On June 1, 1988, the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) entered into force. The agreement was signed in December 1987 by General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan.

The preamble of the treaty emphasized that the USSR and the United States were aware of the "devastating consequences" of nuclear war and were guided by the "goal of strengthening strategic stability."

The INF Treaty provided for the elimination of a whole class of deadly weapons - ground-based missiles with a range of 500 to 5500 km. The Soviet Union pledged to get rid of ballistic missiles R-12, R-14, complexes "Temp-S", "Pioneer", RK-55 "Relief". USA - from the systems of the Pershing family and land-based cruise missiles of the Tomahawk type.

In addition to the missiles themselves, the parties agreed to get rid of launchers, the infrastructure for their operation and production. Henceforth, neither Moscow nor Washington were to manufacture and test intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

  • The signing ceremony of the INF Treaty by General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan
  • RIA Novosti
  • © Yuriy Abramochkin

The parties agreed to conduct mutual inspections and fulfill their obligations in good faith. The elimination of medium-range missiles took the three years stipulated in the INF Treaty, shorter-range ammunition - a year and a half.

As stated in the materials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the implementation of the INF Treaty made "a significant contribution to the process of nuclear disarmament." In addition, the treaty has become "an important factor in maintaining strategic stability and international security."

"There was a very serious risk"

In a commentary to RT, Vadim Kozyulin, head of the Center for Global Studies and International Relations of the IAMP of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, recalled that the INF Treaty was signed after a sharp aggravation of contradictions between the USSR and the United States in 1983-1984. According to the expert, the INF Treaty document was an important milestone on the way to ending the Cold War. In addition, it had a positive impact on the security of the western regions of the USSR and the whole of Europe.

"In 1983-1984, Moscow and Washington were very close to unleashing the Third World War, the use of various types of nuclear weapons, including medium-range and shorter-range missiles with special warheads. The INF Treaty saved our country and the whole of Europe from such a prospect and, in general, greatly contributed to ensuring strategic stability and predictability," Kozyulin explained.

A similar point of view in a conversation with RT was voiced by a military expert, reserve colonel Viktor Litovkin. According to the analyst, in the event of an armed conflict with NATO, the Americans would certainly have launched a massive Pershing strike on Moscow and other major cities of the USSR.

"The INF Treaty was of great importance for ensuring the security of the European part of the Soviet Union. Just imagine that the flight time of American missiles to Moscow was only 7-8 minutes. It was a very serious risk. Thanks to this agreement, the scale of military threats to the country and our capital has significantly decreased," Litovkin stressed.

At the same time, experts drew attention to a certain imperfection of the INF Treaty. In particular, the document did not discuss the issue of heavy UAVs with a range of more than 500 km, which fell under the technical description of the cruise missile, as well as land-based target missiles, which were then used by the United States to test the accuracy of its missile defense systems.

Moreover, the number of disposed weapons was very different: the USSR eliminated 1846 missiles, including the Oka complex that did not fall under the clauses of the treaty, and the United States - only 846 weapons. The total number of eliminated elements of missile systems amounted to 6161 Soviet against 2371 American.

In a conversation with RT, military expert Yuri Knutov called the INF Treaty an ambiguous treaty. According to the analyst, Moscow made the right decision by signing this agreement, but was too quick to conclude that the US armed forces in Europe would no longer pose a threat. The expert also considers the disposal of Oka to be a mistake.

  • The 9P71 launcher and the 9M714 missile of the 9K714 Oka operational-tactical missile system at the Artillery Museum of St. Petersburg
  • © Wikimedia

"The conclusion of the contract had both positive and negative effects. The scale of military threats has actually been significantly reduced, this cannot be denied. At the same time, recycling was too unequal. At the very least, the USSR needed to preserve the Oka, the "grandfather" of the current Iskander-M OTRK, "Knutov believes.

Experts also drew attention to the fact that the agreement did not apply to Tomahawk naval cruise missiles, which a priori upset the balance of power in favor of the United States.

Vadim Kozyulin recalled that during the Cold War, the United States always surpassed the USSR in terms of the size of the fleet, especially the surface fleet. However, Moscow compensated for this with powerful ground forces, the presence of more ground-based missiles, and the ability to deliver a crushing blow to NATO's infrastructure in Europe.

"However, with the implementation of the INF Treaty, the balance was lost. In addition, with the collapse of the country, our Navy underwent a serious reduction and, in principle, could not seriously compete with the US Navy. Meanwhile, the Americans increased the number of Tomahawks and widely used them after the Cold War to strike at the rear of their opponents, "Kozyulin said.

In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward the idea of extending the obligations of the treaty to the rest of the world, and Washington supported the Kremlin's initiative, but only in words - it did not receive further development. Moreover, in Russian-American relations, the first problems began with compliance with the terms of the INF Treaty - in 2009, the United States concluded an agreement with Romania on the deployment of the Aegis Ashore missile defense system on the territory of the country.

Despite Moscow's objections, in 2013 construction began in Deveselu, Romania. In 2016, the foundation of a similar complex was laid in Redzikowo, Poland. Currently, both stations are on alert.

Russia's concern was caused by the fact that the Aegis Ashore project provides for the deployment of the Mk 41 universal installation, from which not only the SM-3 family of anti-missiles, but also the Tomahawks can technically be launched.

  • Ground-based Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Poland
  • © U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe, Public Affairs Officer, Naval Support Facility Redzikowo

The United States has repeatedly stated that Moscow's reproaches are far-fetched. So, in February 2019, the US mission to NATO reported that Aegis Ashore "does not have the offensive potential of ground-based ballistic or cruise missiles."

"In particular, the system does not have the software, fire controls, support equipment and other infrastructure necessary to launch offensive ballistic or cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk," Washington officials said at the time.

Also, the fears of the Russian Federation were associated with the presence of land-based target missiles, attack UAVs and financing the development of missiles falling under the terms of the INF Treaty.

Despite this, the US authorities regularly made statements that it was allegedly Russia that violated the INF Treaty. For example, since 2013, the US military and politicians have constantly voiced accusations that the range of the 9M729 cruise missile, which is part of the arsenal of the Iskander OTRK, allegedly exceeds 500 km.

As a result, in 2018, the United States withdrew from the INF Treaty. The contract finally expired on August 2, 2019. Almost immediately after that, the Pentagon tested a ground-based cruise missile in California. The projectile hit the target, which was located at a distance of over 500 km.

"This launch convincingly proved the validity of Moscow's claims and the indifferent attitude of the United States to its obligations. A rocket launched in California could not have been created in a few days or weeks. The United States really violated the INF Treaty when it was still in effect," Viktor Litovkin stated.

'Arrogant approach'

According to experts, despite a number of significant costs, the INF Treaty did not have a serious negative impact on the defense capability of modern Russia, since over the past two decades, the arsenal of the Russian Armed Forces has been replenished with new air and sea-based missiles with a range of over 500 km: Caliber, Zircon, X-101/102, Dagger.

In addition, the army was completely re-equipped with the Iskander OTRK with ammunition that is extremely difficult to intercept with modern air defense and missile defense systems.

  • Demonstration of the 9M729 missile for military attaches, January 23, 2019
  • RIA Novosti
  • © / Vladimir Astapkovich

According to Knutov, in the current situation in the near future, Russia can launch the production of new land-based missiles, taking into account the experience of the NWO.

"In my opinion, Russia needs short- and medium-range ground-based hypersonic missiles capable of overcoming missile defense. New missiles for Iskander or a completely new OTRK will not be superfluous. The experience of countering Western air defense systems here will only help us, "says Knutov.

The expert believes that Russia does not need to look back at the reaction of the West due to the scale of the escalation of the Ukrainian conflict, which the United States and its allies have taken.

A similar point of view is shared by Viktor Litovkin. According to him, the history of the INF Treaty once again proves that any agreements depend on the nature of relations between the parties and their political will.

"The Americans have always cheated, always tried to find loopholes in the same INF Treaty, and then simply withdrew from agreements that seemed to be indefinite. The United States does this because it considers itself superior to the rest. As long as this arrogant approach persists, Russia will have every right to act in a mirror and develop any military capabilities," Litovkin concluded.