The Soviet-era treaty – a pillar of European security in the past three decades – is yet another victim of Donald Trump’s penchant for pulling out of landmark international agreements.
In October 2018, Trump announced that he planned to tear up the treaty over alleged violations of the agreement on the part of Russia. The US later launched the withdrawal process, which is due to be complete on 2 August, with Russia following suit.
Washington and NATO claim that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system called 9M729 that allegedly flies within the 500-5,500km range banned by the agreement. The Russian military responded by showing the missile at a briefing – which the US and its Western allies refused to attend – stating that it had a maximum range of 480km and was therefore in line with the treaty.
Russia has long maintained that it is the US that is blatantly ignoring its commitments under the pact.
Defying the INF Treaty?
- Russia has accused the US of unlawful deployment of combat drones (which Moscow says fall under the treaty as "ground-based cruise missiles" as they can travel over 1,200km). The US argues that armed drones do not qualify as missiles because they are reusable.
- Russia also assumes that the US land-based Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence system, deployed in Poland and Romania, utilises naval Mk-41 launchers capable of firing Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missiles. Washington insists that while Aegis Ashore uses “some of the same structural components” as the Mk-41s, it has different launchers and that this system is only capable of firing “defensive interceptor missiles”.
- Russia suspects the US of developing intermediate-range missiles under the guise of target missiles for defence shield exercises. The US alleges it has only fired such missiles for R&D purposes, which it says is not prohibited by the treaty.
If the Federation Council approves the bill, it will grant President Vladimir Putin the right to revive the treaty if the United States returns to compliance.