Missile Misdemeanours: Russia and the INF Treaty Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The INF Treaty

1.The Soviet decision to introduce a new generation of intermediate-range missiles into Europe in the mid-1970s disrupted the continental balance of power. The central aim was to create military advantage for the Warsaw Pact and to sow political division within NATO. The resulting Dual Track policy adopted by NATO was highly effective, cementing the unity of the Alliance and presenting a robust response to the Soviet challenge. The dual nature of the response was crucial: diplomatic attempts alone would not have brought resolution. Only by a demonstration of hard power alongside continual diplomatic overtures was NATO able to make it clear to the Soviet leadership that the USSR’s own vital interests were being put at risk by NATO’s response and that a level of competition had been introduced which the Soviet Union could not sustain. Today, although the situation in Europe is very different, the example of the past is instructive. NATO needs to formulate a united response to the challenge posed by the leadership of the Russian Federation. (Paragraph 13)

2.The terms of the INF Treaty were far-reaching in that global prohibitions were placed on the parties in respect of an entire class of weapons. Thousands of missiles were destroyed and tight restrictions were placed on future development and deployment. A thorough system of monitoring and verification was also created. One flaw in these verification provisions was their time-limited nature, allowing for the opportunity of non-compliance once on-site inspections ceased in 2001. The value of ongoing verification provisions in arms control agreements has been demonstrated by the fate of the INF Treaty. (Paragraph 17)

Violation of the Treaty

3.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. (Paragraph 29)

4.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. 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. (Paragraph 30)

5.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. (Paragraph 31)

6.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. (Paragraph 45)

7.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. (Paragraph 46)

8.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. (Paragraph 53)

9.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. (Paragraph 56)

10.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. (Paragraph 57)

Future action

11.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. (Paragraph 64)

12.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. (Paragraph 65)

13.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. (Paragraph 66)

14.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. (Paragraph 67)

15.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. (Paragraph 68)

16.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. (Paragraph 69)

17.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. (Paragraph 70)

18.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. (Paragraph 78)

19.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. (Paragraph 79)

20.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. (Paragraph 80)

21.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. (Paragraph 81)

22.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. (Paragraph 88)

Published: 4 April 2019