16 July 201813:30

The Treaty between the USSR and the US on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty)

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The INF Treaty (signed on December 8, 1987, came into force on June 1, 1988) bans the two nations from producing, testing and deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as their launchers, with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometres. The treaty, which is of unlimited duration, remains an important factor in the maintenance of strategic stability and facilitates the further reduction and limitation of nuclear missile capabilities.

During the first three years, two classes of Soviet and US ground-launched missiles were eliminated: intermediate range (1,000–5,500 km) and shorter range (500-1,000 km) missiles. Their launchers, auxiliary facilities and equipment, deployment areas, missile operation bases and missile support installations were also eliminated.

Following the breakup of the USSR, in addition to Russia and the US, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine also complied with the treaty.

To verify its implementation, until May 30, 2001, the parties conducted on-site inspections, including continuous monitoring at entryways to the Votkinsk machine building plant (Udmurtia) and the Hercules plant in Magna, Utah.

Matters related to compliance with the treaty obligations and coordination of measures to enhance its viability and effectiveness were dealt with by the Special Verification Commission (SVC). By October 2003, the SVC had conducted 29 meetings. After that the commission did not met for a long time because by then Russia and the US had fulfilled their obligations requiring verification under the treaty. 

On October 12, 2007, at a meeting with Russian and US foreign and defence ministers, Vladimir Putin proposed globalising the obligations under the INF Treaty. The US endorsed his proposal.

On October 25, 2007, a joint Russian-US statement on the INF Treaty was distributed at the 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly. In particular, it calls on all countries concerned to discuss the possibility of globalising the commitments under the INF Treaty by abandoning ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometres.

At a plenary session of the Disarmament Conference in Geneva on February 12, 2008, Sergey Lavrov proposed searching for optimal ways of promoting it. He also submitted for an expert discussion draft basic elements of an international agreement on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range (ground-launched) missiles open for broad international accession.

Despite Russia’s efforts, this initiative was not followed up at the practical level.


In 2013, the US began to groundlessly accuse Russia of violating the INF Treaty. Washington alleges that in 2008-2011, a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of more than 500 kilometres was tested at Kapustin Yar, which is banned under the Treaty. The Americans refuse to specify their claims.

US administration officials say that in response to the Russian violations they are considering “retaliatory measures” of a diplomatic, economic and military nature.

The US claims have been repeatedly discussed at different levels in a bilateral format. At the US initiative, on November 15-16, 2016, a SVC meeting was held, the first in the past 13 years. The situation has not been resolved yet due to Washington’s reluctance to provide information specifying Russia’s alleged violations of the INF Treaty.

Russia has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to the INF Treaty. We reject the US allegations.

We note that while alleging that Russia is not complying with the INF Treaty, the US has not provided any evidence. The impression is that these allegations are designed to discredit Russia and at the same time divert attention from the actions of the US itself, which interprets INF Treaty provisions extremely loosely when they impede the development of weapon systems that are important to Washington.

Russia has a number of concrete complaints against the US related to compliance with the INF Treaty:

- contrary to the INF Treaty requirements, the US is implementing a wide-ranging programme to produce and test target missiles with specifications similar to intermediate-range and shorter-range ground-launched missiles;

- the extensive use of US unmanned aerial attack vehicles that fall under the Treaty definition of medium-range ground-launched cruise missiles;

- the deployment at missile-defence sites in Europe of MK-41 ground-based interceptor missile launchers, which can potentially be used for launching cruise missiles.

The first two complaints on this list were made back in the early 2000s.

The US has persistently evaded a substantive discussion of these issues, which raises serious doubts about the sincerity of US official statements related to its commitment to the goals and targets of the INF Treaty, as well as its willingness to really work with Russia to ensure the effectiveness of the Treaty and enhance its viability.




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