- The USA has withdrawn from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed in 1987.
About INF Treaty
- The missile crisis of 1970s and 80s represented the high-point of cold war, with both USA (and its NATO allies) on one side and USSR on the other, building up their nuclear arsenal.
- In this backdrop, the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed in 1987 aimed to arrest the global arms race of the time.
- The INF treaty put an obligation on the parties (USA, NATO allies and Russia) to eliminate and permanently abjure all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.
- The INF treaty does not cover missiles launched from air or water.
- As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed nearly 2,700 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty’s implementation deadline of 1991.
Background to US withdrawal:
- Russian missile development:
- The United States has since 2014 been alleging that Russia was in violation of its INF Treaty obligations.
- It said that for years Moscow has been developing and fielding weapons that violate the treaty and threaten the US and its allies, particularly in Europe.
- Chinese missile development:
- The US officials said that China also was making similar noncompliant weapons, leaving the US alone in complying with the aging arms control pact.
- Russia was also concerned about the treaty as it prevents it from possessing weapons that its neighbors, such as China, are developing and fielding.
- With worries over Russian and Chinese missiles, the US suspended its own obligations under the INF Treaty in early 2019 and formally announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty.
- Russia also announced that Russia will be officially suspending its treaty obligations as well.
- With the expiry of 6 months since US announced its intention to withdraw, the US has now formally withdrawn from the INF Treaty.
Way aheadUS to develop intermediate range missiles:
- After exiting the treaty, the US is free to develop weapons systems that were previously banned.
- The US plans to test a new missile in coming weeks that would have been prohibited under the INF.
- However, some experts say that the US is now years away from effectively deploying weapons previously banned under the INF agreement.
New START treaty under threat:
- Arms control advocates worry that America’s exit from the INF treaty will lead the two nations (US and Russia) to also scrap the larger New START treaty, which expires in early 2021.
- Trump hasn’t committed to extending or replacing New START, which beginning in 2018 imposed limits on the number of US and Russian long-range nuclear warheads and launchers.
Calls for inclusion of China in arms control agreements:
- The US administration claims that with China’s growing arsenal of nuclear warheads, Beijing can no longer be excluded from nuclear arms control agreements.
- Most experts now assess that China has the most advanced conventional missile arsenal in the world, based throughout the mainland.
- US President Trump has expressed a desire to negotiate a trilateral arms control deal signed by the US, Russia and China.
About: START TreatiesSTART I:
- START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was a bilateral treaty between the US and the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Soviet, in short) on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.
- The treaty barred its signatories from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers.
- It had a duration of 15 years. Reductions mandated by the treaty were to be completed no later than 7 years after its entry into force, and parties were then obligated to maintain those limits during the next 8 years.
- START includes an intrusive verification regime consisting of a detailed data exchange, extensive notifications, 12 types of on-site inspection, and continuous monitoring activities designed to help verify that signatories are complying with their treaty obligations.
- It was signed in 1991, and entered into force in 1994 (delay in enforcement was due to break up of the Soviet Union).
- Start-I played an indispensable role in ensuring the predictability and stability of the strategic balance and serving as a framework for even deeper reductions.
- By the time of the treaty’s expiration, the US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals were significantly below those stipulated in the treaty.
- START I proved to be excessively complicated, cumbersome and expensive to continue, which eventually led the United States and Russia to replace it with a new treaty in 2010.
- The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was signed in 2010 in Prague and entered into force in 2011.
- The treaty capped deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs at 1,550 while the deployed missiles and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions were limited to 700.
- Both Russia and the United States announced that they met New START limitations by 2018, meeting the due date set by the treaty.
- New START does not limit the number of non-deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, but it does monitor them and provide for continuous information on their locations and on-site inspections to confirm that they are not added to the deployed force.
- Non-deployed missiles must be located at specified facilities away from deployment sites and labeled with “unique identifiers” to reduce concerns about hidden missile stocks.
- New START’s verification regime includes relevant parts of START I as well as new provisions to cover items not previously monitored.
- The treaty’s duration is ten years from entry into force (i.e till 2021) unless it is superseded by a subsequent agreement and can be extended for an additional five years.