The understanding of the greater geopolitical theatre of the world is required to answer the questions related to International Relations, Treaties, etc. in the PSC, UPSC exams. Here’s the whole issue explained:

The Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was concluded in 1987 by Presidents – Ronald Reagan of the United States of America and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, and it has been hailed as one of the most important arms control agreements between Washington and Moscow.

Immediate issue resolved by the INF Treaty :

The Soviet Union had deployed a missile in Europe called the SS-20, capable of carrying three nuclear warheads.  In response, the United States deployed cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe. The INF treaty resolved this acute crisis in the 1980s Cold war era. These intermediate-range missiles were seen as the possible triggers for a nuclear war because of their short flight times of as little as 10 minutes. The situation so tense for the Soviets where they feared in case of an attack and nuclear apocalypse they would not have time to retaliate. To combat this, Moscow developed a “dead hand” trigger to fire its arsenal at the United States based on computers interpreting radiation and seismic sensors, without requiring an order from the leadership.

It led to building of some trust between Washington and Moscow and also contributed to the end of the Cold War.

  • Under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, the US and Soviet Union agreed not to develop, produce, possess or deploy any ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles that have a range between 500 and 5,500 km.
  • However the INF treaty exempted the air-launched and sea-based missile systems in the same range.

What was the result of INF treaty?

After the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union together destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by June 1, 1991, the treaty’s implementation deadline.

The INF treaty significantly helped address the fears of an imminent nuclear war in Europe of those times.

INF treaty was effective in which regions?

The USA and the Soviets are prohibited from deploying these missiles anywhere in the world, not just in Europe.

The 1987’s Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty marked the first time these two superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, and eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, along with extensive on-site inspections for verification of the same.

The INF Treaty is regarded as one of the most important in the history of preventing nuclear war.

So, Why US is withdrawing from INF Treaty

U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to“terminate” the landmark 1987 nuclear arms-control pact with Russia in response to a long-running dispute over Russian non-compliance of the treaty.

The United States first alleged about this non-compliance in the 2014 Compliance Report, stating that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile in the range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, and 2017 have repeated these allegations. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement.

As a follow up to this, on December 8, 2017, the Trump administration released a strategy to counter these alleged Russian violations of the INF Treaty. This decision suspends American obligations under the treaty, and terminates the INF accord unless Russia comes into compliance within six months, which is unlikely.

The INF Treaty doesn’t include China: Another angle to this termination to the INF treaty is the perceived threat from China, which is not a part of this restriction from deployment of the tactical nuclear weapons and is now Chinese military is carving out a greater sphere of influence in the Western Pacific. The US has hence, also called this INF treaty outdated and withdrawal frees them from restrictions.

Implications of end of INF Treaty

This withdrawal from the INF Treaty will have far reaching military and diplomatic implications for the transatlantic geopolitics of Europe (NATO), and the US and Russia. This has again become an evolving issue for us to stay aware of.

Impact on the 2010 New START treaty: The U.S.-Russian New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, governing U.S. and Russian longer-range systems will be extensively impacted by this withdrawal. The exit of the INF Treaty will reopen questions on the relationship between intermediate and strategic systems that have been resolved for 30 years by the elimination of ground-based, intermediate-range missiles.