Special to WorldTribune.com
By Christopher Sparks, December 7, 2018
Saying Russia has been “cheating” on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) since 2008, the United States on Dec. 6 announced it is set to “suspend its obligations” under the treaty.
“Russia must return to full and verifiable compliance, or their failure to do so will result in the demise of the INF Treaty,” U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman said at a Dec. 6 briefing. “But we should be clear: Russia has not shown any indication so far that it seeks to return to full compliance.”
President Donald Trump had warned on Oct. 20 that the U.S. was set to “terminate the agreement.”
“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out,” Trump said. “We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons and we’re not allowed to. We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement but Russia has not unfortunately honored the agreement.”
Huntsman said that “We in NATO have gone to great lengths to preserve this treaty. However, no one believes, nor is there any reason to believe, that Russia is going to resolve this problem – of its own creation, by the way – and come back into compliance even after the President’s Oct. 20 announcement.”
Andrea Thompson, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, said during the Dec. 6 briefing that “Moscow began cheating on the INF Treaty in 2008 when they began flight-testing of the SSC-8, the cruise missile that has the excess of ranges that the treaty permits.”
The U.S. “confronted Russia multiple times over the course of the five-plus years and the 30 detailed engagements and raised it with them,” Thompson said. “We confronted them with the evidence of the violation. They feigned ignorance. We named the missile in question, and Russia went from denying the missile’s existence and now claiming it is in compliance.”
In March 2017, Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that Russia has filled in multiple battalions of the SSC-8, and all of them are positioned for offensive purposes.
A typical battalion has four launchers, each of which is equipped with six missiles.
“The system itself presents a risk to most of our facilities in Europe,” Selva told the committee. “And we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility.”
The U.S., Huntsman said, is “moving ahead with implementing the President’s Oct. 20 decision because Russia’s violation poses a clear threat to U.S., European, and global security. The United States is declaring that Russia’s ongoing violation of the INF Treaty constitutes a material breach of the treaty. The United States will suspend its obligations under the treaty effective 60 days from December 4th, which is when Secretary Pompeo just a couple of days ago laid it out in very clear terms, unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance.”
Huntsman added: “This also does not mean we are walking away from arms control. We are doing this to preserve the viability and integrity of arms control agreements more broadly. We remain committed to arms control, but we need a reliable partner and do not have one in Russia on INF, or for that matter on other treaties that it’s violating.”
Christopher Sparks is a veteran journalist who has worked for metropolitan and community newspapers in New York City, Washington, D.C., upstate New York and Florida.