RUSSIAN GENERAL REVEALS INF VIOLATION
Any doubts about Russia’s militarily significant violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty were largely dispelled by Moscow’s military chief this month.
Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, told Russian state media that units with precisionguided missiles with ranges of up to 2,485 miles are in place.
“We have formed command bodies and special units to plan the use of long-range precision-guided munitions and prepare flight assignments for all types of cruise missiles,” Gen. Gerasimov said during a meeting of Defense Ministry officials on Nov. 6.
According to the general, the Russian military has deployed hardware and software for planning, information support, and data for using the missiles in combat. “This has enabled us to set up full-scale units of vehicles capable of delivering precision-guided missiles to targets located up to [2,485 miles] away,” he said.
The missile the general was referring to is the Kalibr cruise missile, used recently in Syria, that appears to violate the Reagan-era treaty prohibiting groundbased nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges from 310 miles to 3,420 miles.
An earlier INF violation involved the flight-testing of a new ground-launched cruise missile identified by the Pentagon as the SSC-X-8.
“I don’t see how this can be read as anything else but a description of a major Russian INF Treaty violation by the chief of the general staff,” said Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon nuclear policy official.
The National Air and Space Intelligence Center revealed in its most recent report on missile threats that Russia’s 1,553-mile-range Kalibr missile is deployed as a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM).
“In his speech, Gerasimov said the range of the Kalibr is 4,000 kilometers,” said Mr. Schneider, now with the National Institute for Public Policy. “A GLCM with … a range of either 2,500-kilometer or 4,000-kilometer range is a clear violation of the INF Treaty.”
Additionally, Russia does not call its heavy bombers or warships “units of vehicles” — thus indicating the forces are ground-launched missiles.
“In December 2015, [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin said that Kalibr can carry nuclear warheads. A dual-capable GLCM with a range of either 2,500 or 4,000-kilometer range is a major threat to NATO and, indeed, any of Russia’s neighbors.”
The Trump administration plans to respond to the INF violation with new missiles and defenses.
Chris Ford, the National Security Council director for arms proliferation, said last summer that a broad range of options is being considered. Rob Soofer, deputy assistant defense secretary for nuclear and missile defense policy, told a Senate hearing in June that the INF breach is unacceptable.
“Resolving Russia’s INF Treaty violation is a top priority for this administration,” Mr. Soofer said. “This administration has been clear with Russia that the status quo is unacceptable and that the United States must therefore consider concrete steps that will deny Russia any significant military advantage from this violation.”
The administration has the backing of Congress. The defense authorization bill recently completed in the House-Senate conference contains provisions for the administration to develop countermeasures.
The legislation will state that Russia is in material breach of the INF Treaty and authorizes $58 million for research on road-mobile, ground-based missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,420 miles. The bill also requires intelligence agencies to notify Congress of Moscow’s INFrelated activities and for the Treasury Department to sanction Russian officials linked to the treaty violation.
The Gerasimov comments also are bad news for American arms control advocates in and out of government who have tried to wish away the INF Treaty violation with the hope that Moscow will return to compliance.