Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

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Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles
Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty.
Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty.
Type Nuclear disarmament
Signed 8 December 1987, 1:45 p.m.[1]
Location White House, Washington, D.C.
Effective 1 June 1988
Condition Ratification by the Soviet Union and United States
Expiration Unlimited duration[2]
Signatories  Soviet Union: Gorbachev
 United States: Reagan
Languages English and Russian
Text of the INF Treaty

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty, formally Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles) is a 1987 arms control agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union (and later its successor state the Russian Federation). Signed in Washington, D.C. by President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on 8 December 1987, the treaty was ratified by the United States Senate on 27 May 1988 and came into force on 1 June 1988.

The INF Treaty eliminated all nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (310–620 mi) (short-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (620–3,420 mi) (intermediate-range). The treaty did not cover sea-launched missiles.[3] By May 1991, 2,692 missiles were eliminated, followed by 10 years of on-site verification inspections.[4]

On 20 October 2018, citing Russian non-compliance, US President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing the US from the treaty.[5] Numerous prominent nuclear arms control experts, including George Shultz, Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn, urged Trump to preserve the treaty.[6] Russian president Vladimir Putin announced on 20 November 2018 that the Kremlin was prepared to discuss INF with Washington but would "retaliate" if the United States withdrew.[7] On 1 February 2019, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. was suspending the treaty.[8]


In March 1976, the Soviet Union first deployed the SS-20 Saber (also known as the RSD-10) in its European territories, a mobile, concealable intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) containing three nuclear 150-kiloton warheads.[9] The SS-20's range of 4,700–5,000 kilometers (2,900–3,100 mi) was great enough to reach Western Europe from well within Soviet territory; the range was just below the SALT II minimum range for an intercontinental ballistic missile, 5,500 km (3,400 mi).[10][11][12] The SS-20 replaced aging Soviet systems of the SS-4 Sandal and SS-5 Skean, which were seen to pose a limited threat to Western Europe due to their poor accuracy, limited payload (one warhead), lengthy preparation time, difficulty in being concealed, and immobility (thus exposing them to pre-emptive NATO strikes ahead of a planned attack).[13] Whereas the SS-4 and SS-5 were seen as defensive weapons, the SS-20 was seen as a potential offensive system.[14]

The US, then under President Jimmy Carter, initially considered its strategic nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable aircraft to be adequate counters to the SS-20 and a sufficient deterrent against Soviet aggression. In 1977, however, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany argued in a speech that a Western response to the SS-20 deployment should be explored, a call which was echoed by NATO, given a perceived Western disadvantage in European nuclear forces.[12] Leslie H. Gelb, the US Assistant Secretary of State, later recounted that Schmidt's speech pressured the US into developing a response.[15]

SS-20 launchers

On 12 December 1979, following European pressure for a response to the SS-20, Western foreign and defense ministers meeting in Brussels made the NATO Double-Track Decision.[12] The ministers argued that the Warsaw Pact had "developed a large and growing capability in nuclear systems that directly threaten Western Europe": "theater" nuclear systems (i.e., tactical nuclear weapons[16]). In describing this "aggravated" situation, the ministers made direct reference to the SS-20 featuring "significant improvements over previous systems in providing greater accuracy, more mobility, and greater range, as well as having multiple warheads". The ministers also attributed the altered situation to the deployment of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M strategic bomber, which they believed to display "much greater performance" than its predecessors. Furthermore, the ministers expressed concern that the Soviet Union had gained an advantage over NATO in "Long-Range Theater Nuclear Forces" (LRTNF), and also significantly increased short-range theater nuclear capacity. To address these developments, the ministers adopted two policy "tracks". One thousand theater nuclear warheads, out of 7,400 such warheads, would be removed from Europe and the US would pursue bilateral negotiations with the Soviet Union intended to limit theater nuclear forces. Should these negotiations fail, NATO would modernize its own LRTNF, or intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF), by replacing US Pershing 1a missiles with 108 Pershing II launchers in West Germany and deploying 464 BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCMs) to Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom beginning in December 1983.[11][17][18][19]


Early negotiations: 1981–1983

Despite dissatisfaction with the deployment of US weapons in Europe, the Soviet Union agreed to open negotiations and preliminary discussions, named the Preliminary Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Talks,[11] which began in Geneva in October 1980. Formal talks began on 30 November 1981, with the US then led by President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union by Leonid Brezhnev. The core of the US negotiating position reflected the principles put forth under Carter: any limits placed on US INF capabilities, both in terms of "ceilings" and "rights", must be reciprocated with limits on Soviet systems. Additionally, the US insisted that a sufficient verification regime be in place.[20] Paul Nitze, a longtime hand at defense policy who had participated in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), led the US delegation after being recruited by Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Though Nitze had backed the first SALT treaty, he opposed SALT II and had resigned from the US delegation during its negotiation. Nitze was also then a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, a firmly anti-Soviet group composed of neoconservatives and conservative Republicans.[15][21] Yuli Kvitsinsky, the well-respected second-ranking official at the Soviet embassy in West Germany, headed the Soviet delegation.[14][22][23][24]

File:Paul Nitze (1983).jpg
Paul Nitze, 1983

On 18 November 1981, shortly before the beginning of formal talks, Reagan made the Zero Option proposal (or the "zero-zero" proposal).[25] The plan called for a hold on US deployment of GLCM and Pershing II systems, reciprocated by Soviet elimination of its SS-4, SS-5, and SS-20 missiles. There appeared to be little chance of the Zero Option being adopted, but the gesture was well received in the European public. In February 1982, US negotiators put forth a draft treaty containing the Zero Option and a global prohibition on intermediate- and short-range missiles, with compliance ensured via a stringent, though unspecific, verification program.[22]

Opinion within the Reagan administration on the Zero Option was mixed. Richard Perle, then the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, was the architect of the plan. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who supported a continued US nuclear presence in Europe, was skeptical of the plan, though eventually accepted it for its value in putting the Soviet Union "on the defensive in the European propaganda war". Reagan later recounted that the "zero option sprang out of the realities of nuclear politics in Western Europe".[25] The Soviet Union rejected the plan shortly after the US tabled it in February 1982, arguing that both the US and Soviet Union should be able to retain intermediate-range missiles in Europe. Specifically, Soviet negotiators proposed that the number of INF missiles and aircraft deployed in Europe by one side be capped at 600 by 1985 and 300 by 1990. Concerned that this proposal would force the US to withdraw aircraft from Europe and not deploy INF missiles, given US cooperation with existing British and French deployments, the US proposed "equal rights and limits"—the US would be permitted to match Soviet SS-20 deployments.[22]

Between 1981 and 1983, US and Soviet negotiators gathered for six rounds of talks, each two months in length—a system based on the earlier SALT talks.[22] The US delegation was composed of Nitze, General William F. Burns of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Thomas Graham of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), and officials from the US Department of State, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and US National Security Council. Colonel Norman Clyne, a SALT participant, served as Nitze's chief of staff.[14][26]

There was little convergence between the two sides over these two years. A U.S. effort to separate the question of nuclear-capable aircraft from that of intermediate-range missiles successfully focused attention on the latter, but little clear progress on the subject was made. In the summer of 1982, Nitze and Kvitsinsky took a "walk in the woods" in the Jura Mountains, away from formal negotiations in Geneva, in an independent attempt to bypass bureaucratic procedures and break the negotiating deadlock.[27][14][28] Nitze later said that his and Kvitsinsky's goal was to agree to certain concessions that would allow for a summit meeting between Brezhnev and Reagan later in 1982.[29]

Nitze's offer to Kvitsinsky was that the US would forego deployment of the Pershing II and continue deployment of GLCMs, but limited to 75 missile launchers. The Soviet Union, in return, would also have to limit itself to 75 intermediate-range missile launchers in Europe and 90 in Asia. Due to each GLCM launcher containing four GLCMs and each SS-20 launcher containing three warheads, such an agreement would have resulted in the US having 75 more intermediate-range warheads in Europe than the Soviet Union, though SS-20s were seen as more advanced and maneuverable than GLCMs. While Kvitsinsky was skeptical that the plan would be well received in Moscow, Nitze was optimistic about its chances in Washington.[29] The deal ultimately found little traction in either capital. In the US, the Office of the Secretary of Defense opposed Nitze's proposal, as it opposed any proposal that would allow the Soviet Union to deploy missiles to Europe while blocking US deployments. Nitze's proposal was relayed by Kvitsinsky to Moscow, where it was also rejected. The plan accordingly was never introduced into formal negotiations.[27][14]

Thomas Graham, a US negotiator, later recalled that Nitze's "walk in the woods" proposal was primarily of Nitze's own design and known beforehand only to William F. Burns, another arms control negotiator and representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and Eugene V. Rostow, the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In a National Security Council following the Nitze-Kvitsinsky walk, the proposal was received positively by the JCS and Reagan. Following protests by Richard Perle, working within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Reagan informed Nitze that he would not back the plan. The State Department, then led by Alexander Haig, also indicated that it would not support Nitze's plan and preferred a return to the Zero Option proposal.[14][28][29] Nitze argued that one positive consequence of the walk in the woods was that the European public, which had doubted US interest in arms control, became convinced that the US was participating in the INF negotiations in good faith.[29]

In early 1983, US negotiators indicated that they would support a plan beyond the Zero Option if the plan established equal rights and limits for the US and Soviet Union, with such limits valid worldwide, and excluded British and French missile systems (as well as those of any other third party). As a temporary measure, the US negotiators also proposed a cap of 450 deployed INF warheads around the world for both the US and Soviet Union. In response, Soviet negotiators expressed that a plan would have to block all US INF deployments in Europe, cover both missiles and aircraft, include third parties, and focus primarily on Europe for it to gain Soviet backing. In the fall of 1983, just ahead of the scheduled deployment of US Pershing IIs and GLCMs, the US lowered its proposed limit on global INF deployments to 420 missiles, while the Soviet Union proposed "equal reductions": if the US cancelled the planned deployment of Pershing II and GLCM systems, the Soviet Union would reduce its own INF deployment by 572 warheads. In November 1983, after the first Pershing IIs arrived in West Germany, the Soviet Union walked out of negotiations, as it had warned it would do should the US missile deployments occur.[30]

Restarted negotiations: 1985–1987

File:President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev shake hands after signing the INF Treaty.jpg
Reagan and Gorbachev shake hands after signing the INF Treaty ratification during the Moscow Summit. June 1, 1988

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher played a key role in brokering the negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986–1987.[31]

In March 1986, negotiations between the US and the Soviet Union resumed, covering not only the INF issue, but also separate discussions on strategic weapons (START I) and space issues (Nuclear and Space Talks). In late 1985, both sides were moving towards limiting INF systems in Europe and Asia. On 15 January 1986, Gorbachev announced a Soviet proposal for a ban on all nuclear weapons by 2000, which included INF missiles in Europe. This was dismissed by the US and countered with a phased reduction of INF launchers in Europe and Asia to none by 1989. There would be no constraints on British and French nuclear forces.[32]

A series of meetings in August and September 1986 culminated in the Reykjavík Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev on 11 October 1986. Both agreed in principle to remove INF systems from Europe and to equal global limits of 100 INF missile warheads. Gorbachev also proposed deeper and more fundamental changes in the strategic relationship. More detailed negotiations extended throughout 1987, aided by the decision of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in August to unilaterally remove the joint US-West German Pershing 1a systems. Initially, Kohl had opposed the total elimination of the Pershing Missiles, claiming that such a move would increase his nation's vulnerability to an attack by Warsaw Pact Forces.[33] The treaty text was finally agreed in September 1987. On 8 December 1987, the Treaty was officially signed by President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev at a summit in Washington and ratified the following May in a 93-5 vote by the United States Senate.[34][35]


A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missile in 1988 prior to its destruction.
File:Soviet inspectors at RAF Greenham Common 1989.JPEG
Accompanied by their NATO counterparts, Soviet inspectors enter a nuclear weapons storage area in Greenham, UK, 1989
File:Ambassador Malloy Witnesses the Elimination of the Last Soviet Short-Range Missiles Under the INF Treaty.jpg
Ambassador Eileen Malloy, chief of the arms control unit at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow at the destruction site in Saryozek in the spring of 1990
File:RIAN archive 478718 A Soviet missile train.jpg
A Soviet train with SS-12 Scaleboard medium-range ballistic missiles ready to leave for the Soviet Union from Czechoslovakia's Hranice na Morave railroad station

By the treaty's deadline of 1 June 1991, a total of 2,692 of such weapons had been destroyed, 846 by the US and 1,846 by the Soviet Union.[36] Under the treaty both nations were allowed to inspect each other's military installations. Each nation was permitted to render inoperative and retain 15 missiles, 15 launch canisters and 15 launchers for static display.[citation needed]

On 13 December 2001, President of the US, George W. Bush gave Russia a 6-month notice of US intent to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so that the US could pursue development of the program at that time known as National Missile Defense (NMD), which was already under way in potential violation of US treaty obligations.[37][page needed]

On 10 February 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared that the INF Treaty no longer served Russia's interests. On 14 February, the Information Telegraph Agency of Russia and Interfax quoted General Yuri Baluyevsky, the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, as saying that Russia could pull out of the INF, and that the decision would depend on the United States' actions with its proposed Ground-Based Midcourse Defense missile defense system, parts of which the U.S. at the time planned to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic. (Subsequently, the plan was altered and American MK-41 missile launchers were placed at new bases in Romania and Poland.]; see National missile defense.)[citation needed]

Dan Blumenthal of the American Enterprise Institute wrote that the actual Russian problem with the INF was that China is not bound by it and continued to build up their own Intermediate-Range forces.[38]

Affected weapons

The following specific missiles, their launcher systems and their transporter vehicles were destroyed:[39]

Alleged violations

Both countries allege the other has violated the treaty. The US accused Russia of violating treaty terms by testing the SSC-8 cruise missile in 2008.[40] The accusation was brought up again in 2014[41][42] and 2017.[40][43] In 2013, reports came out that Russia had tested and planned to continue testing two missiles in ways that could violate the terms of the treaty: the SS-25 road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile and the newer RS-26 ICBM, although neither missile is considered intermediate range.[44]

Russia argues that the American decision to establish bases capable of launching Tomahawk missiles in Poland and Romania is a violation of the treaty.[45][46][47][48] Russia also states that the US prevalent usage of armed UAVs such as the MQ-9 Reaper also violates the INF Treaty.[49]

Planned US withdrawal

On 20 October 2018, the United States declared its intention to withdraw from the treaty.[50][51][52] Donald Trump mentioned at a campaign rally that the reason for the pullout was because "they've [Russia has] been violating it for many years."[51] This prompted Putin to state that Russia would not launch first in a nuclear conflict but would "annihilate" any adversary. Russians killed in such a conflict "will go to heaven as martyrs".[53]

It was also reported that the United States' need to counter a Chinese arms buildup in the Pacific was another reason for their move to withdraw, because China is not a signatory to the treaty.[51][52][50] US officials extending back to Obama period have noted this. For example, Kelly Magsamen, who helped craft the Pentagon's Asian policy under the Obama administration, said China's ability to work outside of the INF treaty had vexed policymakers in Washington, long before Trump came into office.[54] A Politico article noted the different responses US officials gave to this issue: "either find ways to bring China into the treaty or develop new American weapons to counter it" or "negotiating a new treaty with that country."[55]

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said a unilateral U.S. withdrawal would have a negative impact and urged the United States to "think thrice before acting."[54] John R. Bolton said on Echo of Moscow that recent Chinese statements suggest it wanted Washington to stay in the treaty. Saying "Why not have the Americans bound, and the Chinese not bound?"[54]

Reuters reported that on 25 October 2018 "European members of NATO urged the United States on Thursday to try to bring Russia back into compliance with the treaty rather than quit it, seeking to avoid a split in the alliance that Moscow could exploit."[56]

The former Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev criticized U.S. plans to withdraw from the treaty, saying the move "is not the work of a great mind." Gorbachev also said that "all agreements aimed at nuclear disarmament and the limitation of nuclear weapons must be preserved for the sake of life on Earth."[57]

On 26 October 2018, Russia called but lost a vote to get the U.N. General Assembly to consider calling on Washington and Moscow to preserve and strengthen the treaty.[56] Russia had proposed a draft resolution in the 193-member General Assembly's disarmament committee, but missed the 18 October submission deadline[56] so it instead called for a vote on whether the committee should be allowed to consider the draft.[56] On the same day, John R. Bolton said in an interview with Reuters the INF treaty was a cold war relic and he wanted to hold strategic talks with Russia about Chinese missile capabilities.[58]

On 30 October 2018, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to comply with the treaty at a news conference in Norway saying "The problem is the deployment of new Russian missiles."[59]

On 4 December 2018, the United States gave Russia 60 days to comply with the treaty.[60] On 5 December 2018, Russia responded by revealing their Peresvet combat laser, stating they had been deployed to Russia armed forces as early as 2017 "as part of the state procurement program."[61]

On 13 December 2018, at least 15 US Democratic Senators urged Trump not to quit the treaty, warning him that he will try to free Russia to attack Europe.[citation needed]

On 4 January 2019, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that Russia might have its last chance to comply with the treaty if the country keeps the tensions rise. He suggested that February 2 would be a deadline.[citation needed]

On 16 January 2019, while Russia said that it would be ready to ask countries to save the treaty, the US confirmed that it would withdraw from the program on 2 February 2019.[citation needed]

On 23 January 2019, Russia for the first time publicly presented its 9M729 (SSC-8) missile, what reportedly should be the main reason for the US withdrawal from the treaty, revealing the missile's technical parameters. However, representatives of the US, UK, France, Germany, the EU and NATO failed to attend the briefing about the missile.[62]

On 30 January 2019, the summit between US and Russia have failed and both countries have also failed to make a progress to save the treaty.[63]

On 1 February 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that it is intention of the United States to announce the withdraw from the INF Treaty on Saturday, 2 February, 2019 with a six-month timeline for full withdrawal and INF treaty termination if the Russian Federation does not come back until compliance within those six months.[64]

Ongoing anti-missile tests by the US

On 11 December 2018, the US tested an SM-3 Block IIA missile against an intermediate-range ballistic missile target in space from its Hawaii-based Aegis Ashore facility. This was the second successful test, after two previous failures of the SM-3, meaning that at least four targets have been fired in the current test regime. While not nuclear weapons, the target missiles are of the type banned under the INF. The Missile Defense Agency said the missile was fired by a U.S. Air Force C-17 "thousands of miles southwest of the Aegis Ashore test site that launched the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor."[65]


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Further reading

External links

  • Text of the INF Treaty
  • Video of a 1986 PBS program on the future of arms control
  • Video of a 1986 year-in-review for the Soviet Union
  • Statements by Ronald Reagan on INF Treaty negotiations in March, April, June, and December 1987