Missile Misdemeanours: Russia and the INF Treaty Contents

4Future action

Diplomatic options

58.Witnesses proposed a range of options which could provide a basis for a diplomatic settlement. They emphasised the importance of developing new transparency and confidence-building measures to increase trust and establish reciprocal obligations through the Special Verification Commission and existing inspection frameworks. Dr Williams suggested reciprocal inspection arrangements which would allow the US to inspect the 9M729 to determine its range and in return the Russia could inspect the Mark 41 VLS systems, allowing both parties to satisfy their concerns on these respective systems.110 Other contributors raised this possibility, including Dr Kubiak whose written evidence noted that the proposal has substantial (although not universal) support amongst other commentators.111 The discussion in evidence on the Mark 41 VLS, including the need for states where they are based to permit access the launchers to be inspected, is laid out from paragraph 50 above.

59.A second option could be to amend the Treaty to render its restrictions less onerous on the parties. This could include restricting the geographical extent of the Treaty so that the ban on ground-launched missiles applied only in Europe and not elsewhere in the world.112 Frank Miller recalled that the Soviet Union promoted this during the original Treaty negotiations, but the US rejected the proposal because of the concerns of its Asian allies.113 Missiles on mobile launchers could, in any case, be quickly redeployed to the European theatre in times of crisis. Mr Barrie suggested that an alternative would be to amend the types of weapons covered by the Treaty. Thus removing cruise missiles from the Treaty would help to preserve the Treaty, allow Russia not to have to admit its breaches publicly, and might provide at least a partial answer to concerns within the US military about the situation in Asia. This amendment should be limited to subsonic cruise missiles, as otherwise there was a risk of triggering a destabilising proliferation of high-speed and hypersonic weapons.114

60.As discussed above in paragraph 41, several states outside the Treaty deploy intermediate-range missiles. Some witnesses argued that an attempt to include further countries in the Treaty might address the concerns of Russia and the US about being constrained by the Treaty in their responses to proliferation.115 But attempts at multilateralisation on these grounds have previously been explored without success.116 The FCO point out that the other states concerned have yet to be persuaded of the merits of eliminating their intermediate-range missile inventories.117 It is difficult to see what incentive states which have invested heavily in ground-launched, intermediate-range systems and depend on them for their security would have to sign up to a Treaty which would require their elimination. These considerations are particularly relevant to China. Estimates suggest that up to 90% of China’s missile force would fall into short or intermediate-range categories,118 and most Chinese nuclear weapons are deployed on ground-launched systems.119 China’s lack of interest in joining the INF Treaty was clearly stated at the February 2019 Munich Security Conference. In response to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calls for China to play a part in disarmament negotiations which might solve the INF issue,120 Chinese representative Yang Jiechi said:

China develops its capabilities strictly according to its defensive needs and doesn’t pose a threat to anybody else. So we are opposed to the multilateralization of the INF.

Retired Chinese General Yao Yunzhu was quoted as telling conference delegates that a new arms control agreement could work only if air- and sea-launched systems were part of the negotiations, given China’s reliance on ground-launched systems.121

61.Some witnesses argued that rather than seeking to amend the INF Treaty, it should be replaced by a much more comprehensive arms control agreement. However, such an ambitious undertaking would depend upon a transformation in East-West relations from their current deep-frozen and distrustful state.

Public presentation of intelligence

62.The sharing of US intelligence on a private basis with NATO allies has been decisive in bringing the Alliance to a collective position on the INF issue.122 As was done to great effect during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the US could publish and present the evidence proving Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty at a session of the United Nations. The photographic exposure, to the Security Council, of Soviet missiles and bases in Cuba decisively undermined the Soviet Union’s denials that their build-up was taking place. Soviet claims that the evidence was fake were largely ineffective. Accounts of the crisis suggest that the British Government played a useful part in convincing the US Government to release the incriminating material.123

63.In the case of the INF Treaty, it is clear that the Russians have already changed their position as a result of the US providing some evidence of the intelligence it holds on Russian missile programmes. Before US publication of the 9M729 designator in November 2017, the Russians denied the missile existed. Once the designator was made public, Russia was forced to acknowledge that it did exist as a distinct missile system. This demonstrated both the reflexive dishonesty of Russia in these matters, and the benefits of bringing such information into the open when circumstances permit. The decision to reveal the designator publicly was undoubtedly taken only after considerable deliberation and debate amongst the US Government and intelligence agencies; but it has been shown to be effective. In November 2018, the US Director of National Intelligence also publicly discussed details of how Russia has sought to camouflage and conceal the missile’s development by conducting parallel tests.124

64.Since it first approached the Russian Government about its concerns on compliance, the US has sought and actively pursued a diplomatic solution to the impasse over the INF Treaty. Russia’s refusal to acknowledge its violations is the central obstacle to any diplomatic progress. In spite of this, the US Government has continued to engage with Russia and has shown willingness to put relations onto a better footing if Russia changes its stance, even at this late stage.

65.Proposals for reciprocal inspections of the 9M729 and the Mark 41 VLS systems carry some risk of giving credence to Russian allegations of US violation which have been described to us as spurious. Reciprocal inspections may also require the permission of those third states hosting the Mark 41 launchers, which may not be forthcoming. Nevertheless, the willingness of the parties to engage in confidence-building measures based on reciprocal inspections should be explored as a basis for further diplomatic efforts.

66.A number of options have been suggested which involve amending the Treaty. Changing the geographical ambit of the Treaty or reducing restrictions on certain categories of weaponry will weaken arms control and might create new security risks. For example, restricting the Treaty to Europe might well have a destabilising influence in Asia. Similarly, removing certain categories of previously prohibited weapons from its scope might well result in further proliferation. Making such changes would also reward Russian bad faith. Russia should not be able to gain a more advantageous settlement through violating the Treaty.

67.The current state of relations between Russia and the West makes prospects for negotiating new nuclear treaties extremely challenging. Should such prospects improve, one vital lesson to apply from the fate of the INF Treaty is clearly that permanent verification procedures must be built into any future agreement.

68.Bringing into the INF Treaty further countries, which currently have no restrictions on intermediate-range missile development, is a theoretical possibility. But there is little appetite for this option amongst the states concerned and little to incentivise them to participate.

69.The intelligence proving Russian violation of the INF Treaty is owned by the United States and only the US can decide how much material can be placed in the public domain. The precedents of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the publication of the 9M729 designator in 2017 show that making intelligence public is effective in strengthening a case internationally. If it is possible to do so without compromising intelligence sources and methods, exposure of Russia’s flouting of the INF Treaty in an international forum like the United Nations could significantly influence world opinion and lay the guilt where it rightly belongs, so long as it is accompanied by a full-spectrum communications strategy. The British Government should give the US Government full encouragement and support in exposing and demonstrating how Russia has broken the Treaty provisions.

70.The UK should continue to emphasise to the US the central role the INF Treaty plays in European security, as long as both Russia and the US comply with its provisions, and therefore the importance of consultation with allies and maintaining NATO unity.

US, NATO and UK defence policy

71.The US announced as part of the Integrated Strategy, and confirmed in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), that it was commencing INF Treaty-compliant research and development by reviewing military concepts and options for ground-launched intermediate-range missile systems—steps that are directly linked to the Russian violation which the US would discontinue if Russia returns to compliance.125 The US Congress has also mandated programmes of research and evaluation into new ground-launched missile systems in successive National Defense Authorisation Acts.126 The US has, however, not made any decision to manufacture or deploy new ground-launched intermediate-range missiles in Europe. The NATO Secretary General has said that the Alliance has no intention of deploying ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe.127

72.The NPR confirmed that the US will be enhancing its air- and sea-launched nuclear capabilities, which will help offset any new ground-launched Russian systems. For example, the US’s proposed Long Range Stand-Off (LRSO) weapon is an air-launched missile currently in development. Particular attention has been paid to enhancing non-strategic nuclear capabilities to dispel any Russian misconception that the US could not respond to a limited, low-yield first use of nuclear weapons. This includes modifying a number of US Trident warheads to give a low-yield option and in the longer term pursuing a new nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile system.128 Witnesses argued that tailoring existing air- and sea-launched systems would be preferable to mirroring Russian ground-launched systems on a like-for-like basis.129 The role that the UK has played in the past to support these US capabilities in Europe was discussed and how this might be relevant in the future.130 New ground-launched nuclear missiles may therefore not be necessary to provide a credible and proportionate response, as NATO would be able to offset new Russian deployments with its superiority in air- and sea-launched systems. Dr Roberts argued that conventional ground-launched systems could be one part of a wider Alliance response alongside greater emphasis on nuclear sharing and missile defence to maintain the credibility of NATO’s deterrent and send a strong message to Russia.131 Mr Barrie also told us that a nuclear response is not necessarily inevitable as there are other conventional options available.132

73.The NPR also confirmed that the US would continue its modernisation of the B61 tactical nuclear weapons system which forms the basis of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements as set out in Appendix 1. As both Dr Stocker133 and Mr Miller134 told us, the B61 had its origins in the 1960s and is long overdue for modernisation, a process which began over a decade ago and is independent of the INF issue. Tactical nuclear strike capability is also being integrated into the F-35 as a potential replacement for the dual-capable aircraft (DCA) requirement of Allied air forces to continue the nuclear sharing mission, although as Dr Stocker pointed out, this requires the European governments participating in nuclear sharing to make the necessary investment in an aircraft capable of performing the DCA role.135

74.As Mr Fender told us, NATO has been in a process of adaptation in response to Russian aggression and military modernisation over a number of years.136 The defence investment pledge, expansion of the NATO Response Force, the institution of Enhanced Forward Presence, command structure reform and the recent announcements on readiness are all part of this, as is the continuing US commitment to the defence of Europe through the European Deterrence Initiative.137 The joint statements which have emerged from NATO and the statements of Government Ministers from late 2018 have confirmed that the Alliance is in the process of reviewing its own deterrence and defence posture in response to the Russian INF violation.138 On 13 February, Mr Stoltenberg confirmed that although NATO’s priority was for the Treaty to continue, the Alliance was also “preparing for a world without the INF Treaty”. Any steps taken will be “will be defensive, measured and coordinated” and the Secretary General again confirmed that there was no intention to deploy new nuclear ground-launched missiles.139

75.As well as looking at capabilities themselves, a review of next steps might also mandate a re-examination of underlying policy. Witnesses have observed that NATO’s Strategic Concept, the official document that outlines NATO’s enduring purpose and nature, and its fundamental security tasks, was last updated in 2010.140 The last NATO Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR), an analysis of the range of strategic threats facing NATO and review of Alliance posture to meet these threats (including nuclear posture), was undertaken in 2012.141 Dr Roberts said in written evidence:

[NATO] has a strategic concept from a world gone by (2010) and a tous azimuts deterrence and defense posture that has adapted only incrementally to new challenges since 2014. NATO describes itself as an alliance without enemies; Russia has developed an entire theory of war with NATO and tailor-made the doctrine and forces to win.142

Dr Williams also told us in oral evidence:

in the event of US withdrawal from INF, it would seem timely and necessary for NATO to write a new DDPR; to revisit NATO’s nuclear planning among the three nuclear powers within NATO; and to consider whether NATO needs to have a new nuclear doctrine or posture.143

76.The Ministry of Defence told us in written evidence that the deployment of new Russian intermediate-range missiles “not only represents a Russian capability enhancement, but is also further demonstration of their strategic intent” and confirmed that “The UK is engaged with NATO to assess the military implications for NATO in the event that Russia does not return to verifiable compliance”. The MoD’s evidence also stated that they did not consider that new Russian missile deployments significantly increased the risk to UK forces currently deployed in Europe. The close level of engagement between the US and NATO over the preceding two years was emphasised, and this would continue as deliberations on defence and deterrence posture proceed.144

77.Frank Miller said that NATO governments need to do a better job in putting out a positive message about NATO, to show why the organisation was still relevant and essential to European security. He argued that as the Cold War becomes more distant in public memory, it will become more difficult to make the case:

The whole of Government, which is an interesting term, effort in the United States, the United Kingdom and every other NATO country, needs to be engaged in putting out a positive message. I think I may have said the last time I was in front of this Committee, the demographics suggested four years ago that between about 28% and 30% of the populations of NATO countries were born after the fall of the Berlin wall. In Turkey at that time four years ago it was 40-odd per cent. If, as people who have been through the Cold War, we don’t explain to our populations why NATO continues to exist and what the threat is from the east—that Vladimir Putin is not a good neighbour—then shame on us. We know how to do this, but we are not doing it effectively. Shame on us.145

78.NATO is a currently reviewing the security implications of new Russian missile deployments in Europe and the steps which may be necessary to maintain the Alliance’s deterrence and defence posture. This detailed evaluation must proceed through NATO on a collective and consultative basis and we do not seek to pre-empt the process by prescribing steps that should be taken. The result must, however, be robust and clearly a response to Russian actions. Russia must not be able to gain military advantage through its Treaty violation.

79.The United States is already taking certain military steps in direct response to the Treaty violation, with the proviso that they will be discontinued if Russia returns to compliance. Others, many of which were initiated under previous US administrations, are part of a broader strategy of nuclear modernisation to sustain a credible posture of deterrence. Just as the deployment track was a vital part of NATO’s Dual Track policy in the past, a strong response is needed today and this may entail further military options. This does not mean that the same solutions based, as in the 1980s, on like-for-like ground-launched missile deployments are the right ones for NATO today. The Alliance should seek to enhance its existing strengths in military posture. This can be done while continuing to hold the possibility of diplomatic options open. We expect the UK Government to play a full role in NATO’s evaluation of the military implications arising from the Russian violation of the INF Treaty and to update the Committee with the outcome of this process once it is complete.

80.An evaluation of capability should be accompanied by a re-examination of underlying policy. NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept and 2012 Deterrence and Defence Posture Review may need updating to reflect a worsening strategic environment. The UK should play a full part in any review of key NATO doctrine.

81.NATO governments must do better at explaining to their populations why the Alliance is essential to European security. Russia’s behaviour in respect of the INF Treaty gives the clearest indication of the continuing relevance of NATO and governments will need public support to take robust steps in response to Russia’s violation. We ask the Government to provide further details of the steps it is taking alongside NATO allies, to make the positive case for NATO and its response to Russian violation of the INF Treaty.

Impact on future arms control

82.Dr Williams argued that the Russian violation, if allowed to go unchallenged or permitted on the basis that the Treaty must be saved at any cost, undermined arms control more generally:

Your question is essentially: is INF worth saving? It really depends on whether the Russians are interested in coming back into compliance. If they are not interested in that and will continue to violate the treaty, then no, there are limits to the length that we will go to in order to save INF. If you have a treaty that one side blatantly violates for years on end, and they do not come back into compliance, that also undermines a lot of the benefits of arms control that you were outlining. It undermines the credibility of arms control agreements; it undermines dialogue and transparency.146

As Brad Roberts put it in written evidence:

We cannot both ignore treaty violations and call for a stronger commitment to a rules-based international order.147

83.Witnesses raised the implications of the potential failure of the Treaty for other international arms control agreements. Sir Alan Duncan told us:

NATO Foreign Ministers have reiterated that Russia’s behaviour erodes the foundations of arms control more widely because all effective arms control agreements rely on the parties having confidence that those agreements will be respected. What we have seen from the Russians is that, while they do implement certain treaties—New START is a fair example—they take an approach to others, such as the INF or the chemical weapons convention, that not only undermines those agreements but is deeply corrosive to the rules-based system more generally.148

84.There was widespread concern in evidence about the future of the New START, a bilateral treaty between the US and Russia that sets limits on deployments of strategic nuclear weapons. New START is due to expire in 2021, and this—alongside the failure of the INF Treaty—would mean that for the first time in decades there would be no major nuclear arms control treaties in force. There is provision within the New START for extension for a further five years, but the lack of trust and bad feeling around the INF issue may prove a barrier to progress.149

85.There are also implications for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime and the next quinquennial NPT Review Conference due to take place in 2020. As Dr Williams observed, Review Conferences have become increasingly difficult as impatience among non-nuclear weapons states has grown at what they see as slow progress of nuclear weapons states in implementing the NPT’s disarmament obligations. The failure of the INF Treaty and the prospect of new deployments of nuclear or dual-capable weapons is likely to aggravate this.150 Mr Fender acknowledged this risk:

the loss of the INF treaty, if that is where we end up, is another element of a worsening security environment generally and one that perhaps makes it harder to go as far as countries like the UK would like in terms of disarmament. I think what that says for the NPT is that ahead of the next review conference we all need to redouble our efforts on all pillars of the NPT—whether that is proliferation, and the challenges brought by Iran and North Korea, or disarmament.151

86.Russia’s poor record in adhering to arms control agreements has been cited as a further obstacle to future agreements. Annex 2 lists arms control and security agreements about which the US Government has raised concerns over Russian compliance. Mr Miller cited the majority of these in oral evidence, adding:

The only treaty that the Russians still subscribe to is the New START treaty. The Russian track record is that of a serial violator of arms control treaties. The Russians are perfectly happy to have those treaties exist and bind the West while they continue to violate them. Unless things change radically, the future for arms control with Russia is in peril due to the actions of the Russian Government.

Dr Roberts argues that an integrated solution is needed “to replace the failed arms control regime in Europe with something better”.152

87.Conversely, witnesses also observed that the outlook for arms control is not universally bleak. Dr Williams noted that the success of international arms control in bilateral and multilateral formats depends to an extent on the nature of the weapons being controlled. While nuclear arms control is clearly in a period of uncertainty, discussions on controls for certain types of emerging disruptive technologies, such as cyber and artificial intelligence are making some progress on a multilateral basis at the UN.153 Dr Stocker also noted that the “dire predictions” for the future of arms control and strategic stability following the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 turned out to be largely unfounded.154 Mr Miller made the same point and noted this did not impede further US-Russia arms control agreements being concluded within months.155

88.Nuclear arms control is in a precarious place. The failure of the INF Treaty would be a serious setback and the prospects for other arms control agreements such as New START remain uncertain. Arms control can survive only through the good faith of nations and the belief that other parties will hold to their obligations. The Russian Federation’s poor record of compliance, over decades, across a range of treaties and agreements is indicative of its cavalier and cynical attitude to arms control and other agreements which it considers no longer to serve its interests. Unless this attitude changes, it is difficult to see how other nations can have trust and confidence in Russian undertakings. This does not mean that the UK and its allies should give up in despair: efforts to promote arms control should continue. However, if the past is any guide, Russian compliance should never be relied upon without stringent verification systems permanently in place.


110 Q27

111 Dr Katarzyna Kubiak (INF0011). See also BASIC (INF0004); Medact (INF0005); Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament/Christian CND (INF0007); Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy (INF0009)

112 BASIC (INF0004); Dr Katarzyna Kubiak (INF0011)

113 Q64

114 Qq40–41

115 BASIC (INF0004); Dr Wyn Rees and Azriel Bermant (INF0006); Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy (INF0009); Dr Katarzyna Kubiak (INF0011)

116 See para 20 above.

117 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (INF0010)

118 Q11; Admiral Harry Harris USN, Commander, US Pacific Command, Oral testimony to the United States Senate Armed Services Committee, 27 April 2017

119 Kristensen, H M, Norris, R S, ‘Chinese nuclear forces, 2018’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 74:4 (2018), 289–295; Human Security Centre (INF0003)

122 Q128; Foreign and Commonwealth Office (INF0014)

123 Scott, L V, Macmillan, Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis: Political, Military and Intelligence Aspects, Macmillan Press, London 1999, pp 116–120

124 See para 23 above

125 Q52 [Dr Heather Williams]; US Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review 2018, p 10. See para 24 above.

126 Q52 [Dr Heather Williams]; Congressional Research Service, Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress, updated 8 February 2019, pp 35–36

128 Q52 [Dr Heather Williams]; US Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review 2018, pp 52–55

129 Q45

130 Qq52–58; Qq86–104

131 Dr Brad Roberts (INF0012)

132 Qq45–46

133 Q56

134 Q88

135 Q56; Q58. See Andreasen S, Williams I, Rose B, Kristensen H M, and Lunn S, Building a Safe, Secure, and Credible NATO Nuclear Posture, Nuclear Threat Initiative, January 2018 for further details on the B61 and DCA issues.

136 Q142

137 Congressional Research Service, The European Deterrence Initiative: A Budgetary Overview, 8 August 2018

138 See para 28 above

142 Dr Brad Roberts (INF0012)

143 Q54

144 Ministry of Defence (INF0015)

145 Q114

146 Q32

147 Dr Brad Roberts (INF0012)

148 Q130

149 Q36; BASIC (INF0004); Dr Wyn Rees and Azriel Bermant (INF0006); Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament/Christian CND (INF0007); Dr Katarzyna Kubiak (INF0011)

150 Q61; BASIC (INF0004); Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy (INF0009); Dr Katarzyna Kubiak (INF0011)

151 Q145

152 Dr Brad Roberts (INF0012).

153 Q37

154 Q38

155 Q113




Published: 4 April 2019