The Trump administration announced on February 1 that the country was suspending its participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF treaty) for 180 days pending a final withdrawal. Vladimir Putin, in a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu, announced on Saturday that the Russian Federation is also suspending its participation in the treaty in a mirror response to Washington’s unilateral decision.
The INF treaty was signed by the US and the USSR in 1987 at the height of negotiations that had begun years earlier and directly involved the leaders of the two countries. The treaty entered into force in 1988, eliminating missiles with a range of 500-1,000 kilometers (short to medium range) and 1,000-5,500 km (intermediate range). The treaty has always concerned land-based launchers and never sea- or air-launched missiles, a legacy of a bygone era where most nuclear warheads were positioned on missiles launched from the mainland. In subsequent years, thanks to technological advances, solutions like submarines, stealth bombers and the possibility of miniaturizing nuclear warheads became increasingly important in the military doctrines of both the US and Russia, nullifying the basis on which the INF treaty was initially signed, which was to avert a direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow on the European continent.
The INF treaty, together with the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks/Treaty (SALT treaty), signed by Washington and Moscow on the issue of long-range missiles, aimed to create a safer global environment by seeking to avoid the prospect of a nuclear exchange. It was also aimed at reducing the number of nuclear warheads owned by the US and the USSR, as well as generally reducing proliferation in line with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In particular, the INF treaty guaranteed a lasting peace on the European continent through Washington not deploying nuclear weapons in Europe aimed at the USSR and Moscow in turn not deploying systems capable of eliminating these European-based US missiles. The initial promoters of an INF agreement were obviously the European countries, who would have found themselves in the middle of a nuclear apocalypse in the event of war between Moscow and Washington.
With 1970s technology, the time between the launch and impact of a missile with a range of 500-5500 km was about 10-12 minutes;