On the issue of the denunciation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Part II


Part I

As the INF Treaty is estimated to be "disputable", it is rather interesting to analyze the motives and history of its adoption.

From the late 1970’s, the situation in USSR-NATO relations on the European continent was uneasy. The United States did not bother taking into account the strategic Soviet-American balance in terms of advance bases or the nuclear capabilities of the US’ European allies in NATO such as Great Britain and France.

In this context at the end of the 1970’s, the Soviet Union began expanding new, mobile RK intermediate-range RAR-10 “Pioneer” missiles on its European territory. These missiles replaced the outdated intermediate-range R-12 and R-14 stationary missiles.

In terms of the number of intermediate-range nuclear launch systems, (including intermediate-range missiles, aircraft, and mounted ones), NATO’s forces surpassed those of the USSR by almost two times (~ 1800:1000). At the same time, the USSR had a greater number of intermediate-ranged missiles, numbering at approximately 600, five hundred of which were stationed in Europe, while Great Britain and France had only 178.

In response to the expanded deployment of RAR “Pioneer”s, in December, 1979 NATO decided to expand the number of new American land-based, intermediate-range missiles, including 108 Pershing-2 ballistic missiles and 464 BGM-109G Tomahwak cruise missiles, on the territory of a number of European states.

It should be noted that the Soviet RAR “Pioneer”s stationed in Europe could not reach the territory of the US any way, while the American RAR’s in Europe could strike deep blows in Soviet territory - the Pershin-2 systems had a range of up to 1800 km which could reach Moscow region, and the KRNB had a range of 2500 km, i.e., it could almost reach the Urals. This posed the threat of a “decapitating” blow on the command points of the top management of the Soviets’ SNF (strategic nuclear forces) and state organs. The short flight time of the RAR Pershing-2, which in 10-12 minutes could reach Moscow, left an extremely minimal amount of time for decision making on retaliation.

The Soviet leadership’s fears were reasonable in view of the technological innovations used in American missiles. - they were equipped with sufficiently accurate embedded charges switched with a trotyl equivalent and were able to destroy protected objects.

Owing to such geo-strategic asymmetry, the USSR was not interested in any stationing of American missiles in Europe. The danger of an expansion of nuclear missiles in Europe thus pressed dialogue.

Given these conditions, from autumn 1980 the problem of European nuclear weapons led the USSR and US to discuss the SOA. Land-based, intermediate-range nuclear missiles and planes/vehicles capable of delivering nuclear arms with an intermediate-ranged  of action radius in particular became the subjects of these negotiations.

The difficult situation of negotiations between 1980 and 1983, however, did not allow the parties to attain any results and negotiations were interrupted.

Before this end, nevertheless, the Soviet Union managed to put through various proposals to solve the European nuclear problem:

  • in 1980, the USSR suggested suspending all new NATO and USSR deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe, i.e., “freeze” the existing capacity of such arms;

  • in 1981, the USSR suggested reducing the number of intermediate-range missiles in Europe to 300 units for each side;

  • - in 1982, the USSR proposed establishing an equal number of RAR and planes in Europe (i.e., the USSR’s European region would have as many missiles as England and France);

  • in 1983, the USSR expressed its readiness to have no more than 140 RAR missiles in Europe, i.e. less than the number available for France and Great Britain. At the same time, the US was expected to refrain from placing any RAR’s in Europe. The offer also proposed equal caps on the number of planes capable of intermediate-radius-of-action nuclear delivery for both parties.

The US did not accept any of these offers.

In 1982, the Soviet Union unilaterally agreed to suspend the expansion of intermediate-range nuclear weapons even before the achievement of any agreement with the US on such arms and prior to the beginning of the expansion of American RAR’s in Europe. To this end, the USSR declared its intention in 1982 to reduce its quantity of the RAR. This initiative of the USSR, however, also went unanswered by the Americans.

The US, on the other hand, brought forth the following offers:

  • in 1981, the US offered the so-called "zero" option, which stipulated that the US would refrain from placing any RAR’s in Europe insofar as the Soviet Union agreed to eliminate all intermediate-range missiles in both the European and Asian spheres of the USSR. That is, it was proposed that the USSR liquidate its developed group of 600 missiles in exchange of the US’ cancellation of plans to expand its missile presence in Europe, i.e., a plan which was only in the development stage;

- in March 1983, the US proposed the "intermediate" option providing an equal quantity of RAR for the USSR and the US, but the RAR of France and Great Britain and other aircraft restrictions were not covered;

- in November 1983, the US suggested to establish equal limits on the number of the USSR’s and US’s warheads to the amount of 420 units each;

- In November 1983, the US nevertheless began the expansion of the RAR’s in Europe. The Soviet party left negotiations once no agreement could be reached even as to the questions up for discussion;

As a countermeasure, the USSR declared the cancellation of its unilateral suspension of intermediate-range missile deployment in the European part of the country. It proceeded to place increased-range operation and tactical missiles of the “Temp-S” model in Czechoslovakia and the GDR (See Yu.V.Antropov's Statement from November 24, 1983 on the refusal of the USSR to negotiate restrictions on and reductions of strategic arms in Europe, and its intention to place new intermediate-range missiles in the countries of the Warsaw pact).

According to open source data, the decision to develop the new, mobile intermediate-range RK “Speed” for placement in the territory of GDR and Czechoslovakia was also made. Plans were also made to relocate part of the RC “Pioneer”s to Chukotka, from the territory of which they could hit at long-range certain areas of the northwestern region of the US, such as Alaska.

The Soviet government supposed that such measures would compel Washington to reduce its RAR’s in Europe in exchange for the USSR’s cessation of missile transfers to the GDR and Czechoslovakia and the deployment of Pioneer missiles in Chukotka. If successful, the Pioneer missile grouping in the European sphere of the USSR would remain.

However, in 1985, Gorbachev came to power in the USSR. This change in leadership was marked by the most radical and rapid change in the USSR’s approach to questions of military construction, disarmament and an intensification in negotiations on the restriction of the SOA.

Approaches to the issue of advance-based American missiles also changed. In April 1985, the USSR unilaterally suspended the countermeasures of its SOA’s that had begun with the American expansion of RAR’s in Europe.

Western Europe, meanwhile, was overwhelmed by waves of anti-war demonstrations in which various sectors of society, including political, trade-union, religious, and scientific figures who advocated for the elimination of US military bases in Europe. The anti-war movement was supported by the Soviet Union which developed a powerful promotional campaign aimed at European public opinion. Against this backdrop and the lingering circumstances of serious nuclear confrontation,  the need for a resumption of negotiations became more and more obvious.

After more than a year break, negotiations were renewed in 1985.

In October 1986, a meeting was held in Reykjavík between M. Gorbachev and U.S. President R. Reagan. This meeting ended dramatically without the results that the Soviet party had counted on. At the same time, however, the Soviets had created a qualitative new situation and engineered a shift in negotiations.

In November 1986, at negotiations in Geneva, the Soviet delegation put forward a package of proposals on the basis of what was discussed at the summit in Reykjavík. The USSR suggested to liquidate all Soviet and American RAR’s in Europe under the condition that the USSR could keep those in its Asian part and the US could have up to 100 such warhead-loaded missiles on its own territory. With this scheme, the USSR would have 33 Pioneer missiles with divided head parts (DHP) in the Asian part of the country,  and the US could have 100 mono-block Pershing-2 missiles on its own territory. At the same time, the Soviet side suggested to establish equal limits on operation and tactical missiles under the condition of banning their spread to Europe. In doing so, the USSR refrained from taking the missiles of Great Britain and France into account, and any decision on intermediate-range nuclear aviation were postponed.

In April 1987, US Secretary of State Schultz told Gorbachev in a meeting in Moscow that the US was ready to adhere in principle to the option discussed at the Geneva negotiations.

Nevertheless, as a result of an even more radical option of restrictions, the so-called “double global zero” was finally coordinated, providing for the elimination of not only all American and Soviet missiles of intermediate-ranged  (over 1000 to 5500 km), but also of all missiles of short range (from 500 to 1000 km). This option was also legally fixed by the INF Treaty.

Thus, the results of INF negotiations still draw ambitious assessment in the expert community.

There is the widespread opinion that the USSR (under Gorbachev) made unjustified concessions to Washington during the last phase of INF Treaty negotiations.

Indeed, at that time statement emanating from the Party leadership of the USSR on “common human values) interfered negotiations on disarmament and pushed the national interests of the country back into the shadows. It was proclaimed that “solutions of a military and technical type cannot compensate for the deficiency of political will in the aspiration of mankind to leave such a vicious circle of military escalation efforts.” Such attitudes undoubtedly negatively influenced the point of view of the interests of the state.

As a result of the conclusion of the INF Treaty, the Soviet Union was compelled to liquidate twice as many missiles than the US (respectively 1846 and 846).

A major criticism that arises is that the Soviet Union was obliged to liquidate the new operative and tactical OTR-23 “Oka” missiles within the framework of the INF Agreement. These, missiles, however, had a range of less than 500 km and were never covered in the agreement. The decision to obligatorily liquidate the OTR-23’s was accepted by the highest political leaders in the country, despite all the objections of military experts, and was presented as a political step apparently designed to urge the pace of the agreement.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to recognize that the Soviet Union was extremely interested in ending the presence of American RAR’s in Europe, which represented a strategic nuclear threat to our country. This was the motive for concluding the INF Treaty and the main result of its fulfillment.

The INF Treaty became the first ever international treaty in the field of nuclear disarmament. AS a result of its fulfillment, missiles with ranges between 500 and 5500 km were completely excluded from US and Soviet nuclear arsenals.

The elimination of intermediate and shorter-ranged missiles essentially lessened the level of military confrontation. It was an important element in normalizing the military-political situation in Europe and in the world as a whole. The positive practical results of the INF Treaty’s implementation expedited the negotiation process in the sphere of restricting strategic nuclear weapons and other aspects of disarmament. The INF Treaty laid the groundwork for, and would reflect itself in, subsequent agreements.