A looming crisis of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty: Sources and consequences

Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF) confirms that Moscow sees nuclear weapons as a robust tool preventing NATO from militarily opposing the Russian military expansion in the strategic rim stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. If Russia adds intermediate-range missiles to its armory the INF Treaty will collapse, thus challenging the USA and NATO with a dilemma: they could either to be reconciled with Russia’s growing military threat to Europe, or neutralize this threat by stationing American nuclear missiles near Russian borders. The countries of Central-Eastern Europe have to support deployment of new US nuclear weapons in Europe since it could be the only way to prevent a dangerous deterioration of the security landscape in the region.

By the end of 2011 the US intelligence and military agencies determined that Russia violated the INF Treaty by testing a new ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a flying range of more than 500 kilometers, as such missiles are definitely forbidden by this treaty.1 In 2013–2014 the USA informed its NATO allies of the issue in question and discussed its concerns with Russia many times, including at a meeting at senior level in Moscow in September 2014.2 Just after this meeting the State Department noted that “although the U.S. concerns were not assuaged in this meeting, the parties had a useful exchange of views. They agreed to continue the dialogue”.3 This meant that the discussions came to nothing. On April 27, 2015, when addressing the 2015 NPT Review Conference,  the US Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized “deep concerns regarding Russia’s clear violation of its obligations” under the INF Treaty.4 In addition, albeit the development and testing of the new Russian ballistic missile RS-26 (aka the “Rubezh” or Yars-M) are not included in the list of Russian violations of the INF Treaty this missile is meant for attacking targets in Europe and hence its development and deployment is de facto a violation of the INF Treaty. The Russians, on their part, simply deny discussing American concerns on their merits and accused the US of violating the INF Treaty. This poses a few questions: Who is violating the INF Treaty? Is it Russia, the USA or both of the countries? What could be the strategic consequences of the deployment of new Russian intermediate-range missiles aimed at European targets? Can NATO neutralize a looming Russian threat, and if so, by what means?

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