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USA pulls out of INF treaty

Published: 7th Feb, 2019

USA has suspended (Not terminated the treaty) its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)Treaty, effective from February 2 and will withdraw from it in six months.



  • USA has suspended (Not terminated the treaty) its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)Treaty, effective from February 2 and will withdraw from it in six months.


  • On December 4, 2018, the United States announced that the Russian Federation is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, an assessment shared by all NATO Allies.
  • The United States also provided notice that unless Russia returned to full and verifiable compliance in 60 days, the United States would suspend its obligations under the Treaty as a consequence for Russia’s material breach.
  • Russia has not taken the necessary steps to return to compliance over the last 60 days. It remains in material breach of its obligations not to produce, possess, or flight-test a ground-launched, intermediate-range cruise missile system with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
  • The United States first alleged in its Compliance Report 2014 that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations.


Intermediate-Range Forces Treaty

  • The treaty was signed in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and led to the destruction of more than 2600 missiles by 1991.
  • It originally banned only the U.S. and the Soviet Union (later Russia) from deploying all ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles with a range of 500 to 5500kms. After 1991, treaty also covered Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine under it.
  • Through the treaty, the superpowers for the first time, agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification.


Why to pull out from treaty?

Since the treaty came into force, both Russia and the US have alleged each other for violating the treaty.


  • In the past, Russia has raised the possibility of withdrawing from the INF Treaty. It contended that the treaty unfairly prevents it from possessing weapons while its neighbors, such as China, are developing and fielding weapons.
  • Proposed U.S. deployment of strategic Anti-ballistic Missile Systems in Europe might trigger a Russian withdrawal from the accord, presumably, to deploy missiles targeting any future U.S. anti-missile sites.

United States

  • The present context of US pulling out of the INF treaty is based on the allegation that Russia has developed and deployed Novator 9 M 729 missiles, also known as the SSC-8, that could strike Europe at short notice. However, Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations. Further, noncompliance has jeopardized the United States’ supreme interests, and the United States can no longer be restricted by the Treaty while Russia openly violates it.
  • If Russia does not return to full and verifiable compliance with the Treaty by eliminating all 9M729 missiles, their launchers, and associated equipment in this six-month period, the Treaty will terminate.

Other motives for USA

  • Cold War-era treaty did not address new missile threats from countries such as China, Iran and North Korea, therefore, it’s redundant.
  • In the recent past, China’s growing military might has become the strategic centre point of US nuclear strategy. A withdrawal will allow the U.S. to have new weapon options, which are not bound by the INF treaty, in the Pacific region where China is challenging its dominance.
  • The existence of the INF Treaty creates hindrance in establishing complete domination and supremacy of U.S. across the world.

Previous Examples

  • Former President George W. Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), 1972
  • Former President Jimmy Carter withdrew from the Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan.


  • With increased military and economic influence of China; Russia’s reassertion as powerhouse meddling equally in Middle East Crisis; and emergence of regional alliance systems based on close proximity such as Shangai Cooperation Organisation; United States is no more a lone super-power in the world to reckon with. For USA, to re-impose its dominance and reassert its hegemony over Indo-pacific and Middle East would need its nuclear weapons and arms industry to counter the influence of China, Russia and Iran.

Implications of US pulling out

  • US may deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe to counter Russia and in the retaliation Russia may deploy in its exclave of Kaliningrad. This could once again turn Europe into one of the potential nuclear battlefields.
  • It will adversely affect embattled U.S.-Russia arms control enterprise. The U.S.-Russia New START treaty, governing strategic offensive nuclear weapons, was concluded on the assumption that Washington and Moscow would refrain from deploying systems of intermediate range. Any change to the nuclear balance would destabilize the strategic calculations that underpin New START, potentially placing that treaty in jeopardy.
  • US may deploy ground-based missile system in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. This could embolden China to speed up its missile installation in the strategic areas of the region including South China Sea.
  • It would be a bad precedent for the nuclear power countries like North Korea, Pakistan, Iran and Israel. These countries may accelerate the process of acquiring more nuclear weapons by resorting to an excuse that responsible nuclear powers like US and Russia do not even adhere to their own treaties of non-proliferating of nuclear weapons.
  • The abrogation of treaty will further accelerate the nuclear armed race. INF abrogation will raise questions regarding the United States’ commitment to arms control in general, lending further weight to the sense that the 21st century will be an era of arms racing rather than negotiation.

                                         Important Arms Control Treaties

     Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), 1963

    • It bans nuclear tests in the atmosphere, outer space and under water. It does not ban tests underground, but does prohibit explosions in the environment if the explosions create debris outside the territory of the responsible state.

     Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT),1970

    • It is the only multilateral treaty with a binding commitment of disarmament by nuclear-weapon states. It seeks to promote cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.
    • More states have ratified the NPT than any other treaty on arms limitation and disarmament. IAEA verifies compliance with the Treaty.

     Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I),1972

    • The United States and the Soviet Union negotiated agreements on limits and restraints of their strategic armaments.
    • Attempts to reach an agreement failed on the ABM systems and more proposals were made. After over two years of negotiation, SALT I ended, but an Interim Agreement for five years was established for certain major aspects of strategic weaponry.
    • SALT II never came into being.

     Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty,1972

    • It restrict and locate only two ABM deployment areas in such a nature that they cannot become the basis for developing a nationwide ABM defense.
    • Every five years, the United States and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation would hold meetings in Geneva to review and modify the Treaty arrangements.
    • In 2001, U.S. president George Bush submitted a formal notification of intent to repeal the treaty and in 2002, the United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty.

     Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) ,1975

    • It is the first multilateral disarmament treaty that bans the development, production, and stockpiling of this category of weapons of mass destruction.

     Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR),1987

    • It is an informal association of governments with common interests in missile, unmanned air vehicle, and related technology of non-proliferation.
    • Its goal is to limit risks of proliferation by controlling transfers to delivery systems capable of weapons of mass destruction. States must follow laws and procedures which include information-sharing. There is no formal mechanism to ensure compliance.

     Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I (START I), 1994

    • It was the first treaty that required U.S. and Soviet/Russian reductions of strategic nuclear weapons. It was indispensable in creating a framework that ensured predictability and stability for deep reductions.
    • The dissolution of the Soviet Union caused a delayed the treaty, as the classification of states as nuclear or non-nuclear had to be determined, among other things.
    • START II ceased START I.

     Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),1997

    • It is the first multilateral framework that seeks to eliminate chemical weapons as a category of weapons of mass destruction.
    • The Preparatory Commission for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was established in 1997 as the entry-into-force of the CWC in order to lay out standard operating procedures and implement the regime of the CWC.
    • The provisions of the CWC create a transparent regime that can verify the destruction of chemical weapons, prevent the re-emergence in any party, and provide protection against chemical weapons. It also encourages cooperation on the peaceful uses of chemistry.

     Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)(Yet to come into force)

    • It is composed of three parts: Part I details the International Monitoring System (IMS), Part II focuses on the On-Site Inspections (OSI) component, and Part III is on Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs).
    • The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is an international organization with two organs: the Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) which coordinates with countries to develop and maintain an international network of monitoring stations and radionuclide laboratories, and the Preparatory Commission which is designed to help achieve the object and purpose of the Treaty.

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