11 February

Press release on the INF Treaty (February 11, 2019)

Seeking to justify its destructive decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty, the United States is waging a propaganda campaign that is based on an unscrupulous interpretation and bare-faced assumptions. Apart from underhanded attempts to place the blame squarely on Russia, the United States is deliberately downplaying the importance and validity of Russia’s longstanding concerns about Washington’s compliance with the INF Treaty. Moreover, false information has been planted regarding the development and the substance of dialogue on mutual complaints.

According to media reports and statements made by US officials, Russia put forth its own complaints instead of responding to US concerns about INF Treaty compliance. Actually, it was the other way around. The Americans first presented their complaints to Russia in 2013, whereas Russia outlined its concerns about the Pentagon using the so-called target missiles in violation of the treaty back in 1999, and raised concerns about armed unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in the early 2000s.

The statements made by US officials to the effect that the United States has allegedly responded to all Russian concerns are not true either. Russia has been patiently trying for years to ensure that the Americans remove obvious violations of the INF Treaty, providing factual arguments and technically sound reasons for this opinion. But Washington refused to consider them.

Regarding the US unmanned air vehicles with a warfighting capability, some types of such UAVs fully fit the INF Treaty term “ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM),” which is defined as “an unmanned, self-propelled vehicle that sustains flight through the use of aerodynamic lift over most of its flight path.” Whether Washington wants to admit it or not, this is exactly how this provision is formulated in the INF Treaty, and feigning ignorance of this is completely unacceptable.

There is no mention of any launchers or of single/multiple use of such vehicles in the INF Treaty. This means that any ground-launched armed UAVs with a range from 500 km to 5,500 km are in violation of the treaty.

Claims that Russia has pursued the development of armed UAVs for years are absolutely ungrounded. Unlike the United States, Russia has not deployed any UAVs of this class with the range prohibited in the treaty. As for research, R&D is not in violation.

As for the Pentagon’s large-scale use of target missiles in the flight tests of missile defence systems, as they describe them, we have solid reasons to believe that the United States actually tests systems that are prohibited in the INF Treaty. While claiming to be testing early warning systems, the US launched missiles to a distance of between 500 km and 5,500 km without destructive effect but completing a full flight cycle, from the launch to the decrease in the payload, which often includes manoeuvrable reentry vehicles (warheads), decoy targets, and the like.

Therefore, while claiming to be testing ballistic missile target vehicles, the United States is creating missiles whose flight range, velocity and control systems, as well as the mass-dimensional parameters of warheads are identical to the vehicles that are prohibited in the INF Treaty. We do not accept the US arguments that the target missiles are in compliance because they are not tested for combat purposes, since the launch of these missiles without interception is completely identical to the flight tests of weapons delivery systems.

The deployment of ground-based Mk-41 universal missile launchers as part of the Aegis Ashore complexes is another of Russia’s complaints against the United States which arguably causes the greatest concern in the context of the Treaty. They are deployed in Europe allegedly for missile defence purposes and nothing else. However, the above-mentioned launchers allow for land-based combat use of Tomahawk medium-range cruise missiles and other attack weapons. This is a direct and flagrant violation of the INF Treaty.

As is known, under the INF Treaty, the United States at some point eliminated the Tomahawk cruise missile ground-based launch systems. These weapons were originally created under a single programme as a universal missile with various types of basing. The ground- and ship-based missiles were outwardly all but identical.

Now, several decades later, the United States is in the process of rebuilding the land-based Tomahawk infrastructure. This runs counter to the INF Treaty. Relocating Mk-41 missiles from ships to land clearly makes these units part of the GLCM launcher category.

Statements by US officials to the effect that the launchers that have already been deployed in Romania and are being readied for deployment in Poland are not similar to the sea-based MK-41 contradict what the US military and the Aegis Ashore complex developers are saying. More than once, they openly acknowledged that the land- and sea-based launchers are “almost identical.”

In addition to the treaty and legal perspective, this issue has an important strategic dimension for Russia. After all, we are talking about US missile infrastructure near Russia. The threat to our security is further aggravated by the fact that the United States has announced plans to recreate its nuclear sea-based cruise missiles, for which Tomahawks are a perfect fit, as was the case before. This means that such nuclear missiles may end up in Aegis Ashore launch cells in Romania or Poland.

Having rejected any and all positive steps on issues that are critical to Russia, the United States is trying to refocus attention on alleged Russian violations of the INF Treaty. Moreover, they are alleging that Russia was presented with a significant amount of information indicating our “culpability.”

This is not true. It is no coincidence that Washington is silent about the fact that, for five years, Russia has been requesting information about three key aspects, a comprehensive study of which would have opened the way to a professional examination of US claims. This includes an accurate definition of a suspect missile; an indication of specific launches when, in the opinion of the United States, our obligations under the INF Treaty were violated; and, most importantly, the provision of objective data, on the basis of which they arrived at the conclusion that the flight range during the tests exceeded the permitted parameters.

Instead of providing the entire array of allegedly available information right away, as Russia demanded, the Americans chose a different path. First, they offered vague allusions like "you know yourself what exactly you violated." Then, Russia was given minimal and overly generalised data which occasionally, sometimes only once a year, were updated with bits of information, including satellite images from the internet and the name of a widely used launcher chassis, which cannot be used for drawing professional conclusions.

It took Washington several years before it pointed to a specific missile - 9M729 - developed as part of upgrades of the Iskander-M complex. However, Russia has never concealed its existence, as they accuse us. We confirmed the presence of this missile in Russia’s arsenal after the Americans gave us the index number. However, we have consistently denied that this missile has ever been tested for a range that is prohibited under the INF Treaty.

With regard to specific launches which Russia allegedly carried out in violation of the INF Treaty at the Kapustin Yar testing ground in the Astrakhan Region, their dates - 2008 and 2011 - were made known to Russia only five days before the United States announced, on October 20, 2018, its plans to withdraw from the Treaty. However, this information was not backed up by any facts. They never mentioned the exact range for which, according to the Americans, this missile was tested. Instead, they limited themselves to citing mysterious intelligence information, which they refused to disclose, as they always do.

In other words, Russia was, for quite a while, expected to independently put together a puzzle of disparate pieces obtained at different points at a time when absolutely no evidence of Russia's violation of the Treaty had ever been presented. The missile index and the dates of launches that take place regularly in Kapustin Yar as part of testing or combat training for missile personnel are not indicative of any illegal activity.

The way the United States is trying to shuffle the facts using awkward justifications for its decision to dismantle the INF Treaty only strengthens our belief that the Americans embarked on a course of torpedoing the Treaty long ago. The real reason behind this is their desire to untie their hands as much as possible and to ensure their access to an unlimited range of military tools to exert pressure on opponents anywhere in the world.

This is a very dangerous policy fraught with tragic consequences for global stability. The international community, above all the citizens of the United States and other NATO countries, the governments of which are blindly parroting American insinuations, should start thinking about how far Washington is prepared to go in pursuit of the spectre of military domination.