This research paper has been commissioned by the International Commission on Nuclear
Non-proliferation and Disarmament, but reflects the views of the author and should not
be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Commission.
MISSILE DEFENCE AND THE INTERMEDIATE
NUCLEAR FORCES TREATY
The question of Russia‘s possible abrogation of the INF Treaty arose in response to a history of US policies which undermined a wide range of arms control treaties. The Treaty itself was
originally seen by the Soviets as a desirable response to new classes of US missiles which outstripped the capacities of their Soviet counterparts, and were seen by the ageing Soviet leadership as directly threatening them. But in the event, under the Treaty, the Soviets
eliminated more than twice as many missiles and delivery systems as the Americans.
Withdrawal is permitted by the Treaty if one of the parties regards its ―supreme interests‖ as being threatened. However, the nature of the possible threat in this case is not clear. Former
President Putin pointed to development of new classes of short and intermediate range missiles by a number of third countries outside the treaty, while a former Russian military
chief has said the threat comes from US plans to station anti-ballistic missile systems close to
In fact, all seven countries developing new classes of missiles could reach Russian territory with their intermediate range missiles, and some of them even with their shorter range
missiles. But whether they are a sufficient threat which justifies withdrawing from the Treaty, and whether there may be other responses, remain open questions. This is even more so since Russia has indicated it would respond to possible future US missile threats on an
asymmetrical basis. Indeed, the existing Russian arsenal would already be sufficient for the task of responding to such countries. Although some aspects of this might be limited by START I, these would be overcome if, as seems likely, START I is not extended beyond its
current operational phase which ends in December 2009.
Politically, the stationing of US anti-ballistic missile systems near Russia‘s borders are
viewed in Moscow as destabilizing and even provocative. But, in military terms, the number
of US missiles involved would not seriously affect Russia‘s nuclear deterrence capability.
One reason for Russia withdrawing from the INF Treaty which might be attractive to military tacticians could be the option it would thus allow for increasing the range of a new short
range cruise missile as a possible response to US ABM systems. But seen in a wider strategic sense, this would not be a sensible justification for withdrawing from the treaty.
The open-ended nature of the US BMD program, however, is a matter of legitimate concern.
Moreover, continuing NATO expansion eastwards has taught Moscow the value of a strong response. Nevertheless, there are strong political and financial reasons against withdrawing
from the treaty, and doing so could even risk a new arms race. It will also undermine the NPT and place Russia on the same footing as the previous US Administration in this regard. It is to
be hoped that the new US administration and the Russian leadership will find a constructive
approach to resolving the issues, thus preserving the INF Treaty and complementing it with a
range of important new agreements.
In recent years, the Russian leadership has on a number of occasions raised the prospect of the country‘s unilateral withdrawal from the Intermediate and Short-
Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed by the USSR and the USA in 1987, with 1Russia inheriting the USSR‘s treaty obligations. This step would have had very
serious military, strategic, financial, economic and political repercussions, all the more so as the INF Treaty is one of the few central nuclear disarmament agreements still in force after several years of the Bush Administration‘s destructive policies
which put an end to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the 1994 Treaty between the USA and Russia on Strategic Arms Reduction (START-1), the 1997 START-3 framework treaty and agreement on delineation of strategic and tactical missile defense systems, left the 1996 CTBT and talks on the FMCT in deadlock, and made it impossible to complete work on a new SORT treaty (2002) or extend the validity of START-1 (after 2009).
1. History of the INF Treaty.
Historically, this treaty has its roots in the deployment in a number of European NATO member countries at the start of the 1980s of American intermediate-range Pershing-2 missiles with a range of up to 1,800 km, and ground-based nuclear-armed cruise missiles with a range of up to 2,500 km. The USA argued that this step was a response to the Soviet Union‘s deployment of RSD-10 (Western classification SS-20)
ballistic missiles with MIRV warheads.
The American missiles could strike targets deep in Soviet territory: launched from their bases in West Germany, the Pershing-2 missiles could reach as far as the Moscow region, while the ground-based cruise missiles could reach as far as the Urals. Soviet missiles could not reach targets in the United States. Even more important was that the flight time of the Pershing-2 missiles to their targets was approximately three times shorter than that of intercontinental ballistic missiles launched from U.S. territory. The cruise missiles had a much longer flight time—several hours—but they
were hard to detect because of their low trajectory and technical characteristics that reduced their visibility to radars.
Moscow therefore had every reason to seek an agreement that would prohibit these missiles. Washington had no desire for such an agreement but came under strong pressure from its NATO allies who feared an increase in nuclear tension in Europe.
Five years of difficult on-and-off negotiations finally led to the conclusion of the INF Treaty, which had no time limit and stipulated the complete worldwide destruction of two classes of Soviet and U.S. ballistic and ground-based cruise missiles.
The completely closed Soviet totalitarian system played a cruel joke on the Kremlin. In their efforts to whip up a campaign about national security threats, raise tension
1 See for example: Myasnikov V. The Ministry of Defence withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nu-
clear Forces Treaty// Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie (Independent Military Review). ?31(489), 1
September 2006. p. 1; Litovkin D. An adequate ?Iskander? // Izvestia. 21 February 2007.
(http://www.izvestia.ru/russia/article3101392/index.html); Safranchuk I. A mess of military and diplo-
matic bearings // Nezavisimaia Gazeta. 26 February 2007. p. 3.
and get more money for their military programs at the same time, the Soviet generals went too far in frightening the old gentlemen of the Communist Party Politbureau with tales of the American missiles‘ short flight time (6–7 minutes it was said), that
would not even give time to take shelter in underground or air-based command centers, let alone decide on a counterstrike. Furthermore, the parties had asymmetrical interest in an agreement, because the missile systems under discussion were a direct threat to the Soviet Union but not to the USA. Finally, because Moscow insisted on destruction of all of the U.S. missiles, it had to agree, after stubborn resistance, to destroy all Soviet arms of a comparable type, and because of the way Soviet military practice and the essentially uncontrolled defense industry worked, it had many more of these weapons.
The INF Treaty therefore resulted in the Soviet Union having to destroy two times more missiles than the USA (1836 and 859 respectively), including its very high-performing new OTR-23 Oka (SS-23 by NATO designation) theater missiles, which had a tested range slightly below the agreed limits (500–1000 km for intermediate-2range missiles). The designers of this missile, classified as a short-range missile, to this day have not forgiven Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, for agreeing to this concession. Giving up the OTR-23 was the price to pay for obtaining the destruction of the U.S. Pershing-1 missiles, which could hit Kaliningrad Oblast from West Germany. The USA also gave up its Lance-2 ground-based tactical missiles and SRAM-2 air-to-surface missiles, which if launched from West Germany or from tactical strike aircraft could hit targets in the territory of the USSR‘s Warsaw Pact allies. Russia‘s military designers and engineers
did get their own back for the OTR-23 in the end, and developed a new dual-purpose theater missile that entered service in 2007, and was for some reason given the 3Persian-Arabic-Turkish name of Iskander.
2. Motives for Withdrawal from the Treaty
The treaty was implemented in full within the deadlines and remains in force. But now, 20 years later, the totalitarian communist Soviet Union‘s successor, democratic
capitalist Russia, has declared that it might withdraw. This is possible under the terms of Article XV.2 with six months notification if one of the parties decides that ―extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests‖. Let us now take a closer look at the motives for Russia‘s possible withdrawal from the treaty and the likely consequences of such a step.
For a start, the nature of the threats to Russia‘s ‗supreme interests‘ is not entirely clear. In his speech in Munich in February 2007, then President Putin noted that other countries (actually these are Iran, Pakistan, India, China, North and South Korea) are developing intermediate-range missiles, while Russia and the USA are prohibited 4from having these types of weapons. Former Defense Minister and then Russian First
Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov has made the same point on a number of
2 On the INF Treaty see: Dean, J. ―The INF negotiations‖, SIPRI Yearbook 1988: World Armaments
and Disarmament. Oxford, 1998. 3 Kotenok Y. ―Rossia ustroit iz PRO resheto‖. http:/www.utro/ru/articles/2007/06/04/652965.shtml. 4 Speech and Discussion at the Munich Conference on Politics and Security Issues, February 10 2007, Munich.
occasions. A little later, the then Russian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff General Yury Baluyevsky, cited U.S. plans to deploy components of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic as motivation for Russia‘s possible 5withdrawal from the INF Treaty.
Without going into their substance for now, we would note that these very different and unrelated motives do not make clear the real reasons for taking as serious a step as denouncing one of the few remaining nuclear arms control treaties. It seems very strange that different ministries, agencies and officials in the ‗executive vertical‘ power system the Russian authorities have built diverge in their interpretation of a subject as important as ‗extraordinary events‘ that could jeopardize Russia‘s ‗supreme interests‘, the existence of said ‗extraordinary events‘ being the only grounds that can justify withdrawal from the INF Treaty in accordance with Article XV.2.
3. Missile Threat from Third Countries
Development of intermediate- and short-range missiles by third countries is often not an aim in itself but a natural step on the way to developing missile technology needed to build ICBMs and space launchers. It is entirely possible, however, that some countries, based on their military objectives or technical and economic possibilities, could renounce development of long-range missiles. Around 40 countries currently have ballistic missiles of various types. Five countries have intercontinental ICBMs and/or SLBMs (USA, Russia, Britain, France, and China), and seven have intermediate-range missiles (1,000–5,500 km)—China, India, Israel, Iran, North
Korea, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. The others have theater missiles with ranges up to 1,000 km. Apart from the seven countries already mentioned, they include Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Turkey, and South Korea. This group also used to include 6Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Iraq. In terms of geography, all seven of the
countries with intermediate-range missiles are within reach of Russian territory (including China, India, Israel and Pakistan with their nuclear-armed missiles), and some of them (China, North Korea, Turkey) could theoretically reach Russia‘s outer areas with short-range missiles.
This could be seen as a potential threat given that not all of the countries named above are Russia‘s allies or reliable partners, and some of them have an internal political situation that makes them quite unstable and unpredictable. The practice of military deterrence (including nuclear) is applied to these countries by creating a credible threat of a devastating retaliation (second or response strike) against them if they ever launched a missile or nuclear-missile attack. Doubts that this threat would be sufficient to deter regimes that would not be stopped even by the prospect of huge human and material losses, call for further defense in the form of anti-missile and anti-air defense systems and/or the capability to carry out a preemptive or preventive disarming strike using nuclear or precision-guided conventional weapons.
If this situation were examined in complete separation from all past agreements and