Pentagon begins research on missile banned by arms treaty with Russia: report

The Pentagon has started research to develop a missile banned by an arms treaty with Russia in an effort to get Moscow back into compliance with the treaty, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the newspaper reported that the U.S. military has been conducting preliminary research in recent months for a ground-based cruise missile, a type banned by the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

“The idea here is we need to send a message to the Russians that they will pay a military price for violation of this treaty,” one U.S. official told the newspaper. “We are posturing ourselves to live in a post-INF world … if that is the world the Russians want.”


The 1987 INF Treaty was a landmark deal between the U.S. and then-Soviet Union that banned ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

The United States has repeatedly accused Russia of violating the treaty, including by deploying a nuclear-tipped cruise missile.

The goal of the United States’s recent research is not to end the treaty, but rather to show Russia what type of U.S. arsenal it could be facing if the pact were to end, according to The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. officials told the newspaper that the United States informed Russia of the research and development in recent weeks and that it would abandon the effort if Russia gets back into compliance with the treaty.

Though testing, producing and deploying the missile is banned by the treaty, research and development is not, a point that U.S. lawmakers have stressed as they’ve pushed the Pentagon to take that step.

Congress this week passed a defense policy bill that authorizes $58 million to respond to Russia’s INF violations, including for research and development of a U.S. ground-launched cruise missile system.

“The conferees note that the INF Treaty prohibits testing and deployment of ground-launched intermediate-range missile systems, but it does not prohibit research and development,” the bill’s conference report said.

“The conferees do not intend for the United States to enter into a violation of the INF Treaty so long as the treaty remains in force, and nothing in this provision should be construed to force the United States into a violation of the treaty.”

U.S. officials have repeatedly said they are deciding how to respond to Russia’s violations without specifying the options they are exploring.

Defense Secretary James Mattis attended a NATO conference last week during which he said he spoke with allies about options for pushing Russia back into compliance with the INF treaty.

“We have a firm belief, now, over several years, that the Russians have violated the INF,” Mattis said in Brussels. “And our effort is to bring Russia back into compliance. It is not to walk away from the treaty. But, just like with the Vienna agreement, the Minsk accord, the Helsinki accord, we now have an increasing concern about Russia’s willingness to live up to the accords that it’s signed, the treaties it’s signed.”

Tags Cruise missile Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty James Mattis James Mattis NATO–Russia relations

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