall deterrence and defence posture.52 On 14 February, the European Parliament called for:

The Russian Federation to return to full and verifiable compliance, in order to address the concerns raised by the US and by NATO, in response to Russia’s continuing breach of the terms of the Treaty, and urges Russia’s commitment to the long-term future of the agreement53

President Putin’s response to the American notification was to announce a symmetrical suspension of obligations and the initiation of what Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu called “retaliatory measures”. These measures included the engineering of a ground-based variant of the sea-launched Kalibr missile, as well as the development of land-based launchers for hypersonic intermediate- and shorter-range missiles.54 In an address to the Russian Federal Assembly on 20 February, President Putin said:

Russia does not intend to deploy [intermediate-range] missiles in Europe first. If they really are built and delivered to the European continent, and the United States has plans for this, at least we have not heard otherwise, it will dramatically exacerbate the international security situation, and create a serious threat to Russia, because some of these missiles can reach Moscow in just 10–12 minutes. This is a very serious threat to us. In this case, we will be forced, I would like to emphasise this, we will be forced to respond with mirror or asymmetric actions.55

29.It is clear that over the past 20 years Russia has been growing increasingly dissatisfied with its obligations under the INF Treaty. The current Russian leadership’s view appears to be that it was a mistake for the Soviet Union to enter into the obligations that the Russian Federation has inherited. Russian officials have repeatedly sought ways to dilute or terminate Russia’s obligations under the Treaty. The covert development and deployment of the 9M729 missile has proceeded from this, and Russian obfuscation and denial have followed once the system was discovered.

30.Although the US has engaged with allies throughout the development of its concerns on Russian violation, the sudden announcement that the US was intending to withdraw was unexpected and the choreography of the announcement should have been more carefully managed. Consultation and co-ordination with European allies is vital on a matter so central to European security and this should be continually emphasised to the United States by the UK Government. Nonetheless, the US was able subsequently to create consensus within NATO on a robust position in support of its analysis and its actions.

31.The latest Russian responses continue to try to obfuscate and confuse. President Putin has stated that Russia will not be first to deploy intermediate-range missile systems “into Europe”; but the problem of the 9M729 missiles is their ability to threaten targets in Europe once deployed—as may well already be the case—in Western Russia. Russia’s announcement of a ‘symmetrical’ initiation of research and development into a new ground-based system is in reality an adaptation of an existing system which has been operational for some time.


32.We asked expert witnesses for an assessment of the motivations for Russia’s violation of the Treaty. They told us that the growing antipathy of the Russia’s leadership to its international obligations noted above, stemming from a belief that it was a mistake to enter into the INF Treaty can be complemented by a range of other likely concerns regarding national security and foreign policy.56

Nuclear posture

33.Frank Miller suggested that the impetus had come from Russian military planners concluding that the number of targets in both the United States and China which needed to be assigned to strategic nuclear weapons had grown, leading to a requirement for additional missiles to cover targets in Europe. New short- and intermediate-range nuclear missile systems assigned to European targets would release and make available the long-range strategic systems to cover more distant intercontinental targets.57 He also noted that the known deployments of the new Russian missiles have been in Western Russia (against Europe) rather than in locations covering China.58 The fact that the desired requirement was for a ground-launched system rather than an air- or sea-launched system was noted elsewhere in evidence.59 Mobile ground-launchers are more affordable to produce than the aircraft, ships and submarines that would be necessary for other delivery modes, allowing a large striking force to be built up at an acceptable cost. Furthermore, Russia’s geographical landmass allows mobile launchers to be widely dispersed to make them less vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike and to avoid detection during deployment and launch.60

34.Mr Miller also noted that the deployment of these weapons systems would be consistent with assessments of current Russian strategy and doctrine. This interpretation, referred to in the US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review as ‘escalate to de-escalate’ or ‘escalate to win’, imagines a scenario where Russia would contemplate limited first use of nuclear weapons to terminate a conventional conflict against NATO quickly and on favourable terms.61 He argued that this approach was evidenced in the doctrine of the Russian Armed Forces and is practiced in Russian exercises.62 Dr Heather Williams also noted the significant escalatory element of modern Russian missile systems being dual-capable (able to carry a conventional or a nuclear warhead), giving a wider range of escalatory options and increasing the uncertainty amongst Russia’s potential opponents as to whether they face a conventional or a nuclear threat.63 Dual-capable systems may enhance deterrence, but can also dramatically increase the possibility of miscalculation.64

Conventional posture

35.President Putin claims that the ground-based missiles eliminated by the Treaty comprised a large proportion of Russia’s intermediate-range inventory. By contrast, the United States’ extensive air- and sea-launched missile inventory was untouched by the Treaty. According to President Putin this amounted to “unilateral disarmament”,65 despite the removal of all of NATO’s ground-launched cruise and Pershing II missiles.

36.New ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles would provide a further addition to Russia’s already extensive inventory of conventional long-range precision strike capabilities which have seen considerable expansion over the past decade as the modernisation of the Russian Armed Forces has progressed. An emphasis on these strike capabilities has been part of Russian doctrine for many years and Russia has made high-profile use of such weapons throughout its military intervention in Syria. Analysts have speculated that the 9M729 is a land-based variant of the Kalibr 3M-14, a sea-launched cruise missile currently in Russian service.66 As mentioned in paragraph 28 above, the Kalibr is the very system which the Russian Defence Minister said on 2 February would now be adapted to ground-launch mode as a retaliatory measure for the US notification of withdrawal, alongside a new range of hypersonic weapons.67 Novator, the defence company which developed the Kalibr, is one of the Russian firms which has had sanctions applied against it under the US Government’s Integrated Strategy in response to INF violations.68 It was reported in January that a new sea-launched Kalibr variant, with a maximum range of over 4,500 kilometres, was already in development.69

37.In view of the particular suitability of ground-launched systems for Russian forces noted in paragraph 33 above, Dr Michael Fitzsimmons of the US Army War College has recently argued that a new ground-launched system would be an enhancement to the Russian military arsenal rather than a duplication of existing capabilities. Whether the addition of a ground-launched capability significantly changes the military balance in Russia’s favour, given NATO’s overall conventional superiority in force size and technology, remains disputed.70 Frank Miller has, for example, written elsewhere that the argument that NATO has overall conventional superiority ignores Russia’s regional superiority on NATO’s Eastern flank.71 The view of Dr Brad Roberts, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, is that:

These new ground-launched cruise missiles add range, mobility, and diversity to Russia’s regional strike posture, as well as assured penetration of missile defenses.72

Bureaucratic/industrial momentum

38.Dr Williams suggested that the 9M729 might not have been developed following a clear instruction from the Russian leadership, but could have come about as a result of independent bureaucratic or industrial initiative. She told us that the Russian military-industrial complex has a certain momentum of its own and might have begun developing and testing new capabilities without appreciating the political consequences.73 Jeremy Stocker agreed that it was certainly the case in the past that the Soviet defence industry was capable of generating military equipment without a stated requirement, and that the opaque governance structures of modern Russia based on personal relationships represented a degree of continuity.74 Dr Fitzsimmons also cited this as a possibility.75 On the other hand, Mr Barrie considered that accidental development and deployment of such a missile “seems unlikely, to be polite”.76 In any case, as Dr Williams noted, it still amounts to a violation which the Russian leadership has not sought to bring to an end.77

Political advantage

39.Witnesses have suggested that Russia is likely to be pursuing a range of political objectives. Although the circumstances today are different, the objective of dividing NATO in a similar way to the decoupling scenario of the 1970s would be a desirable aim for Russian foreign policy.78 In oral evidence Mr Miller drew parallels between President Putin’s comments on symmetrical missile deployments and those made by the Soviet leadership in the 1980s. He also argued that threats of retaliatory nuclear strikes against European states were designed to sow public division in the same way.79 The difficulties of persuading European allies to take overt military steps to counter new Russian capabilities are likely to be as acute as they were in the 1980s,80 and European pressure for a strong response which was led by leaders like Helmut Schmidt is not present in the same way today. Russia has sought to manipulate the narrative of events by seeking to place the blame on the US for the potential failure of the Treaty.81 As Mr Barrie argued, this is done for internal purposes in Russia as much as for external ones, allowing the Russian leadership to portray the INF issue as the latest in a succession of US and NATO aggressions against the Russian people.82 As Dr Roberts argues, the Russian action can in this way be seen as a part of the broader confrontation between Russia and the West, including the rejection of the rules-based international order and a test of the willingness of the United States and NATO to come to terms with the emergent threat.83

40.The British Government’s view was summed up by Ben Fender, Head of the Security Policy Department in the Defence and International Security Directorate at the FCO:

Some commentators have said that perhaps part of their intent in developing this system was not a military one but a political one, in order to make NATO more anxious, to reawaken memories of the past and to divide allies from one another. That may be true to an extent, but the very fact that they have sought to conceal it suggests that their primary objectives in pursuing this system have been military ones.84

Asia and the Middle East

41.A substantial issue which probably applies to both Russian and American motivations surrounding the INF is the proliferation of intermediate-range missile systems in Asia and the Middle East. Russian concerns over China, India, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were highlighted in the approaches made by Russia to the US on the status of the Treaty in the mid-2000s and were explicitly set out in President Putin’s 2007 Munich speech.85 China is the most significant actor in this regard given the size of its missile inventory and its status as an expanding military power. Jeremy Stocker said this was a “principal concern” for Russia, citing the large proportion of Chinese missiles that would fall into the prohibited categories of the Treaty, if China were a party to it, and the proliferation of such systems among other Middle Eastern and Asian nations near Russia’s southern borders.86 Brad Roberts also argued that Russian and American frustration about the situation in Asia had been a shared concern which prompted limited US support for Russian attempts to multilateralise the Treaty in 2007.87

42.There was a wider discussion in our evidence on China’s influence upon American motivations surrounding the INF Treaty.88 Dr Katarzyna Kubiak, Policy Fellow on Nuclear and Arms Control at the European Leadership Network, argued that this is not a new issue. China has possessed short and intermediate-range missiles since 1970 and, when the INF Treaty was signed in 1987, 75% of Chinese nuclear weapons would have fallen into prohibited categories if China had been a party to the Treaty. The renewed relevance of China according to Dr Kubiak is that it is now explicitly viewed by the US as a strategic competitor.89

43.This has been cited as a factor in American consideration of policy on the INF Treaty, as has been made clear by President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and National Security Adviser Bolton. It is also clear that there is a debate at senior levels within the US Armed Services on whether the INF Treaty undermines US defence capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region.90 The debate is still continuing and options for new US missile capabilities are still being considered. While there may be operational advantages in future American deployments of ground-based intermediate range-missiles in Asia, there is some doubt whether they are sufficiently clear to justify ending involvement in the INF Treaty. Issues such as where any new missiles would be based in the region and the political difficulties of seeking agreements from host governments would need to be resolved. The destabilising effect of such deployments in the region would also have to be considered.91 A number of witnesses have suggested that an effective way of securing the future of the Treaty would be by bringing China into its ambit.92 We will address this below at paragraph 60.

44.We broadly concur with the British Government’s view on the significance of the Asian security dimension in Russian and American motivations, which was well summed up by Mr Fender:

About a decade ago the Russians first started to float the idea that the treaty should perhaps be multilateralised. Their idea at the time was, “Well, China has ground-launched intermediate range missiles. Wouldn’t it be better to have a treaty that includes China as well?” I suspect that their motives in doing that were less to preserve the INF treaty and more to manufacture for themselves an excuse for wriggling out of it, because they wished to have INF-violating missiles for other reasons. I think that should not necessarily be taken at face value. Likewise, when you look through public comments made by senior US officials you will occasionally see speculation about whether or not it would be militarily advantageous for the United States to have these missiles in theatres other than Europe. However, I think it has been very clearly the position of the US Administration that they would wish to preserve this treaty if Russia comes back into compliance. So again it would not be true to say that the US is somehow less than enthusiastic about the treaty for non-Euro-Atlantic reasons. On the contrary, they have been putting a huge amount of effort into diplomacy to try to preserve the treaty. I think the China issue, or the east Asia issue, is out there as a talking point, but I suspect it is a bit of a distraction. We are in this situation for Euro-Atlantic reasons, I think.93

45.Russian motivations in pursuing the violation are diverse and overlapping. Its behaviour is consistent with the aggressive and revisionist policies that it has been actively pursuing in recent years—the use of multiple military, diplomatic, economic and political tools to challenge the rules-based international system and to seek a range of complementary effects which strengthen Russia’s own position. As we have seen elsewhere, these moves are accompanied by attempts to orchestrate the narrative of events in Russia’s favour and manipulate gullible and complicit elements in the West. When the violation was discovered in the case of the INF Treaty, outright denial was accompanied by an attempt to place the blame on the United States for undermining the continuation of the Treaty. This manipulation of the narrative must not be allowed to succeed. Russia will be solely responsible for failure of the INF Treaty because of Russian development of missile systems in clear violation of its provisions. The US should not be expected to subject itself to unilateral restraint to sustain a Treaty that has been rendered inoperative by another party.

46.Although it is recognised that the changing strategic situation in Asia is a factor in Russia’s violation of the Treaty and the US response to it, we reject the argument that the US is content to see the Treaty collapse, or has deliberately engineered its collapse, because it wishes to deploy ground-based cruise missiles in Asia against a growing threat from China. The US has at every stage shown willingness to continue its obligations under the Treaty if Russia returns to compliance and has said that it will halt the military and economic steps of its Integrated Strategy if this happens. This has been accompanied by a sustained US diplomatic effort to save the Treaty. Responsibility for the failure of the Treaty will lie with Russia alone.

Allegations of US violations

47.The Russian denials of any violation of the Treaty are commonly accompanied by counter-accusations that the US has been in violation, shown most recently in the account of President Putin’s meeting with his Defence and Foreign Ministers on 2 February where Russia announced that it was suspending its participation.94 These allegations fall into three broad categories:

Unmanned aerial vehicles/drones

48.Russia argues that the many types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that the US operates fall into the category of a ground-launched cruise missile under the Treaty’s definition. The US rejects this definition, pointing to the numerous differences between cruise missiles and UAVs, for example that the latter are two-way, re-usable systems, which cruise missiles are not.95 The US notes that these concerns were addressed in the SVC meeting of 2003 and were not raised again by Russia until after the US challenged Russia on its violations in the 2015 compliance reporting period.96 This suggests that that the Russian challenge is opportunist rather than substantive.

Missile defence targets

49.Russia has argued that certain variants of US target missiles used for the testing of missile defence interceptors are powered by rocket motors or use guidance systems which were salvaged and recycled from old missiles prohibited and eliminated under the INF regime. The US has replied that the use of old booster stages is specifically permitted under the Treaty as long as the missiles in which they are used are not tested or adapted for weapons delivery. Missile defence targets do not carry warheads, so would not fall into this category. The Treaty also specifically permits the removal of guidance systems and their re-use in Treaty-compliant missiles.97 Like the UAV issue, the US claims these concerns were addressed in the SVC meeting of 2003 and were not raised again until after the US challenged Russia on its violations in the 2015 compliance reporting period.98

Deployment of Mark 41 launchers

50.As part of its European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), the United States has begun deploying a missile defence interceptor system, known as Aegis Ashore in Romania, and has planned deployments in Poland. An initiative of the Obama Administration, EPAA is not directed against Russia and is not capable of diluting the effectiveness of the Russian strategic deterrent by intercepting ICBMs.99 EPAA sites use the Mark 41 vertical launch system (VLS) which is the same type of launcher used on US Navy vessels to launch Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs). Russia argues that the use of the Mk 41 VLS is a breach of the Treaty because these launchers have the capacity to launch GLCMs, even though they have only ever been used to launch SLCMs. The US argues that as the Mark 41 has never been used to test or launch a GLCM, then it does not fall within the Treaty definition. The prohibition in the Treaty is against launchers that launch GLCMs, not any cruise missile. Moreover the US also argues that the Mk 41 launchers used in the Aegis Ashore system are not the same as the shipboard versions that fire SLCMs. The electronics and software are different and the launchers are capable of firing only defensive interceptor missiles, not cruise missiles such as Tomahawk.100

51.Dr Williams told us “I really do not see any validity, technically, to the Russian allegations”.101 Mr Barrie pointed out that it would make no sense for the US to put an offensive missile system on to a fixed launcher in a location that was well known, as a Russian strike could easily disable the system. Dr Stocker agreed and added that the Americans did not need to do this, as a sea-launched Tomahawk would be able to reach any number of Russian targets that the US might want to strike. He made the further point (which was echoed by Mr Miller) that it would be impossible to deploy cruise missiles in Romania (or Poland subsequently) without the knowledge of the governments and the wider public in those countries.102 Dr Kubiak observed that the US was bound by its agreement with Romania that the site is to be used exclusively for self-defence purposes and that the Romanian Government has to be notified of any changes to the interceptors or the launch facility.103

52.The weight of the evidence that the Committee has received suggests that these Russian allegations totally lack in credibility. They were described by Ben Fender of the FCO as “complete nonsense”.104 The statement of NATO Foreign Ministers of 4 December 2018 confirmed that: “The United States has remained in full compliance with its obligations under the INF Treaty since it entered into force.”105

53.The Russian counter-allegations that the United States has violated the Treaty are spurious. If Russia had genuine concerns over US compliance, it also had ample opportunity to seek reassurance from the US through the mechanisms which exist within the Treaty. In raising questions over US compliance at this late stage, Russia is seeking to draw attention away from its own violations and to make it appear as if the US is to blame for the failure of the Treaty. We endorse the collective view of NATO, as established in the joint statement of 4 December 2018, that the US has remained in full compliance with its obligations under the Treaty since it entered into force.

UK response

54.The British Government’s response has largely followed that of other European allies, based on a desire to sustain the Treaty if possible, but with a growing realisation that Russia is unlikely to return to compliance, followed by strong support of the action the US is taking. An early UK response, after President Trump’s announcement in October 2018, came from the Defence Secretary Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP on 21 October. He said that the UK stood “absolutely resolute” with the United States following President Trump’s announcement of the intention to withdraw:

We of course want to see this treaty continue to stand but it does require two parties to be committed to it and at the moment you have one party that is ignoring it. It is Russia that is in breach and it is Russia that needs to get its house in order.106

In the days following the announcement Ministers underlined the importance of the Treaty for European security and the UK’s wish to see it preserved. It was emphasised that the US had at that point not announced an intention formally to withdraw from the Treaty, that diplomatic engagement was continuing giving Russia an opportunity to come back to compliance, and that close consultation was taking place within NATO.107

55.During our January 2019 oral evidence session, we asked Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the FCO, whether he thought that the Russians would have moved back into compliance by the end of the 60-day period set on 4 December. He replied “We hope they will, but we are realistic. I don’t think many people think they will, particularly as they have not even admitted that they are not in compliance”. The Minister and Mr Fender highlighted the diplomatic efforts that were continuing in Geneva and at the NATO-Russia, but on the basis of the Russian refusal to acknowledge the violation they stated: “We don’t think they have so far engaged in any serious and meaningful discussions to address the problem”.108 Following the US announcement of suspension in February, the FCO Minister of State Rt Hon Mark Field MP confirmed to the House of Commons that despite these further opportunities to engage on compliance:

I have to inform the House that Russia has not taken that opportunity. It has offered no credible response, only obfuscation and contradictions designed to mislead. This of course fits a wider pattern of behaviour from Russia aimed at undermining our collective security. We and all NATO allies therefore support the US decision to suspend its participation in the treaty and to trigger the formal withdrawal process. NATO is unified on this process. It is Russia’s fault alone that we have arrived at this point. President Putin’s statements in the last few days announcing that Russia, too, will suspend its obligations was unsurprising given the fact that it has violated the treaty over the years. Nevertheless, even at this late stage, we urge Russia to change course. The treaty’s six-month withdrawal process offers Russia a final opportunity to return to compliance through the full and verifiable destruction of all its 9M729 systems. That is the best—indeed, the only—way to preserve the treaty.109

56.The British Government acknowledges the contribution that the INF Treaty has made to European security and that a determined effort should be made to preserve the Treaty if Russia can be brought back into compliance. It is right for the Government to recognise that there is still time for diplomacy and that efforts to find a diplomatic solution should continue.

57.It is also right, however, to recognise both that the Treaty should not be allowed to continue at any cost and that diplomatic solutions alone cannot be indefinitely pursued. Permitting a dysfunctional INF Treaty to continue in spite of Russia’s violation would be a weak response which would do nothing to improve European security. On the contrary, it would reward Russian bad faith, alienate the United States from European allies and undermine arms control more generally. Accordingly, the Government is to be commended for lending its strong support to the United States, individually and within NATO, and to the approach the US has taken since evidence of the Russian violation first arose.

19 Q64. See also Dr Brad Roberts (INF0012)

20Saving the INF Treaty’, Carnegie Moscow Center, 7 March 2018

21 Q64

22 Q67. See also Putin rails against US foreign policy’, Financial Times, 10 February 2007

23 Congressional Research Service, Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress, updated 8 February 2019, p 24, quoting from Gates R M, Duty: Memoirs of A Secretary at War, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014, p. 154.

24 Website of the President of the Russian Federation, Speech and the Following Discussion at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, 10 February 2007

26US says it may restart intermediate nuclear missile development’, Financial Times, 10 December 2017

27 US State Department, INF Diplomatic Timeline, updated 1 February 2019

29U.S. Says Russia Tested Cruise Missile, Violating Treaty’, New York Times, 28 July 2014

31 NATO, Wales Summit Declaration, 5 September 2014, para 53

32 US State Department, INF Diplomatic Timeline, updated 1 February 2019

36 US State Department, Trump Administration INF Treaty Integrated Strategy, 8 December 2017; ‘U.S. presses Russia to comply with nuclear missile treaty’, Reuters, 8 December 2017; US State Department, INF Diplomatic Timeline, updated 1 February 2019;

37 US Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review 2018, pp 10; 55. See also Qq 48–52.

38 US State Department, 2018 Report on Adherence To And Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, And Disarmament Agreements And Commitments, 17 April 2018

40 NATO, Brussels Summit Declaration, 11 July 2018, para 46

41Remarks by President Trump Before Air Force One Departure’, WhiteHouse.gov, 20 October 2018

43 ‘EU, Russia urge US not to withdraw from INF Treaty’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 25 October 2018

45 Qq123–126; Foreign and Commonwealth Office (INF0014)

47 US State Department, Press Availability at NATO Headquarters, 4 December 2018

49 ‘NATO rejects Russian claims that 9M729 GLCM is INF Treaty-compliant’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 25 January 2019

51 US State Department, Remarks to the Press, 1 February 2019

54Meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu’, Website of the President of the Russian Federation, 2 February 2019

55Presidential Address to Federal Assembly’, Website of the President of the Russian Federation, 20 Feburary

56 Q11; Q74; Qq82–3; Qq120–2

57 Qq82–84

58 Qq67–69

59 Human Security Centre (INF0003)

60 Fitzsimmons, M, ‘Russian Strategy and the End of the INF Treaty’, Survival, 60:6 (2018), pp 123–124. See also Q55, Q120.

61 US Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review 2018, p 30

62 Qq86–87

63 Q7; Dr Brad Roberts (INF0012)

64 Acton, J M, ‘The Weapons Making Nuclear War More Likely’, BBC News, 8 February 2019

65 Human Security Centre (INF0003)

66 Human Security Centre (INF0003)

67Meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu’, Website of the President of the Russian Federation, 2 February 2019; Russian Defence Minister General of the Army Sergei Shoigu holds teleconference with leadership of Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, 5 February 2019

68 ‘US sanctions two Russian firms for INF Treaty violations’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 22 December 2017

70 Fitzsimmons, M, ‘Russian Strategy and the End of the INF Treaty’, Survival, 60:6 (2018), 119–136

72 Dr Brad Roberts (INF0012)

73 Q11

74 Q20. At Q71 Frank Miller also notes the (occasionally intentional) dislocation that occurred between the Soviet Foreign and Defence Ministries on arms control treaties.

75 Fitzsimmons, M, ‘Russian Strategy and the End of the INF Treaty’, Survival, 60:6 (2018), pp 126–127

76 Q18

77 Q11

78 Q7 [Dr Heather Williams]; Q122 [Ben Fender]

79 Q73

80 Q55; Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy (INF0009)

81 Q137

82 Q28

83 Dr Brad Roberts (INF0012)

84 Q122

85 See paragraph 19 above.

86 Q11

87 Dr Brad Roberts (INF0012). See para 20 above.

88 Medact (INF0005); Dr Wyn Rees and Azriel Bermant (INF0006)

89 Dr Katarzyna Kubiak (INF0011)

90 See for example Admiral Harry Harris USN, Commander, US Pacific Command, Oral testimony to the United States Senate Armed Services Committee, 27 April 2017; Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy (INF0009)

92 BASIC (INF0004); Dr Wyn Rees and Azriel Bermant (INF0006)

93 Q140

94Meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu’, Website of the President of the Russian Federation, 2 February 2019

96 US State Department, 2015 Report on Adherence To And Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, And Disarmament Agreements And Commitments, 5 June 2015

98 US State Department, 2015 Report on Adherence To And Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, And Disarmament Agreements And Commitments, 5 June 2015

100 Dr Katarzyna Kubiak (INF0011); Congressional Research Service, Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress, updated 8 February 2019, pp 28–29

101 Q25

102 Q26; Q85

103 Dr Katarzyna Kubiak (INF0011)

104 Q122

106UK backs Trump withdrawal from Russia nuclear treaty’, The Guardian, 21 October 2018

107 HL Deb, 24 October 2018, c 863; HC Deb, 25 October 2018, c 439

108 Q131

109 HC Deb, 4 February 2019, cc 45–46

Published: 4 April 2019