The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is a pillar of international security and stability. It has contributed to managing strategic competition between the United States and the Russian Federation and is critically important to the security of U.S. allies and partners globally. By eliminating an entire class of the most destabilizing weapons, the INF Treaty was a key component of our efforts to build and reinforce strategic stability late in the Cold War. In this time of renewed tensions between the United States and the Russian Federation, the INF Treaty is critical for reinforcing transparency and predictability in our relationship, and for preventing the development of a dangerously destabilizing arms race.
Since declaring the Russian Federation in violation of the INF Treaty in July 2014 for the development of the SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missile system, which the United States assesses to be designated by the Russian Federation as the 9M729, the United States has pressed Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the Treaty. We have provided detailed information to the Russian Federation, outlining U.S. concerns and engaged up to the highest levels of government. In spite of these efforts, Russian officials have refused to discuss the information provided by the United States or even answer basic questions. Indeed, Russian officials have not even acknowledged the existence of the missile system in question. Nevertheless, the United States remains committed to upholding its obligations under the INF Treaty.
However, the Russian Federation’s continuing violation and refusal to engage constructively is an impediment to improving bilateral relations and creates an untenable situation whereby the United States unilaterally complies with the INF Treaty while the Russian Federation violates it. Having concluded a policy review of the U.S. Government’s approach to the Treaty, the Administration is now implementing an integrated strategy to respond to the Russian Federation’s violation. We are taking new diplomatic, military, and economic measures intended to induce the Russian Federation to return to compliance and to deny it any military advantage should it persist in its violation.
First, the United States continues to seek a diplomatic resolution through all viable channels, including the INF Treaty’s Special Verification Commission (SVC) established to “resolve questions relating to compliance with the obligations assumed.”
Second, the U.S. Department of Defense is commencing INF Treaty-compliant research and development (R&D) by reviewing military concepts and options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems. Should the Russia Federation’s actions result in the collapse of the Treaty, these efforts will prepare the United States to defend itself and its allies. The United States will not violate its INF Treaty obligations, which allow for R&D activities that fall short of possession, production, and flight-testing of prohibited systems. In addition, the United States is prepared to immediately cease this R&D if the Russian Federation returns to full and verifiable compliance with the Treaty.
Third, the United States is taking economic measures relating to the Russian Federation’s INF Treaty-violating ground-launched cruise missile program. Such measures will be tied to entities involved in the development and manufacture of Russia’s prohibited cruise missile system. As with the military steps described above, these economic response measures would cease if Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance.
The United States is committed to doing everything it can to preserve the integrity of the INF Treaty. The U.S. Government is working toward this goal despite the Russian Federation’s clandestine development, production, and deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile system in direct violation of the Russian Federation’s core obligations under the Treaty. The United States remains open to discussing any and all ways to facilitate the Russian Federation’s return to full and verifiable compliance.