A Carrot-and-Stick Approach to Resolve the INF Treaty Crisis

October 31, 2017
Miles Pomper, Polina Sinovets

The following is an excerpt from European Leadership Network.

Few in Washington express much doubt that Russia recently violated the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (1), testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles within the treaty’s prohibited range.

Yet the lack of clear public evidence of Russian violations amid persistent Russian denials has left the United States in a position where the strongest American retaliatory responses could provide Russia with an excuse to abandon the treaty.

Russia already views the INF as an inconvenient hindrance given that its restrictions do not apply to countries such as China and Pakistan that could threaten Russia (but not the United States) with the INF-class missiles. Most U.S. analysts see the treaty as serving U.S interests given that it limits the threat to US allies in Europe and East Asia. Yet failing to respond to the Russian alleged violation could be considered as foolishly ignoring a breach of an important US-Russian arms control treaty, which could, in turn, embolden Russia to conduct further violations.

As a result, U.S. responses have tended to fall along predictable lines. Hardliners in Congress have introduced the “INF Treaty Preservation Act” which provides funds for the US to develop and potentially deploy a new ground-based cruise missile that would violate the treaty’s constraints. They claim that the legislation is a means to confront Russia with an “unacceptable alternative” to continued testing and deployment of systems that violate the pact. The additional leverage of such a potential deployment, they believe, should force Russia to end its violations. The House approved a somewhat stronger version of the measure in its annual defense policy bill, authorizing spending immediately $25 million to initiate a program to develop an INF-prohibited missile. The Senate would hold off this spending until the Pentagon provided a report (due within four months) on the feasibility of modifying existing or planned cruise missiles so they could reach the ranges prohibited under the treaty. Differences between the two bills will be reconciled in a final bill currently being drafted by House and Senate negotiators.

Read the full article at European Leadership Network.

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