In December 2018, the US (following up on President Trump’s decision in October) announced suspension of its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 60 days, unless Russia returns to “full and verifiable compliance.” 

Russia-US discussions in Geneva (January 15) to salvage the treaty were unsuccessful, with each side claiming compliance with the treaty and alleging violations by the other. Russia said it had offered to the US an inspection of the offending Russian missiles, if the latter permitted Russian inspection of its missiles in Poland and Romania. The US apparently rejected the Russian offer as falling short of INF compliance requirements and, in turn, demanded a verified destruction of the Russian systems, which the Russians rejected as an “unacceptable ultimatum”.

Eventually, on February 2, when the US deadline ended, President Putin announced a “symmetrical” response: Russian suspension of participation in the INF Treaty and commencement of research, development and design work on intermediate-range systems. In a televised discussion with the Russian Foreign and Defence Ministers, he said that, even if Russia develops such systems, it will not deploy them either in Europe or anywhere else in the world, except in response to US deployment of such weapons. He asserted that Russia would not let itself be drawn into an expensive arms race and hence directed that research and development of new systems should be within the existing defence budget.

The other policy decision announced during the discussion was that Russia would no longer put forward arms control initiatives, since all its initiatives are routinely rebuffed. All existing proposals would remain on the table, but would be taken up only if interlocutors wish to commence discussion on them.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini was quoted as saying that Europe benefits from the INF Treaty and expressing the hope that it could still be preserved. When asked about this, the Russian MFA spokeswoman said derisively that it is a “wonderful statement”, but “nobody listens to Europe in the US”. She pointed to the fact that European countries’ votes in the UN General Assembly on the Russian resolution for preservation of the INF Treaty did not reflect this position. In this context, it is also pertinent to recall the NATO statement in December 2018, endorsing US withdrawal from the INF Treaty (Review, 12/18), though some of NATO’s European members had expressed different views earlier (Review, 10/18). 

 

January 30, 2019

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About the Author

Ambassador PS Raghavan

Former Ambassador of India to Russia; Convener, National Security Advisory Board

Born in 1955, Ambassador Raghavan holds a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in Physics and a B.E. in Electronics & Communications Engineering. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1979. From 1979 to 2000, he had diplomatic assignments in USSR, Poland, United Kingdom, Vietnam and South Africa, interspersed with assignments in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi. From 2000 to 2004, he was Joint Secretary in the Indian Prime Minister's Office dealing with Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Energy, Space, Defence and National Security. Thereafter, he was Ambassador of India to Czech Republic (2004 - 2007) and to Ireland (2007 - 2011).

He was Chief Coordinator of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi (March 2012) and Special Envoy of the Government of India to Sudan and South Sudan (2012-13). Ambassador Raghavan conceptualized and piloted the creation of the Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in MEA, which implements and monitors India’s economic partnership programs in developing countries, with an annual budget of $1-1.5 billion. He headed DPA in 2012-13. From March 2013 to January 2014, he oversaw the functioning of the Administration, Security, Information Technology and other related Divisions of MEA. Since October 2013, he was also Secretary [Economic Relations] in MEA, steering India’s bilateral and multilateral external economic engagement. Ambassador Raghavan retired from the Indian Foreign Service in January 2016, after serving from 2014 as Ambassador of India to Russia. Since September 2016, he is Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India.

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