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US fails to rectify INF violations, senior Russian diplomat says

Russia vowed to counter threats should the US deploy missiles to the Asia-Pacific Region
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, August 5. /TASS/. The United States has taken no steps to remedy the violations of its commitments under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on Monday.

"In fact, the US has not taken any necessary steps on rectifying violations of its commitments under the treaty," Ryabkov said.

According to the senior diplomat, first of all, this concerns the deployment of Mk-41 launchers of cruise missiles on the ground, which is banned under the treaty. "No progress has either been made on the so-called target-missiles, fired by the US from the ground to test its air defense system, which are similar by their characteristics to ballistic intermediate-and shorter-range missiles. This also concerns the Pentagon’s use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles, which are fully defined by the treaty’s term such as 'a ground-based cruise missile'," he said.

Counter-threat policy

Russia is planning to take "balancing" steps aimed at countering possible threats against it in case the United States deploys missiles to the Asia-Pacific Region, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on Monday.

"We will analyze the developments in this sector very carefully and will take retaliatory steps in order to counter threats, which may hypothetically emerge for Russia from various directions," Ryabkov said. "If new US systems’ development begins in Asia, we will make certain steps balancing these actions in order to counter the above mentioned threats," he noted.

Stance regarding the US demand to eliminate 9M729 missiles

Washington’s demand to eliminate the Russian 9M729 cruise missiles is wrongful in itself and could not be considered by Moscow at all, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated.

"We could not discuss the possibility of eliminating the 9M729 missile and all its equipment at the US demand, because this missile does not fall under the INF Treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty) jurisdiction, while raising this issue as such was wrongful of the US," he underlined.

Ryabkov underscored that the Americans’ pointing to the fact that the 9M729 missile was fired from the Kapustin Yar rocket launch and development site cannot be regarded as proof that it was test fired at the range prohibited by the treaty. "Kapustin Yar held and continues to hold launches for different types and units of the Russian Armed Forces, including the means that are capable of flying ranges banned by the treaty," the senior diplomat said.

"With view to this it would be something completely out of place and a manifestation of careless attitude towards our own security for the US to demand this rocket be eliminated and for us to agree," he pointed out.

Need to boost dialogue

Moscow and Washington need to continue dialogue on arms control, the Russian deputy foreign minister told a briefing on Monday.

"We are still open for an equal and meaningful dialogue with the United States on issues related to the INF Treaty [the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty] and other strategic stability issues, based on mutual respect and mutual consideration of interests," he noted. "There is a need to continue inter-agency consultations on arms control with a focus on nuclear weapons, which resumed in Geneva on July 17," the senior Russian diplomat added.

According to the senior diplomat, Moscow expects to continue discussing nuclear weapons doctrines with Washington. "We are showing willingness to raise the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons instead of lowering it. It is no coincidence that we are discussing doctrinal approaches, particularly with the Americans," he emphasized. "We continue these discussions and I expect that they will go on in appropriate forms and there will no breaks in this work," Ryabkov added.

Any further steps regarding arms control should also take into consideration missile and nuclear potentials of France and the United Kingdom, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov pointed out.

"Certainly, when considering any further steps on arms control over missile and nuclear armaments and discussing the prospects of any negotiating formats or any possible deals, we will insist that this process should take into account the potentials of France and the United Kingdom," he said.

According to Ryabkov, regardless of the reports that Paris and London have not been beefing up their power and potential and have stabilized them at a certain level, Moscow will not change its position. He explained that when the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was signed with Washington in 2010, Russia reached the limit "beyond which any further steps in this sphere would be possible only if all factors influencing the strategic stability and potential of all states that have respective capabilities in the missile and nuclear sphere were taken into account."

Viewpoint on a broader agreement on nuclear weapons

The diplomat pledged that Moscow is ready to discuss a broader agreement on nuclear weapons provided that it is substantive.

"As for the initiative to make a broader agreement, we are ready for dialogue, we never refuse to build dialogue but in order to make it substantive, we need to talk business rather than chant slogans like the US has been doing," Ryabkov emphasized.

According to him, after pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program in May 2018 and announcing plans to make a new agreement with Tehran, the US failed to specify its stance and put forward meaningful initiatives.

"I would like to say that we support any US moves that are aimed not at rising tensions, particularly in the Persian Gulf, but at finding ways to build dialogue and resolve issues," the Russian deputy foreign minister underscored.

When speaking about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty issue, he stressed that Russia hadn’t voiced its concerns about Washington’s compliance since 2000, "showing restraint and responsibility for the global security situation because we understood that the Treaty’s collapse would have the most harmful consequences for the system of regional and global stability," he said, adding that despite all speculations, Russia had never threatened to withdraw from the Treaty.

"And now they say there is a need to make a broader comprehensive nuclear agreement though it seems the wording doesn’t cover intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, which makes us think that the US is unwilling to touch upon the issue. On the contrary, it points to Washington’s wish to build up its military potential," Ryabkov said.

On August 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the INF Treaty was suspended at Washington’s initiative. The US explained the move by Russia’s refusal to meet its ultimatum on destroying new cruise missiles 9M729, which according to Washington and NATO, violate the treaty. Moscow rejected these accusations, insisting that the missile’s technical features were in compliance with the treaty and put forward its own claims against Washington.

Boosting missile potential

Russia will be forced to bolster its intermediate-range and shorter-range missile arsenal in case the moratorium on deployment of these missiles fails to be established, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov specified.

"In absence of agreements and of a mutual moratorium [to deploy intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles], the only way for us to ensure our security in the face of these challenges can be creation of potential in this sphere, capable of shaking up our opponents and making them view the developments not from a single angle, but rather see the picture in its full dimension," he said.

Prolongation of the New START

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) could be extended for less than the expected five years, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said at a briefing on Monday.

"If the parties fail to extend New START for the period beyond February 5, 2021, it will deal an even more powerful blow to the system of global security. The Treaty could be extended not for five years but for a shorter period. It is possible from the legal standpoint," the senior Russian diplomat pointed out.

"In any case, it would be important for us to enhance predictability in an area crucial for national and global security," he went on to say. "At the same time, we would like to point out that before the Treaty is extended, the issue related to the conversion of nearly 100 US strategic delivery weapons should be resolved in a manner that will satisfy us, so that Russia can verify the conversion," Ryabkov noted.

He emphasized that if efforts to extend the Treaty failed, there would remain no nuclear or missile agreements between Moscow and Washington and security risks would significantly increase.

NATO's role in ensuring strategic stability

Russia expects that NATO states will develop a responsible approach to ensuring European security and global strategic stability, Sergei Ryabkov reported.

Moscow is open to possible new agreements in this sphere, the senior diplomat emphasized. "We suggested if not signing a legally binding deal, then at least achieving understanding regarding a moratorium parallel to Russian on NATO states’ deployment on their territory of the respective resources, which as I understand, are in the US at a rather advanced stage of creation," Ryabkov stated.

The West's reaction to the proposal on the missile moratorium

The US answer to Moscow’s proposal was that it is not trustworthy because Russia allegedly has this potential, namely the 9M729 missile, while NATO does not have anything of this kind, Ryabkov noted. He stressed that "this missile has never been tested at a range banned under the treaty and has not been tested at a range between 500 and 5,500 km, and this far-fetched issue should not be included in the discussion on the general situation."

"We still expect that NATO states will take into account real circumstances and develop a responsible approach to ensuring European security and global strategic stability," the senior diplomat said.

The 9M729 cruise missile is an improved modification of the 9M728 missile, included in the Iskander-M ballistic missile system, and has a range of 480 kilometers. However, the United States claims that its actual range exceeds 500 kilometers so Washington demanded Moscow dismantle the missile, threatening to withdraw from the INF Treaty. However, Moscow rejected the demand.

Lack of reasons to revise Russia's military doctrine after INF Treaty collapse

Russia will not revise its military doctrine after the United States’ withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Sergei Ryabkov reported.

"I see no reason to revise our military doctrine. This document is fundamental and conceptually oriented towards the future. Its wordings are extremely precise, they should not be changed all the time depending on certain circumstances," he said.

"Of course, any document requires a review in the long run as well as clarification in some aspects. However, I see no grounds for that in the situation with the INF Treaty," Ryabkov added.

Possibility of deployment of missiles in Asia by Pentagon

The US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is untying the Pentagon’s hands to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Asia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov claimed.

The senior Russian diplomat thus commented on a statement by Pentagon Chief Mark Esper about the US desire to deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles in Asia.

"It is not surprising that such words were pronounced; moreover, the day after the treaty ceased to exist," Ryabkov pointed out.

"It has been clear for us over all these past few months that it is not the problem of the 9M729 missile; the problem is that the US military, both the operational staff and military planners, feel bound by this treaty and cannot work out a scheme of actions that would be more comfortable and customary for them in the wake of corresponding changes in the military and political situation that have occurred, first of all, in Asia, over the years of the treaty’s operation," the senior Russian diplomat said.

"The haste, with which these actions are apparently leading to the flight tests of new intermediate-range missile systems, the work on which has proceeded in the United States in recent years and the surprising speed, at which the issue of deploying the corresponding systems somewhere in Asia is being translated into the practical plane — all these factors are extra arguments in our favor, in favor of Russia, which said from the very outset that the problem is not related to this or that move on our part but that the problem is related to the situation in other regions and the circumstances which are internally analyzed in Washington from the viewpoint of what could be done to build up the American potential precisely in those regions," Ryabkov said.

As AFP news agency reported, new US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on August 3 aligned himself with the plans to deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles in the Asian region. He made the statement aboard the plane heading for Sydney, from where the Pentagon chief started his first Asian tour.

Prospects for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

There are practically no prospects for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to go into effect because the United States has made no efforts whatsoever to ratify it, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters at Monday’s press briefing.

"There are no prospects for this treaty’s entry into force after the US administration essentially scrapped the idea of ensuring its ratification in the Senate," he said, adding the agreement cannot come into effect without that, as well as without ratification by a number of other countries.

He stressed that those who have not ratified the accord so far, are heavily dependent on the United States in their approach.

According to Ryabkov, Moscow provided full explanations to Washington regarding what occurred in 1996 when the treaty was being hammered out.

"We are waiting for some kind of reaction to follow. However, in general, the CTBT’s prospects are very dim. It may turn out to be a relic of the previous era, when there were great expectations and hopes that we would go from one accomplishment to another in the field of multilateral diplomacy, in the field of international relations focusing on tight security. Unfortunately, now we see the entire international security architecture being dismantled piece by piece," he stressed.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was approved by the UN General Assembly on September 24, 1996. It prohibits any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion anywhere in the world. The ban applies to all spheres (the atmosphere, outer space, underwater area and underground) and is full and comprehensive.

By now, the treaty has been ratified by 166 countries, including Russia. However, it did not enter into force, because it was not ratified by the United States, China, Egypt, Israel and Iran, while India, Pakistan and North Korea have not signed it.

INF Treaty issue

The INF Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987, took effect on June 1, 1988. It applied to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers). Washington repeatedly accused Russia of violating the accord, but Moscow vehemently dismissed all accusations and, in its turn, expressed grievances over Washington’s non-compliance.

On February 1, 2019, US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the suspension of Washington’s obligations under the INF starting on February 2.

On February 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow was also suspending the agreement. He handed down instructions to refrain from initiating talks with Washington on the issue and stressed that the US needed to show willingness for an equal and substantive dialogue. Putin signed a decree suspending Moscow’s compliance with the Treaty on March 4. On July 3, the head of state signed the decree into law after it had been approved by both houses of parliament.

On August 2, Washington formally withdrew from the INF Treaty and the Russian Foreign Ministry, in turn, officially confirmed that the Treaty had been terminated at the United States’ initiative.


New START, which came into force in 2011, limits Russia and the US to no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers.

The Treaty is set to remain in effect for ten years (until 2021) unless a new document is signed to replace it. The document can also be extended for no more than five years (that is, until 2026) by mutual agreement of the parties.