The Intermediate-Range Nuclear-Forces Treaty (INF Treaty)

Summary and Analysis by Thomas Graham, Jr., and Damien J. Lavera (2003)

The Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, commonly referred to as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, required destruction of the parties’ ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, their launchers and associated support structures, and support equipment within three years after the treaty enters into force.

The INF negotiations began in November 1981. The principal U.S. objective in the negotiations was to limit the Soviets’ growing, modern, highly accurate, road-mobile, MIRVed (multiple independently targettable reentry vehicles), medium-range ballistic missile force (the SS-20s), which replaced its older, less accurate, single-warhead, silo-based, medium-range ballistic missiles (SS-4s and SS-5s). The Soviets finally agreed to eliminate all SS-20s (as well as SS-4s and SS-Ss) in exchange for elimination of the U.S. Pershing II missiles and the U.S. ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs), which began to be deployed in Europe in 1983 to counter the SS-20. These deployments were made pursuant to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decision in 1979 to deploy the missiles unless an arms control alter-
native to deployment could be found by 1983. The INF Treaty contains a ban on intermediate-range missiles (those with ranges from 1,000 to 5,500 kilometers) held by the parties worldwide (including beyond the Ural Mountains outside of European Russia). In the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union also agreed to ban worldwide, shorter-
range missiles (500 to 1,000 kilometers), in particular the Soviet SS-12 and SS-23 ballistic missiles and the U.S. Pershing I ballistic missile.

In the mid-1970s the Soviet Union achieved rough strategic parity vis-a-vis the United States. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union began replacing older, intermediate-range SS-4 and SS-5 missiles with a new intermediate-range missile (SS-20), bringing about what was perceived by the United States to be a qualitative and quantitative change in European security. The SS-20 was mobile, accurate, and capable of being concealed and rapidly redeployed. It carried three independently targetable warheads, as distinguished from the single warheads carried by its predecessors. The SS-20’s 5,000-kilometer range permitted it to cover targets in western Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and, from bases in the eastern Soviet Union, most of Asia, Southeast Asia, and Alaska.

In late 1977, NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group ordered a study of the alliance’s long-term theater nuclear forces (TNF) modernization needs, consistent with the doctrine of flexible response. In the spring of 1979, NATO established the Special Consultative Group to formulate guiding principles for future arms control efforts involving these forces. That summer, NATO produced the Integrated Decision Document, which set forth the basic aims of the alliance’s TNF policy. It called for complementary programs of force modernization and arms control. On November 12, 1979, the NATO ministers unanimously adopted a dual-track strategy to counter Soviet SS-20 deployments. One track called for arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce TNF forces to the lowest possible level: the second track called for deployment in western Europe, beginning in December 1983, of 464 single-warhead U.S. GLCMs missiles and 108 Pershing II ballistic missiles if arms control negotiations did not succeed.

Initially the Soviet Union refused to engage in preliminary talks unless NATO revoked its deployment decision. However, by July 1980, the Soviet position changed, and preliminary discussions on TNF began in Geneva in the fall of 1980. The U.S. approach to the negotiations, developed through extensive consultations within NATO, required that any agreement must (1) provide for equality both in limits and rights between the United States and the Soviet Union, (2) be strictly bilateral and thus exclude British and French systems, (3) limit systems on a global basis, (4) not adversely affect NATO’s conventional defense capability; and (5) be effectively verifiable. The United States and the Soviet Union reached an agreement to begin formal talks on September 23, 1981. After some months of discussion, the U.S. and the Soviets agreed to call those negotiations the INF negotiations. On November 18, President Ronald Reagan announced a negotiating proposal in which the United States would agree to eliminate its Pershing IIs and GLCMs if the Soviet Union would dismantle all of its SS-20s, SS-4s, and SS-5s. This proposal became known as the zero-option. The negotiations began on November 30, and in early discussions the Soviet Union opposed the deployment of any U.S. INF missiles in Europe and proposed a ceiling of 300 medium-range missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft form both sides, with British and French nuclear forces counting toward the ceiling for the West.

During the first two years of the talks, which ended with a Soviet walkout when the first U.S. Pershing II missiles arrived in Germany on November 23, 1983, the United States continued to emphasize its preference for the zero-option (that is, elimination of all INF systems), even while introducing the concept of an interim agreement based on equally low numbers of INF systems. In 1982, U.S. Ambassador Paul Nitze and Soviet Ambassador Yuli Kvitsinski developed a formula of equal numbers of INF systems and no account taken of British and French systems. The U.S. would have only the GLCM and not the Pershing II, while the Soviet Union would have theater ballistic missiles but no cruise missiles. This joint proposal of the two ambassadors, known as “the walk in the woods” understanding, was never agreed to by their governments.

During 1984 there were no INF negotiations. U.S. deployments were carried out as planned in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany); Italy, and the United Kingdom, while preparations for deployment continued in Belgium. In January 1985, U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko agreed to separate but parallel negotiations on INF, strategic offensive arms (the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, START), and defense and space issues as part of a new bilateral forum called the Nuclear and Space Arms Talks (NST). The United States and the Soviet Union agreed that all questions regarding these three areas would be considered in their interrelationship. Negotiations would be conducted by a single delegation from each side, divided into three groups-one for defense and space, one for START, and one for INF. Formal talks resumed in March 1985 in all three areas.

In the fall of 1985, the Soviet Union hinted at the possibility of an INF agreement independent of START or defense and space issues. As U.S. GLCM deployments continued, the Soviet Union outlined an interim INF agreement that would permit some U.S. GLCMs in Europe, but which would permit SS-20 warheads equal to the sum of all warheads on U.S., British, and French systems combined. The Soviets also offered to freeze INF systems in Asia, contingent on U.S. acceptance of their proposals and provided the Asian strategic situation did not change.

In November 1985, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met in Geneva, where they issued a joint statement calling for an “interim accord on intermediate-range nuclear forces.” At the end of 1985, the United States proposed a limit of 140 launchers in Europe for both sides and proportionate reductions in Asia, while emphasizing collateral constraints on shorter-range missiles, since these systems can cover the same targets as longer-range systems. On January 15, 1986, General Secretary Gorbachev announced a Soviet proposal for a three-stage program to ban nuclear weapons by the year 2000, which included elimination of all U.S. and Soviet INF missiles in Europe.

In late February 1986, the United States proposed a limit of 140 INF launchers in Europe and a concurrent proportionate reduction in Asia. This proposal also called for both sides to reduce their INF missile launchers remaining in Europe and Asia by an additional 50 percent in 1988 and, finally, to eliminate all INF weapons by the end of 1989. There would be no constraints on British and French nuclear forces. Moreover, as of the end of 1987, shorter-range missiles would be limited equally either to current Soviet levels or to levels existing on January 1, 1982. The United States also presented an outline for comprehensive verification.

A series of high-level discussions took place in August and September 1986, followed by a meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986, where the sides agreed to equal global ceilings of 100 deployed INF missile warheads, none of which would be deployed in Europe. The Soviet Union also proposed a freeze on shorter-range missile deployments and agreed in principle to intrusive on-site verification. Several months later, on February 28, 1987, the Soviet Union announced that it was prepared to reach a separate INF agreement. On March 4, 1987, the United States tabled a draft INF Treaty text, which reflected the agreement reached at Reykjavik, and submitted a comprehensive verification regime. In April, the Soviet Union presented its own draft treaty, and by July it had agreed in principle to some of the provisions in the U.S. comprehensive verification regime, including data exchange, on-site observation of elimination, and on-site inspection of INF missile inventories and facilities. In a major shift, however, the Soviet side proposed the inclusion ofU.S.-owned warheads on the West German Pershing IA missile systems. The United States responded by restating that the INF negotiations were bilateral, covering only U.S. and Soviet missiles, and could not involve third-country systems or affect existing patterns of cooperation.

During April meetings with U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz in Moscow, General Secretary Gorbachev proposed the possible elimination of U.S. and Soviet shorter-range missiles. At the June 1987 meeting of NATO’s North Atlantic Council, NATO foreign ministers announced support for the global elimination of all U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range and shorter-range missile systems. On June 15, President Reagan the elimination of al U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range and shorter-range missile systems, the double zero-option.

On July 22, 1987, General Secretary Gorbachev agreed to a double global zero treaty to eliminate intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. On August 26, 1987, in light of the double global zero understanding, the United States modified its requirements for a verification regime by dropping the provision for stationing inspectors outside all INF missile productions and assembly plants and limiting short-notice, on-site inspections to declared INF facilities. On August 26, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced that the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) would dismantle its seventy-two Pershing IA missiles and not replace them with more modern weapons if the United States and the Soviet Union scrapped all of their INF missiles as foreseen in the emerging treaty. This was a unilateral declaration by Kohl and is not part of the INF Treaty. In September, the two sides reached agreement in principle to complete the treaty before the end of the year. On December 8, 1987, President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev signed the treaty at a summit meeting in Washington, D.C.

The treaty that the United States and the Soviet Union signed in Washington on December 8 includes the comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Data, the Protocol on Inspections, and the Protocol on Elimination. Because of concerns raised by the Senate during the ratification hearings, and because of issues that arose during technical consultations between the United States and the Soviet Union during the spring of 1988, this package was augmented by three exchanges of diplomatic notes — one on May 12, 1988, and two on May 21, 1988 — and an agreed minute signed May 12, 1988, which, among other things, confirms that the INF Treaty applies to systems based on future as well as current technology. The Senate resolution of ratification required that the president, prior to exchanging instruments of ratification, obtain Soviet agreement that the four documents “are of the same force and effect as the provisions of the Treaty.” This was done through an exchange of notes on May 28, 1988. The treaty entered into force upon the exchange of instruments of ratification in Moscow on June 1, 1988.

Article XIII established the Special Verification Commission (SVC) to discuss further issues raised during technical consultations and to determine the characteristics and methods of use of inspection equipment as anticipated by Section VI of the Protocol on Inspection. The sides resolved many of those issues during the first SVC session and agreed to utilize the agreements reached until the two sides signed a document embodying them. During the third SVC session in December 1988 the sides signed an agreed statement on inspection procedures at the continuous monitoring inspection site at Votkinsk (discussed below) and a memorandum of understanding on operating procedures for the SVC.

At the 1986 Reykjavik summit, the Soviet Union agreed to the prii:iciple of intrusive on-site inspection in the INF Treaty. This was a true breakthrough in nuclear arms control agreements. Ironically, in 1990, almost two years after the entry into force of the INF Treaty, it was learned that the Soviet Union had transferred SS-23 missiles to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria in the mid-1980s, creating a serious diplomatic problem. The Soviets maintained that the transfer did not involve an INF Treaty violation because the Soviet Union did not “possess” (the treaty term) these missiles at the time of its entry into force. However, that the Soviet Union had made much of the U.S. Pershing I missiles transferred to West Germany and had insisted on their elimination, not to mention that it had itself transferred SS-23 missiles during the negotiations, was indefensible.

The United States did not want to include a non circumvention provision in the INF negotiation because the lack of clarity of the meaning of such an obligation in the SALT II Treaty had received much criticism in the U.S. Senate. However, the issue of the seventy-two Pershing I missiles that the United States had transferred to the Federal Republic of Germany was strongly asserted by the Soviet Union to be a problem that the INF Treaty needed to address in some way. The United States did not want these missiles included under the treaty because they belonged to a sovereign third state, even though the United States controlled the nuclear warheads. Eventually, as stated, West Germany unilaterally announced that it would destroy these missiles prior to completion of missile elimination under the INF Treaty, and the United States agreed to destroy the associated reentry vehicles after the missiles were eliminated. A similar arrangement, in the view of the United States, should have been developed for the transferred Soviet SS-23 missiles.

The INF Treaty was signed on December 8, 1987, and entered into force on June 1, 1988. In addition to completely eliminating a whole class of nuclear weapon delivery systems, the most notable feature of the INF Treaty is the far-reaching on-site inspection regime.

Article IV of the INF Treaty provides that all intermediate-range missiles, their launchers, support structures, and support equipment of the parties be eliminated within three years of entry into force in two phases. The first phase lasted twenty-nine months; the second lasted for the remaining thirty-six months. Article IV provided for the elimination of all shorter-range missiles, launchers, and associated support equipment of the parties within eighteen months of entry into force.

Article IV was regarded during the negotiations as the strongest bulwark of verification in the treaty. This article prohibits production and flight-testing of the missiles to be eliminated under the treaty. Thus, even if the national technical means and on-site inspection verification regimes miss a number of covert missiles, their value would dramatically decline over time due to lack of flight-testing. This provision is demonstratively verifiable by national technical means.

Article VIII, Paragraph 1, of the INF Treaty required that, after entry into force, all intermediate-range missiles and launchers of such missiles (including stages) be located only at deployment areas, at missile support facilities or in transit. Paragraph 6 further required that thirty days after entry into force, intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles (including stages) and launchers of such missiles not be located at missile or launcher production facilities or at test ranges.

Article IX provides for a comprehensive exchange of data on systems subject to the treaty. The data are to be contained in the Memorandum on Data, and shall be updated thirty days after the entry into force and thirty days after the end of each six-month period thereafter. The data to be exchanged include the number of missiles, launchers, support structures, and equipment for all missile systems subject to the treaty. In addition, Article IX, Paragraph 5, required the following:

thirty-day advance notification of elimination of a deployment area, missile-operating base, or missile support facility;
ten-day advance notification of changes in the number and location of elimination facilities and of the scheduled date of elimination (except launchers for purposes of elimination;
notification forty-eight hours after they occur of changes in the number of missiles, launchers, support structures, and support equipment as the result of elimination pursuant to the Protocol of Elimination; and notification no later than forty-eight hours after it has been completed of transit of intermediate-range or shorter-range missiles or launchers of such missiles, as well as training missiles and launchers of these types.

Elimination is an INF Treaty term that means removal from the aggregate numbers covered by the treaty. Elimination is to be accomplished primarily by destruction. However, in limited numbers of a limited period, SS-20s could be launched to destruction under the treaty. Elimination could also be effected by accident and in small numbers under strict regulation by placement in static display museums.

Article X requires that missile systems subject to the treaty be eliminated in accordance with the Protocol on Elimination and subjected to on-site inspection pursuant to the Protocol on Inspection. The Protocol on Elimination in general provides for elimination by explosive demolition, cutting, crushing, or flattening, depending on the nature of the piece of equipment being eliminated. Article X, Paragraph 5, permits a party in the first six months after entry into force to eliminate, by launching, up to one hundred intermediate-range missiles. The purpose of this provision was to permit the Soviet Union to meet the time schedule set forth in the treaty, given the large number of SS-20s it possessed. Never-deployed experimental missiles-of which each party had one type — had to be eliminated within six months after entry into force. Paragraph 7 provides that missile systems are considered to be eliminated under the treaty once all the requirements of the Protocol on Elimination are met and notification given pursuant to Article IX.

Article XI, along with the greatly detailed Protocol on Inspection, sets forth the on-site inspection regime of the treaty. Paragraph 2 provides that such inspections may be conducted on the territory of the parties as well as within the territories of third party-basing countries (permitted by an associated Basing Country Agreement).Article XI, Paragraph 3, provides that no later than thirty days after entry into force each party shall have the right to conduct on-site inspections at all missile operating bases and missile support facilities (other than missile production facilities) listed in the Memorandum on Data, and at all missile elimination facilities contained in the first data update called for in Article XI, Paragraph 3. These inspections must be completed thirty days after entry into force. This is the so-called baseline inspection for the purpose of verifying the initial data.

Paragraph 4 provides for on-site inspection of the elimination of missile operating bases and support facilities. These inspections were required to be conducted within sixty days of the scheduled date. This is termed the closeout inspection. Paragraph 5 contains the right to conduct inspections, beginning ninety days after entry into force, of missile operating bases, missile support facilities (other than elimination sites), and missile production facilities to verify the numbers of missiles, launchers, support structures, and support equipment located at such sites, as well as former missile operating bases and support facilities that have been eliminated. This right is to exist for thirteen years under the INF Treaty, the three-year elimination period, and for ten years thereafter. A declining number of inspections is provided; that is, twenty per calendar year during the first three years, and ten per year in the last five years.

No more that half of these inspections by each party in any one year may be on the territory of one basing country.

During the negotiations, the United States learned that the first two stages of the SS-25 land-mobile ICBM are identical (“outwardly similar” in the treaty language) to the two stages of the SS-20. The United ·states insisted upon the right of continuous inspection at the one SS-25 final assembly plant, the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant, located in the town of Votkinsk in the Ural Mountains, to assure itself that covert SS-20s were not produced there. Paragraph (6)a of the Protocol on Inspection grants the United States this right. For the purposes of reciprocity only, a similar right was granted the Soviet Union at a former U.S. Pershing II production facility at Magna, Utah, in Paragraph 6(b).The parameters of the inspection are governed by the protocol, which, in summary, establishes a perimeter with portals jthrough which the missile must leave the plant and, in appropriate cases, imaging of the missile canisters and the right to open up to eight missile canisters a year. (Unlike U.S. ballistic missiles, Soviet ballistic missiles have a final assembly facility and are subsequently deployed inside canisters.) This right is effective six months after entry into force and will terminate if there has been no final assembly at such a plant for a previous twelve-month period.

Paragraph 7 sets forth the right of on-site inspection of the elimination process by means of launching pursuant to Article X, Paragraph 5. Inspectors conducting these inspections are required to confirm that the process of elimination has been completed in each specific case before the data may be changed.

The final principal part of the verification regime is Article XIII, Paragraph 3, termed “national technical means enhancement.” Up to six times a year, for the three-year elimination period, the United States may, upon six hours’ notice, request cooperative measures at deployment bases ofSS-25 ICBMs that are not former SS-20 operating bases (where a right to inspect would already exist under Article XI, Paragraph 5), whereby the roofs of all fixed structures for SS-25s shall be opened and all missiles displayed on launchers in the open.

After the demise of the Soviet Union, all twelve newly independent states (NISs) succeeding to the territory of the Soviet Union became INF Treaty parties. Six of these countries became active INF Treaty parties (Russia, Belarus; Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) as INF equipment and facilities were located in their territory. Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan became active participants in the implementation process, while Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan assumed a less active role. The other six NISs, which had no INF equipment and facilities on their territories, became “inactive” INF Treaty parties. It was considered desirable that the INF Treaty missile prohibition run to the entire territory of the former Soviet Union. In 2000, the last of the inspection rights were terminated, the INF missile systems having long since been eliminated.

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