RUSSIAN TREATY VIOLATION
Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats disclosed new findings this week outlining how Russia violated the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF.
“Our bottom line: We assess that Russia began the covert development of an intermediate-range, groundlaunched cruise missile designated 9M729 probably by the mid-2000s,” Mr. Coats said. “The 9M729 has a conventional and nuclear warhead capability.”
The missile was built by the Novator Design Bureau and closely resembles other missiles built by the bureau, including the short-range Iskander ballistic missiles.
The illegal cruise missile, which the Pentagon calls the SSC-8, was first flight-tested in the late 2000s. By 2015, it had been fired successfully from both roadmobile and fixed launchers.
The Russian flight test program was carried out in ways that were intended to disguise the missile tests as well as the weapon’s capabilities, Mr. Coats said. For example, the Russians used a loophole in the INF treaty that allows firing a banned INF missile from fixed launchers, such as those on ships.
To hide the missile’s capabilities, the first tests were conducted to treaty-permitted ranges from a fixed launcher. Later tests were conducted to ranges under treaty limits from mobile launchers.
“By putting the two types of tests together, Russia was able to develop a missile that flies to the intermediate ranges prohibited by the INF Treaty and launches from a ground-mobile platform,” Mr. Coats said.
For the past five years, the U.S. government has repeatedly sought Russian explanations for the illegal missile, receiving only blanket denials, the DNI said.
“When confronted about treaty noncompliance, Russia’s response over five years has been consistent: Deny any wrongdoing, demand more information in an effort to determine how the United States detected the violation, and issue false counter-accusations that the United States is violating the treaty,” Mr. Coats said.
Once the designator of the missile was disclosed to the Russians, Moscow switched to acknowledging its existence but denying that the missile could travel to treaty-limited ranges.
Mr. Coats said the missile is part of Russian threats to Europe.
“We believe that Russia probably wants to be unconstrained by the INF Treaty as it modernizes its military with precision-strike missiles that we assess are designed to target critical European military and economic infrastructure, and thereby be in position to coerce NATO allies,” he said.
“These relatively low-cost and survivable capabilities give Russia more options to strike allied military targets and populations without consuming Russia’s inventory of strategic offensive weapons and theaterstrike resources such as sea-launched cruise missiles.”