On June 28, RIA Novosti quoted Vladimir Leontiev, deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department, as stating that “threatening actions” by the U.S. in the context of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty would lead to counter-measures by Russia to "restore the military balance."
“When one side defiantly undertakes threatening actions while disregarding the security interests of another, this naturally causes some counter-measures,” he said. “As a result, the balance is restored on the higher level of military capabilities, becoming more fragile, as well.”
Leontiev’s statement follows calls from members of the U.S. Congress for the United States to withdraw from the accord because Russia has violated it – an accusation Russia has consistently denied.
The INF Treaty requires the U.S. and Russia “to eliminate and permanently forswear” their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with specified ranges.
RIA Novosti reported that the Russian Foreign Ministry is “seriously concerned” about the United States using “baseless data” as a pretext for initiating counter-measures against Russia. It quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denying that Russia has violated the INF Treaty and pointing to a lack of specific allegations, adding: “The Russian leadership has time and again confirmed its adherence to its INF commitments.”
Indeed, Lavrov stated in an interview published in the Russian newspaper Argumenty and Fakty last March: “There have been no violations on our part. The U.S. claims otherwise, without providing any specific information that could be verified in order to clarify the situation.”
Contrary to Lavrov’s statement, the U.S. has in fact detailed the allegations.
In a 2014 report, the U.S. State Department alleged that Russia had violated its obligation under the treat “not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” According to the Arms Control Association, the Department repeated that allegation in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
In December 2015, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon told the U.S. Congress there was “conclusive” evidence Russia had violated the INF Treaty. “Russia has tested this ground-based system well into the ranges covered by the INF Treaty,” he said. “We are talking about a real system and not a potential capability.”
The system McKeon was referring to is a Russian cruise missile that U.S. officials dubbed the SSC-X-8. Russia tested the missile system in 2014 and has already, according to U.S. officials, deployed two battalions of the missile: one at a missile test site at Kapustin Yar near the city of Volgograd and another elsewhere in Russia.