The New York Times reported on January 29 that U.S. officials believe Russia began conducting test flights of the missile as early as 2008. However, noted Fox News, U.S. officials did not have enough information to consider the missiles a compliance issue until much later.
“The United States never hesitates to raise treaty compliance concerns with Russia, and this issue is no exception,” the Times quoted Jen Psaki, the State Department spokesperson. “There’s an ongoing review process, and we wouldn’t want to speculate or prejudge the outcome.”
The INF treaty was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (signing shown in photo). At the time, Gorbachev was general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. (An article published in United Kingdom Materials on International Law 1993 stated, “Russia is now a party to any Treaties to which the former Soviet Union was a party, and enjoys the same rights and obligations as the former Soviet Union.”)
“If the Russian government has made a considered decision to field a prohibited system, then it is the strongest indication to date that they are not interested in pursuing any arms control, at least through the remainder of President Obama’s term,” the Times quoted Franklin C. Miller, who was a special assistant to President George W. Bush and the senior director for defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council (NSC).
Miller is now a principal at the Scowcroft Group, an international business advisory firm managed by Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor to Presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford. Both Miller and Scowcroft are members of the Council on Foreign Relations, whose members have long been active in promoting nuclear disarmament.
Fox News reported on January 30 that U.S. concerns about possible Russian treaty violations are based on the operational characteristics of the missile in question, the RS-26. The missile has been tested at both medium-range (which would place it under the terms of the INF treaty) and intercontinental range, which qualifies it as a long-range system under the terms of the New START treaty negotiated in 2009. By definition, medium range missiles are capable of flying from 300 to 3,400 miles and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) have a range beyond 3,400 miles.
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Photo: U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty