The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

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.”

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