Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles

Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty

Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty
Type Nuclear disarmament
Signed 8 December 1987
Location White House, Washington, D.C.
Effective 1 June 1988
Condition Ratification by the Soviet Union and United States
Expiration Unlimited duration[1]
Signatories  Soviet Union
 United States
Languages English and Russian

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) is the abbreviated name of the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, a 1987 agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union (and later its successor states, in particular the Russian Federation). Signed in Washington, D.C. by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on 8 December 1987, the treaty was ratified by the United States Senate on 27 May 1988 and came into force on 1 June 1988.

The INF Treaty eliminated all nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometres (310–620 mi) (short-range) and 1,000–5,500 kilometres (620–3,420 mi) (intermediate-range). The treaty did not cover sea-launched missiles.[2] By May 1991, 2,692 missiles were eliminated, followed by 10 years of on-site verification inspections.[3]


In early 1977, the Soviet Union first deployed the SS-20 Saber (also known as the RSD-10) in its European territories, a mobile, concealable intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) containing three nuclear 150-kiloton warheads. The SS-20's range of 4,700–5,000 kilometres (2,900–3,100 mi) was great enough to reach Western Europe from well within Soviet territory; the range was just below the SALT II minimum range for an intercontinental ballistic missile, 5,500 kilometres (3,400 mi).[4][5][6] The SS-20 replaced aging Soviet systems of the SS-4 Sandal and SS-5 Skean, which were seen to pose a limited threat to Western Europe due to their poor accuracy, limited payload (one warhead), lengthy preparation time, difficulty in being concealed, and immobility (thus exposing them to pre-emptive NATO strikes ahead of a planned attack).[7] Whereas the SS-4 and SS-5 were seen as defensive weapons, the SS-20 was seen as a potential offensive system.[8]

The US, then under President Jimmy Carter, initially considered its strategic nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable aircraft to be adequate counters to the SS-20 and a sufficient deterrent against Soviet aggression. In 1977, however, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany argued in a speech that a Western response to the SS-20 deployment should be explored, a call which was echoed by NATO, given a perceived Western disadvantage in European nuclear forces.[6] Leslie H. Gelb, the US Assistant Secretary of State, later recounted that Schmidt's speech pressured the US into developing a response.[9]

SS-20 launchers

On 12 December 1979, following European pressure for a response to the SS-20, Western foreign and defense ministers meeting in Brussels made the NATO Double-Track Decision.[6] The ministers argued that the Warsaw Pact had "developed a large and growing capability in nuclear systems that directly threaten Western Europe": "theater" nuclear systems (i.e., tactical nuclear weapons[10]). In describing this "aggravated" situation, the ministers made direct reference to the SS-20 featuring "significant improvements over previous systems in providing greater accuracy, more mobility, and greater range, as well as having multiple warheads." The ministers also attributed the altered situation to the deployment of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M strategic bomber, which they believed to display "much greater performance" than its predecessors. Furthermore, the ministers expressed concern that the Soviet Union had gained an advantage over NATO in "Long-Range Theater Nuclear Forces" (LRTNF), and also significantly increased short-range theater nuclear capacity. To address these developments, the ministers adopted two policy "tracks." One thousand theater nuclear warheads, out of 7,400 such warheads, would be removed from Europe and the US would pursue bilateral negotiations with the Soviet Union intended to limit theater nuclear forces. Should these negotiations fail, NATO would modernize its own LRTNF, or intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF), by replacing US Pershing 1a missiles with 108 Pershing II launchers in West Germany and deploying 464 BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCMs) to Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom beginning in December 1983.[5][11][12][13]


Early negotiations: 1981–83

Despite dissatisfaction with the deployment of US weapons in Europe, the Soviet Union agreed to open negotiations and preliminary discussions, named the Preliminary Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Talks,[5] which began in Geneva in October 1980. Formal talks began on 30 November 1981, with the US then led by President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union by Leonid Brezhnev. The core of the US negotiating position reflected the principles put forth under Carter: any limits placed on US INF capabilities, both in terms of "ceilings" and "rights," must be reciprocated with limits on Soviet systems. Additionally, the US insisted that a sufficient verification regime be in place.[14] Paul Nitze, a longtime hand at defense policy who had participated in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), led the US delegation after being recruited by Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Though Nitze had backed the first SALT treaty, he opposed SALT II and had resigned from the US delegation during its negotiation. Nitze was also then a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, a firmly anti-Soviet group composed of neoconservatives and conservative Republicans.[9][15] Yuli Kvitsinsky, the well-respected second-ranking official at the Soviet embassy in West Germany, headed the Soviet delegation.[8][16][17][18]

Paul Nitze, 1983

On 18 November 1981, shortly before the beginning of formal talks, Reagan made the Zero Option proposal (or the "zero-zero" proposal).[19] The plan called for a hold on US deployment of GLCM and Pershing II systems, reciprocated by Soviet elimination of its SS-4, SS-5, and SS-20 missiles. There appeared to be little chance of the Zero Option being adopted, but the gesture was well received in the European public. In February 1982, US negotiators put forth a draft treaty containing the Zero Option and a global prohibition on intermediate- and short-range missiles, with compliance ensured via a stringent, though unspecific, verification program.[16]

Opinion within the Reagan administration on the Zero Option was mixed. Richard Perle, then the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, was the architect of the plan. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who supported a continued US nuclear presence in Europe, was skeptical of the plan, though eventually accepted it for its value in putting the Soviet Union "on the defensive in the European propaganda war." Reagan later recounted that the "zero option sprang out of the realities of nuclear politics in Western Europe."[19] The Soviet Union rejected the plan shortly after the US tabled it in February 1982, arguing that both the US and Soviet Union should be able to retain intermediate-range missiles in Europe. Specifically, Soviet negotiators proposed that the number of INF missiles and aircraft deployed in Europe by one side be capped at 600 by 1985 and 300 by 1990. Concerned that this proposal would force the US to withdraw aircraft from Europe and not deploy INF missiles, given US cooperation with existing British and French deployments, the US proposed "equal rights and limits"—the US would be permitted to match Soviet SS-20 deployments.[16]

Between 1981 and 1983, US and Soviet negotiators gathered for six rounds of talks, each two months in length—a system based on the earlier SALT talks.[16] The US delegation was composed of Nitze, General William F. Burns of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Thomas Graham of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), and officials from the US Department of State, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and US National Security Council. Colonel Norman Clyne, a SALT participant, served as Nitze's chief of staff.[8][20]

There was little convergence between the two sides over these two years. A U.S. effort to separate the question of nuclear-capable aircraft from that of intermediate-range missiles successfully focused attention on the latter, but little clear progress on the subject was made. In the summer of 1982, Nitze and Kvitsinsky took a "walk in the woods" in the Jura Mountains, away from formal negotiations in Geneva, in an independent attempt to bypass bureaucratic procedures and break the negotiating deadlock.[21][8][22] Nitze later said that his and Kvitsinsky's goal was to agree to certain concessions that would allow for a summit meeting meeting Brezhnev and Reagan later in 1982.[23]

Nitze's offer to Kvitsinsky was that the US would forego deployment of the Pershing II and continue deployment of GLCMs, but limited to 75 missile launchers. The Soviet Union, in return, would also have to limit itself to 75 intermediate-range missile launchers in Europe and 90 in Asia. Due to each GLCM launcher containing four GLCMs and each SS-20 launcher containing three warheads, such an agreement would have resulted in the US having 75 more intermediate-range warheads in Europe than the Soviet Union, though SS-20s were seen as more advanced and maneuverable than GLCMs. While Kvitsinsky was skeptical that the plan would be well received in Moscow, Nitze was optimistic about its chances in Washington.[23] The deal ultimately found little traction in either capital. In the US, the Office of the Secretary of Defense opposed Nitze's proposal, as it opposed any proposal that would allow the Soviet Union to deploy missiles to Europe while blocking US deployments. Nitze's proposal was relayed by Kvitsinsky to Moscow, where it was also rejected. The plan accordingly was never introduced into formal negotiations.[21][8]

Demonstrators protest planned deployments of US missiles, 1982

Thomas Graham, a US negotiator, later recalled that Nitze's "walk in the woods" proposal was primarily of Nitze's own design and known beforehand only to William F. Burns, another arms control negotiator and representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and Eugene V. Rostow, the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In a National Security Council following the Nitze-Kvitsinsky walk, the proposal was received positively by the JCS and Reagan. Following protests by Richard Perle, working within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Reagan informed Nitze that he would not back the plan. The State Department, then led by Alexander Haig, also indicated that it would not support Nitze's plan and preferred a return to the Zero Option proposal.[8][22][23] Nitze argued that one positive consequence of the walk in the woods was that the European public, which had doubted US interest in arms control, became convinced that the US was participating in the INF negotiations in good faith.[23]

In early 1983, US negotiators indicated that they would support a plan beyond the Zero Option if the plan established equal rights and limits for the US and Soviet Union, with such limits valid worldwide, and excluded British and French missile systems (as well as those of any other third party). As a temporary measure, the US negotiators also proposed a cap of 450 deployed INF warheads around the world for both the US and Soviet Union. In response, Soviet negotiators expressed that a plan would have to block all US INF deployments in Europe, cover both missiles and aircraft, include third parties, and focus primarily on Europe for it to gain Soviet backing. In the fall of 1983, just ahead of the scheduled deployment of US Pershing IIs and GLCMs, the US lowered its proposed limit on global INF deployments to 420 missiles, while the Soviet Union proposed "equal reductions": if the US cancelled the planned deployment of Pershing II and GLCM systems, the Soviet Union would reduce its own INF deployment by 572 warheads. In November 1983, after the first Pershing IIs arrived in West Germany, the Soviet Union walked out of negotiations, as it had warned it would do should the US missile deployments occur.[24]

Restarted negotiations: 1985–87

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher played a key role in brokering the negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986-87.[25]

In March 1986, negotiations between the US and the Soviet Union resumed, covering not only the INF issue but also separate discussions on strategic weapons (START I) and space issues (Nuclear and Space Talks). In late 1985 both sides were moving towards limiting INF systems in Europe and Asia. On 15 January 1986, Gorbachev announced a Soviet proposal for a ban on all nuclear weapons by 2000, which included INF missiles in Europe. This was dismissed by the US and countered with a phased reduction of INF launchers in Europe and Asia to none by 1989. There would be no constraints on British and French nuclear forces.[26]

A series of meetings in August and September 1986 culminated in the Reykjavík Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev on 11 October 1986. Both agreed in principle to remove INF systems from Europe and to equal global limits of 100 INF missile warheads. Gorbachev also proposed deeper and more fundamental changes in the strategic relationship. More detailed negotiations extended throughout 1987, aided by the decision of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in August to unilaterally remove the joint US-West German Pershing 1a systems. The treaty text was finally agreed in September 1987. On 8 December 1987, the Treaty was officially signed by President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev at a summit in Washington and ratified the following May in a 93-5 vote by the United States Senate.[27][28]


By the treaty's deadline of 1 June 1991, a total of 2,692 of such weapons had been destroyed, 846 by the US and 1,846 by the Soviet Union. Under the treaty both nations were allowed to inspect each other's military installations. Each nation was permitted to render inoperative and retain 15 missiles, 15 launch canisters and 15 launchers for static display.

A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missile in 1988 prior to its destruction.

On 13 December 2001, President of the US, George W. Bush gave Russia a 6-month notice of US intent to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so that the US could pursue development of the program at that time known as National Missile Defense (NMD), which was already under way in potential violation of US treaty obligations.[29]

On 10 February 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared that the INF Treaty no longer served Russia's interests. On 14 February, the Information Telegraph Agency of Russia and Interfax quoted General Yuri Baluyevsky, the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, as saying that Russia could pull out of the INF, and that the decision would depend on the United States' actions with its proposed Ground-Based Midcourse Defense missile defense system, parts of which the U.S. at the time planned to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic. (Subsequently, the plans were abandoned in favor of different systems based on sea and in Romania; see National missile defense.)

Dan Blumenthal of the American Enterprise Institute wrote that the actual Russian problem with the INF was that China is not bound by it and continued to build up their own Intermediate-Range forces.[30]

In 2012, the US complained about alleged Russian treaty violations.[31] The two systems that appeared to be violations were the R-500, a cruise missile using the 9K720 Iskander launcher, and a short-range ICBM.[32] In July 2014, the United States formally notified Russia of a breach for developing and possessing prohibited weapons, while Russian officials called the treaty unsuitable for Russia and unfair because other countries in Asia had such weapons. Russian officials also called the restrictions of the treaty unsuitable for Russia given the strategic situation in Asia.[33]

Russia publicly considered US drones to be a violation of the treaty.[34][35]

Affected programs

Specific missiles destroyed:

See also



  1. "Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles". Nuclear Threat Initiative. 22 June 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  2. "INF Treaty". United States Department of State. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  3. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (2007). SIPRI Yearbook 2007: Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 683.
  4. "RSD-10 MOD 1/-MOD 2 (SS-20)". Missile Threat. 17 October 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 "Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Chronology". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 Bohlen et al. 2012, p. 7.
  7. Bohlen et al. 2012, pp. 6–7.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Paul Nitze and A Walk in the Woods – A Failed Attempt at Arms Control". Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  9. 1 2 "Interview with Leslie H. Gelb". National Security Archive. 28 February 1999. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  10. Legge 1983, p. 1.
  11. "Special Meeting of Foreign and Defence Ministers (The "Double-Track" Decision on Theatre Nuclear Forces)". NATO. 12 December 1979. Archived from the original on 27 February 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  12. Legge 1983, pp. 1–2, 35–37.
  13. Bohlen et al. 2012, pp. 8–9.
  14. Bohlen et al. 2012, pp. 6, 9.
  15. Burr, William; Wampler, Robert (27 October 2004). ""The Master of the Game": Paul H. Nitze and U.S. Cold War Strategy from Truman to Reagan". National Security Archive. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Bohlen et al. 2012, p. 9.
  17. "Yuli A. Kvitsinsky: Chief Soviet arms control negotiator". United Press International. 25 September 1981. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  18. Freudenheim, Milt; Slavin, Barbara (6 December 1981). "The World in Summary; Arms Negotiators In Geneva Begin To Chip the Ice". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  19. 1 2 Wittner, Lawrence S. (1 April 2000). "Reagan and Nuclear Disarmament". Boston Review. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  20. "Nomination of William F. Burns To Be Director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency". Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. 7 January 1988. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  21. 1 2 Bohlen et al. 2012, pp. 9–10.
  22. 1 2 Berger, Marilyn (21 October 2004). "Paul H. Nitze, Missile Treaty Negotiator and Cold War Strategist, Dies at 97". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  23. 1 2 3 4 Nitze, Paul (20 October 1990). "Paul Nitze Interview" (Interview). Interview with Academy of Achievement. Washington, D.C. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  24. Bohlen et al. 2012, p. 10.
  25. Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher: At Her Zenith (2016) 2: 23-26, 594-5.
  26. Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher: At Her Zenith (2016) 2: 590-96.
  27. CQ Press (2012). Guide to Congress. SAGE. pp. 252–53.
  28. "Senate Votes 93-5 to Approve Ratification of the INF Treaty," CQ Weekly Report 42#22 (1988): 1431-35.
  29. Giles & Monaghan 2014.
  30. Mark Stokes and Dan Blumenthal "Can a treaty contain China's missiles?" Washington Post, 2 January 2011.
  31. Rogin, Josh (7 December 2013). "US Reluctant to Disclose to All NATO Allies that Russia is Violating INF Treaty". The Atlantic Council. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  32. Marcus, Jonathan (30 January 2014). "US briefs Nato on Russian 'nuclear treaty breach'". BBC News. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  33. Luhn, Alec; Borger, Julian (29 July 2014). "Moscow may walk out of nuclear treaty after US accusations of breach". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  34. Adomanis, Mark (31 July 2014). "Russian Nuclear Treaty Violation: The Basics". U.S. Naval Institute. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  35. "Russia: US claims on nuclear missiles treaty unfounded, we have questions too". Russia Today. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 15 August 2016.

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