“Russia has violated the INF treaty for at least ten years. In that time, Presidents of both parties have urged them to return to compliance, Congress has admonished them, the United States has imposed sanctions against them, and the President has threatened to withdraw from the treaty. None of these actions has convinced Russia to return to compliance. Instead, they have spent a decade developing a capability to which we cannot respond. Other adversaries, like China, are developing similar weapons to capitalize on America’s one-sided disadvantage.
“The American people are rightly concerned about Russia’s many aggressive attempts to undermine American interests. We must continue sanctions in response to meddling in our elections and invading their neighbors. We must continue rebuilding our military strength in Europe while supporting our allies. And we must withdraw from a treaty that no longer offers the strategic stability it was intended to provide.”
-Rep. Mac Thornberry, Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee
National Security leaders from both parties have been concerned about Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty for some time. After repeated calls from Congressional leaders, repeated votes to hold Russia accountable, at least four hearings on Treaty violations over four years, and warning from senior military commanders and national security experts, Russia refused to return to compliance with the treaty. As threats from Russia and China mount, President Trump has little choice but to withdraw from a treaty only the United States is adhering to.
Russian Cheating Is Nothing New: Obama administration officials were concerned about Russian INF cheating as far back as 2008, and concerns have only been growing:
- In 2008, according to a later interview, then-Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Rose Gottemoeller, Russia started testing “a ground-launched cruise missile that flies to ranges banned by the treaty. The banned ranges are between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. We are quite sure they have tested a capable missile that flies to those ranges, and they tried to get away with it.”
- In 2013, HASC Chairman McKeon wrote twice to President Obama to express the Committee’s concerns about Russian violations of arms control agreements. Then-Senator John Kerry expressed concerns about Russian cheating, according to the Daily Beast. While the Obama Administration claims to have raised the issue with Russia, President Obama threatened to veto the FY13 NDAA because it would have forced his administration to make a determination on Russian cheating.
- In 2014, the then-Chairmen of the House Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Intelligence Committees wrote to President Obama reinforcing their concerns about Russian violations. That same year the Obama administration concluded that Russia had violated the INF Treaty. According to the New York Times, this was “the most serious allegation of an arms control treaty violation that the Obama administration has leveled against Russia.”
- In 2016, Chairmen Thornberry and Nunes again wrote to President Obama, urging his administration to take Russian violations seriously.
- In 2017, Air Force General Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that Russia has deployed a new type of cruise missile that violates the INF Treaty. The Trump Administration imposed sanctions on Russia for violating the treaty in December 2017.
- In the spring of 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly announced new classes of nuclear weapons that would violate the INF Treaty.
- In December 2018, NATO Foreign Ministers released a statement in support of the U.S. position, noting that the “allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty” and that they “strongly support the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg publicly supported withdrawal, as have other European leaders like German Chancellor Merkel.
The Threat From China Is Growing: Over the past two decades, China has developed numerous missile systems that far outrange U.S. systems. United States’ compliance to INF, coupled with unconstrained Chinese missile development, has contributed to a significant disparity in ballistic missile force structure which may have strategic and operational impacts in the Indo-Pacific region. The absence of the INF treaty would provide additional options for the United States to counter existing missile capabilities by adversaries, including China.
- “Over the last two decades Beijing has built up a formidable missile arsenal outside the limits of the [INF Treaty].” According to the US – China Commission, “China’s land-based missiles armed with conventional warheads, nearly all of which would be restricted under the INF Treaty, present a more immediate challenge to the United States and its allies and partners. Chinese policymakers view these conventional missiles—whose accuracy has markedly improved in recent years—as a pillar of their warfighting strategy and useful across the spectrum of conflict, from deterrence and coercion to fighting wars.”
- “Largest and most diverse missile force in the world”: According to Admiral Harris, formerly the Commander for U.S. Pacific Command, the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) controls the largest and most diverse missile force in the world, with an inventory of more than 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles. This fact is significant because the U.S. has no comparable capability against 95% of the PLARF’s missiles due to our adherence to the INF Treaty with Russia.
- The United States has no comparable capability due to INF restrictions: The INF Treaty prevents the United States from developing comparable capabilities against the following operational Chinese missiles: DF-11 SRBM, DF-26 IRBM, DF-16 SRBM, DF-4 IRBM, DF-15 SRBM, HN-3 Cruise Missile, HN-2 Cruise Missile, DF-21 MRBM, among several others.
- The United States is at a “disadvantage” in the Indo-Pacific Region: According to Adm. Philip Davidson, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, “The INF treaty today unfairly puts the United States at a disadvantage and places our forces at risk because China is not a signatory.”
Congress Has Acted Repeatedly: Members from both sides of the aisle, and in both chambers, have voted repeatedly to hold Russia accountable:
- Since 2014, the House Armed Services Committee has held four hearings into Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty.
- In March of 2014, a bipartisan group in the House and Senate introduced a resolution to hold Russia accountable for its violations of the INF Treaty, a version of which was included in the FY15 NDAA.
- The FY15 NDAA included additional measures aimed at Russia’s treaty violations.
- The FY17 NDAA banned companies who contributed to Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty from doing business with the U.S. government.
- The FY18 NDAA authorized funding to counter INF violations, including research on the potential development of U.S. missiles that would travel between 500 and 5,500km. It also required the executive branch to develop a plan to sanction Russia and key persons for non-compliance with the INF Treaty.