Busting myths about the INF Treaty

The United States on February 2 suspended its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty because of Russia’s material breach of the treaty and its refusal to dismantle its intermediate-range, ground-launched cruise missile. The illegal Russian weapon clearly violates the treaty’s ban on ground-launched missiles that can travel 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

U.S. officials say that Russia has responded with a barrage of lies and obfuscations but has made no move to come back into compliance with the landmark 1987 treaty.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on December 4, 2018, gave Russia 60 days to return to compliance. Those 60 days expired February 2, and the United States suspended its obligations under the treaty. Pompeo also said on February 1 that the United States will provide formal notice of U.S. plans to withdraw from the treaty in six months. The U.S. will withdraw from the treaty at that time unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance.

Here are four myths spread by Russian propagandists about who is to blame.

Myth No. 1: The United States surprised Russia with this announcement.

Fact: U.S. officials first raised concerns about Russia’s development of a new missile in 2013. They’ve brought it up in more than 30 meetings with officials at all levels of the Russian government, including President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Myth No. 2: The U.S. is cheating, not Russia.

Fact: Russian officials for four years denied the existence of the new missile while continuing the program. As a ruse, they made the counter-charge that the United States is the violator, not them. But Russian allegations focus on systems that are not subject to the treaty. All NATO allies agree that the United States is in compliance, and Russia is not.

Myth No. 3: The U.S. wants another arms race.

Fact: The only country threatening its neighbors in Europe is Russia. “There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles,” says NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Arms control doesn’t work if only one side complies with a treaty.

Myth No. 4: The U.S. manufactured allegations against Russia as an excuse to exit the treaty.

Fact: The United States has remained in scrupulous compliance with the treaty despite Russia’s violation. As a matter of national security policy, the U.S. supports arms control efforts that advance U.S. and allied security and are verifiable, enforceable and followed scrupulously by both sides.