Problems of the INF Treaty compliance on both sides could be resolved within the Special Verification Commission on the INF Treaty, writes Valdai Club expert Vladimir Batyuk. Moscow’s position remains unchanged: Russia is for maintaining this most important disarmament agreement.
Accusations against Moscow regarding violation of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty), voiced by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, echo similar statements of the US officials. In 2008, the US intelligence recorded a test of a Russian cruise missile with a range of 2,000 km. Although the tests were conducted on a land range, it remained unclear whether this missile was intended for a land placement, or on sea or air carriers. In the end, analysts of the American intelligence community concluded that this 9M729 system is a ground-based missile and, consequently, its testing and subsequent deployment on mobile launch complexes is direct violation of the INF Treaty. As a consequence, the 2018 US defense budget provides the allocation of funds for the development of a ground-based cruise missile with a range of 500 to 5,500 km. Washington does not hide that this is a response to the abovementioned Russian “violations” of the INF Treaty.
The Russians, in turn, resolutely reject these American accusations of violating the INF Treaty, arguing that the 9M729 missile fully meets the requirements of the document. In other words, it has a range of no more than 500 kilometers. It should be emphasized in this connection that the American expert community does not have full confidence on this issue. Some American experts drew attention to the fact that in September 2015 the 9M729 missile flew 300 kilometers during the tests. The conclusion was that the American intelligence mistook the sea-based 3M14 Kalibr cruise missile for the 9M729 system. This error is quite understandable if we take into account that these missiles are manufactured by the same Russian company – the NGO Novator (Ekaterinburg) – and are very similar in appearance (see S. Ritter The Nuke 'Treaty That Ended the Cold War 'is Unraveling).
This, as well as other problems of the INF Treaty compliance (we recall in this connection that the Russian side has serious questions about how Washington, in turn, respects the treaty provisions) could be resolved within the Special Verification Commission on the INF Treaty. According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, “in order to remove the problems around this treaty, our bilateral dialogue should not just continue, but take a more concrete character. Our position demonstrates the desire to not only ‘express slogans and clichés’, but to state the facts extremely professionally, with technical calculations, thorough and detailed demonstration of those legal aspects of the current document that are not observed by the American side” (see The Preservation of Treaty Requires a More Responsible Approach from the US).
The first meeting of the commission took place a year ago, but, unfortunately, the Special Verification Commission did not become an efficient tool to resolve mutual claims. As for the INF Treaty itself, Moscow’s position remains unchanged: Russia is for maintaining this most important disarmament agreement.