The U.S. has inaugurated research on a missile banned under the terms of the Cold War-era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), according to unnamed Pentagon officials.
Under the terms of the 1987 INF agreement, the use of ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM), an intermediate and shorter range missile system with a range of 300 to 3,500 miles, are not permitted.
It is considered a violation of the INF only if either Russia or the U.S. tests, produces or deploys a ground-based cruise missile. The research into or development of a GLCM is not considered a violation of the pact.
Although Pentagon officials commenting on the matter were cautious and development of the missile system remained in a research stage, the decision to begin research into a GLCM was a response to alleged violations of the INF by the Russian Federation. DOD personnel said the Pentagon will halt development plans once Russia ends its pursuit of GLCMs.
“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. We are posturing ourselves to live in a post-INF world . . . if that is the world the Russians want,” an anonymous Defense Department official said.
Research into the development of a GLCM was endorsed by the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by both houses of Congress last week.
A caveat in the 2018 NDAA empowers the U.S. to suspend the INF treaty should Russia be in violation of the accord.
Russia denies violating INF and has consistently pointed to the U.S. deployment of AGEIS Ashore missiles in Eastern Europe as a violation and provocation.
Speaking on the matter in early November, Defense Secretary James Mattis assured reporters the development of the GLCM was in response to Russian violations of the INF and not the beginning of a full-fledged arms build-up.
“We have a firm belief now over several years that the Russians have violated the INF and our effort is to bring Russia back into compliance,” Mattis said.
Mattis also said the U.S. intended to work with NATO to address the matter with Russia.
[Wall Street Journal] [Reuters]