The US is expected to suspend its observance of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) today and mark the beginning of a six-month countdown until it fully withdraws from the pact.
The Cold War era treaty bans ground-based missiles with a range between 500-5,500kms. Washington has long suspected Moscow of infringing on the treaty, but Russia’s development of the Novator 9M729—a land-based cruise missile with a range capability banned by the INF—outright violates it.
The collapse of the INF provides strategic benefits to both Moscow and Washington. Russia cannot compete with the US’ sea and air nuclear capabilities, for which there are no missile restrictions, meaning it needs a strong land-based capability.
For the US, Russia’s non-compliance with the treaty renders it useless, while its primary rival in the long-term, China—not a signatory of the INF—has been steadily developing its land capability. From Washington’s perspective, the INF is a needless restriction on its own capabilities.
Washington has demanded that Moscow destroy the 9M729, which it is unlikely to do. As such, the US will likely withdraw from the treaty in August, potentially increasing the deployment of land-based missiles across Europe.
Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.
Alex is a senior analyst in the Current Developments team with a primary focus on the Americas. He also serves as an editor on The Daily Brief.