US Withdrawal from INF Treaty: What Consequences for Russia?

November 9, 2018

From Russia’s standpoint, what are the consequences of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty?

From the point of view of regional security, disruption of the INF Treaty is dangerous to Russia since Ukraine still retains the potential to produce intermediate and short-range missiles and will no longer have constraints under the treaty. This may add further fuel to tensions between Russia, European countries and the United States.

Does the end of the INF Treaty open up new opportunities for Russia? 

Collapse of the INF Treaty will not provide Russia with any brand new military or technical capabilities. It is doubtful that there currently exist objectives that the Russian military could not achieve without deploying land-based intermediate and short-range missiles. Whom would Russia need to deploy them against? Against Europe? The European countries, dependent on Russian energy supplies, are least of all interested in a military confrontation with Russia. Then against the countries located south of Russia? Today the biggest of them, China, India, Turkey, and Iran, are our partners, and they are buying newest Russian armaments and sometimes defense technologies.

What are the consequences of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty from a global security standpoint?

The US withdrawal from the INF Treaty is one more step towards the destruction of the arms control architecture in a broad sense. It is not only about the nuclear weapons but in general the whole system of arms control. 

Why not destroy the existing arms control system to build a new one that takes the latest technological advances into account?

The idea “We will destroy all the world of violence completely, and then…” is well known, and, as the history shows, does not yield the expected results. The “Start from scratch” concept implies that the vast experience, that significant resources have been spent to accumulate it, will be irreversibly lost. That experience includes institutions who prepared arms control specialists, the links among experts from different countries that have been built for years and laid the ground for reaching new agreements. The existing level of trust between US and Russian politicians could not be worse, but the expert communities of both countries are continuing joint and persistent efforts to somehow improve the situation and save the INF Treaty. New arms control system will have to be created from scratch by bringing up new cadres, gradually gaining experience, and repeat the same mistakes. Over this period of time, however, life will move significantly forward. No doubt some provisions of the INF treaty became outdated, but this only means that the US and Russian technical experts should sit together and agree on the way to address the mutual concerns. If there was policial will, they would manage to resolve issues concerning attack drones, the anti-missiles in Romania, as well as the Russian missiles that allegedly violate the treaty. 

Evgeny Miasnikov, Member of the PIR Center Advisory Board