Nikolai Sokov and Miles Pomper recently reviewed allegations that Russia is violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. They are not persuaded that there is much substance to the charges, writes

Thus, the case that there are significant Russian violations of the INF Treaty appears weak. As noted above, the RS-26 tests do not represent a violation—at most the use of a legal loophole for reasons of convenience. The story about cruise missile tests is still vague, but the fact that US government was reluctant to classify it as a violation suggests plenty of uncertainty. In the history of US-Soviet and US-Russian arms control there have been dozens of similar cases—both parties have raised concern about the actions of the other. The majority of these concerns remained unresolved for years until they lost relevance. As a rule, these are technical issues that are discussed by technical experts outside public eye. Why, then have allegations about possible violation of the INF Treaty surfaced? The reasons for that are likely to be found in alliance and domestic politics rather than in substance of the arms control process.

As the authors observe, if the Russians no longer wished to be bound by the treaty they could easily withdraw from it, and the purported violations are so minor that they wouldn’t constitute a serious problem even if they have occurred. There have been and probably always will be some in the U.S. fiercely opposed to any and all arms control agreements, and so these opponents are eager to find evidence of violations by the other party as a way of discrediting a particular treaty or arms control as such. It is not an accident that these vague reports of violations have been seized on by U.S. politicians that stridently opposed New START and now also oppose the interim deal with Iran. The purpose in exaggerating these alleged violations is to wreck the prospect of further arms reduction agreements and to try to undermine ongoing diplomacy with Iran, so any claims about violations of the INF treaty should be viewed very skeptically with all of this in mind.
910 reads | 14.02.2014

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