The cold war era treaty also covers all land-based missiles, including those carrying nuclear warheads.
US President Donald Trump has announced to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). As soon as the announcement was made, a fresh debate has surfaced among the defence analysts and political leaders about the cold war treaties between the two super-powers.
Signed in 1987, the INF treaty prohibits US and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The cold war era treaty also covers all land-based missiles, including those carrying nuclear warheads. However, it does not cover air-launched or sea-launched weapons.
The INF treaty was signed between the then US president Ronald Reagan and USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Russia was known as USSR before its disintegration after the cold war in the early 90s.
The weapons ban treaty resulted in the destruction of 2,692 missiles. Washington demolished 846, and Moscow destroyed 1,846 missiles.
According to a New York Times report, US insists that Russia has breached the treaty and has developed a new medium-range missile called the Novator 9M729 — known to NATO as the SSC-8. Reportedly, it would enable Russians to launch a nuclear strike on NATO countries at very short notice. However, Russia has denied the accusation and condemned the plans. It even threatened to retaliate.
Why INF came into existence?
According to a Stanford university document, the negotiations for the INF came for two reasons. The first reason was the Soviet’s deployment of SS-20s, which was a highly accurate nuclear warhead to which NATO had no equivalent.
NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries and the US is a part of the alliance.
The second reason for the INF treaty was the European fear that the US would be unwilling to risk a nuclear attack on its own soil to defend Europe.
The INF ban originally applied only to US and Soviet forces, but its membership was eventually expanded in 1991 to include the successor states of the former Soviet Union. Hence, the INF offered a blanket of protection to the US’ European allies and marked a watershed agreement between two nations at the centre of the arms race during the Cold War.
Russia has reacted sharply on the US’ decision on the treaty with Russia’s Deputy Foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov saying that US’ withdrawal from the treaty would be a dangerous step.
Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty on behalf of USSR in 1987, has questioned the intelligence behind US President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw from the treaty.
Germany also criticised Trump’s move and urged Washington to consider the consequences both for Europe and for future disarmament efforts. Germany is a US ally.