United States wants the withdrawal from the INF Treaty to refrain from land-based medium-range nuclear weapons already this Friday. According to the media reports, the United States informed its NATO allies about its plans on Thursday. The military alliance planned to support the US decision as soon as possible after the announcement with a statement.
Reason for the planned termination of the INF Treaty by the United States are new Russian cruise missiles with the designation 9M729 (NATO code: SSC-8). In the opinion of US, they represent a clear breach of the agreement.
Washington had last given Russia a 60-day ultimatum to pledge the destruction of the new cruise missiles. This actually only runs out on Saturday. However, Russia had repeatedly made it clear in recent weeks that it considers the allegations baseless and does not think about destroying its cruise missiles.
In a video leaked on Twitter, US NATO ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison accused Russia of “consistently” refusing to admit violations of the agreement and continuing to spread disinformation about his cruise missile.
“All NATO partners agree that Russia’s actions are a major violation of the agreement and that the United States respects the treaty,” she said. Russia has developed a missile that “violates the heart of the agreement”. Moscow now has the choice: “Either it retains its non-compliant missile system, or it remains in the INF agreement, but it cannot have both.”
According to Russian data, the 9M729 have a maximum range of 480 kilometers. The United States, however, assume at least 2600 kilometers. This would allow the cruise missiles to hit virtually every major city in Europe.
The INF Treaty on Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces was concluded in 1987 between the United States and the then Soviet Union. He commits both sides to abandon land-based ballistic missiles and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5500 kilometers. At the same time, he also prohibits the production and testing of such systems.
An official confirmation for the planned US announcement did not exist on the night of Friday at first. Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo invited media representatives for a statement in the State Department in Washington.
For Europe, the end of the INF treaty would be highly explosive, as it is likely that there will be a discussion about possible nuclear rearmament in Europe. In the opinion of the military, this is the only way to secure a long-term strategic balance and deterrence.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently abandoned the question of whether the cancellation of the treaty by the United States could result in the stationing of additional American nuclear weapons in Europe. It was still too early to predict how the military alliance would respond to a possible end to the agreement said the Norwegian late last week.
He also pointed out that even in the event of a termination, there is still time to save the contract until August. The agreement provides for a notice period of six months.
Russia still gives in to the dispute is considered extremely unlikely. In addition, the United States is also censured by critics for not having much interest in the INF Treaty in its current form. The main reason is that the Cold War-era deal only binds Americans and Russians, but not emerging powers like China. The latter is now said to have nearly 2,000 ballistic missiles and cruise missiles that would fall under the agreement.
How quickly the US could develop and deploy a new medium-range system is not publicly stated. The plans for the announcement this Friday, however, show that you do not want to spend too much time. As of the information, United States wants to announce that it no longer feels bound to the contract. The six months’ notice would therefore only be a kind of very last ultimatum to Russia.