A landmark arms control agreement concluded between the United States and the Soviet Union in the final years of the Cold War is at risk of unraveling amid mutual suspicions. Ankit Panda. Last updated October 22, 2018by
Signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is the only Cold War-era U.S.-Soviet arms control agreement that remains in force today. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States sustained the INF Treaty with the Russian Federation and some other successor states.
The treaty was thrown into doubt in late 2018, when President Donald J. Trump said the United States would withdraw in response to many years of Russian violations. Moscow said the Trump administration had no evidence to corroborate the allegations. Some U.S. allies have warned a dissolution of the treaty would undermine European security.
What is the INF Treaty?
The former Soviet states that possessed nuclear weapons—Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan—participate in the INF Treaty with the United States. It required countries to destroy their stockpiles of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The treaty, which covers both nuclear and conventionally armed missiles, also prohibits signatories from possessing, producing, and flight-testing these kinds of missiles. It was the first agreement of its kind to reduce nuclear missile stocks instead of merely establishing a limit on arsenals. While the treaty required the elimination of missile bodies and launchers, it did not result in the elimination of nuclear warheads.
After the treaty entered into force in 1988, the United States and Soviet Union dismantled and destroyed about 800 and 1,800 missiles, respectively, along with related equipment such as launchers. A pillar of the treaty was a rigorous verification regime, including on-site inspection, which allowed parties to physically confirm the other’s implementation. Both sides came into full compliance in the summer of 1991, months before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, by completely eliminating the systems covered by the treaty. On-site inspection activity ended in 2001, in accordance with the treaty.
The treaty also established a forum known as the Special Verification Commission for parties to address and resolve compliance concerns. It has met thirty times, with the most recent meetings taking place in November 2016 and December 2017. (The most recent meeting before 2016 took place in October 2003.)