The US announced this week that it would suspend its INF Treaty obligations in 60 days unless Russia returns to full compliance. While Moscow has denied breaching the accord, saying that it strictly adheres to treaty conditions.
Sputnik has discussed the future of the INF Treaty with James George Jatras, former US diplomat and adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.
Sputnik: This past NATO summit actually took place amid US plans to pull out of the INF Treaty and that move, of course, has been criticised by both Democrats and the Europeans, what do you think of the prospects for this situation?
I think maybe President Trump would prefer something like that, but when I look at his national security team like National Security Advisor Bolton or Secretary of State Pompeo I don't think they have any such intention.
Sputnik: Most people say that if the US were to withdraw this would, of course, lead to huge arms race between Moscow and Washington, do you think that is the case? And is that maybe the point of this all?
Sputnik: Let's talk about the reasons for INF withdrawal, the official reason in any case, and that is the questionable Russian rocket, which by the way has been in development since 2008, if I'm not mistaken. It's been around for a long time, why is it at this point in time that all of a sudden they have a problem with the rocket, I mean the treaty was signed in 1987, 2008 — that's10 years ago, almost 11. Why were there no questions posed at that time? It's actually a borderline, nobody knows for sure is it or is it not in compliance with the INF Treaty. Why has there not been a committee called to assess whether or not this rocket or missile is in fact in compliance?
You're right, if we have concerns about this missile, the 9M729 missile that the Russians have there are all sorts of technical issues about what kind of a launcher it might be mounted on, whether it's been tested within a certain range, those are technical issues and my understanding is that the American side has accused the Russians of testing it within the prohibited range.
The Russians say they have not done so, and they ask for any evidence of that, and the Americans say well we have it, but we can't give it to you because of the sources and methods, and there we have it. But if you put this in context with other things like the ABM Treaty (The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty), like the International Criminal Court or any number of other agreements you could look at where the American side seems bound and determined to break down the structure of international agreements that were put up during the first Cold War to safeguard against the possibility of war, and you have to ask yourself what in the world do these people think they're doing.
Sputnik: By the way is there a mechanism in the current INF Treaty to assess new weapons for compliance?
Sputnik: Has that review protocol been followed in respect to the Russian missile in question?
James George Jatras: To the best of my knowledge it has not.
Sputnik: Have there been cases in the past where there were questions about some other weapons and the protocol was followed, or was this never used?
James George Jatras: I don't know, to the best of my knowledge it hasn't been. And maybe that's one of the problems, and maybe this is something that the Russian side should be more insistent on as well rather than simply saying the Americans are walking away from the agreement.
If there's some way for them to throw the dead cat on the on the table and say we're formally invoking these mechanisms, we want the American side to respond and let the Americans reject it.
Sputnik: It seems really strange that nobody has really brought this up before?
James George Jatras: It's right, yes, I think so. And part of it is there is a dialogue on the death going on. I have information at my disposal that the Russian side has tried to raise these things in a problem-solving or business-like way with the American side and there's simply nobody to talk to, nobody at the State Department will respond to them on this.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of James George Jatras and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.