US Rejects Russia’s ‘Proof’ of Compliance With Arms Treaty

January 24, 2019 Updated: January 24, 2019

The United States on Jan. 24 said Russia’s display of a secret missile didn’t prove that the nuclear-capable weapon is compliant with a 1987 arms treaty between the two nations.

Russian military officials unveiled the nuclear-capable Novator 9M729 missile to journalists and foreign military attachés on Jan. 23.

Moscow used the display to assert that the missile falls six miles short of the 310-mile range prohibited by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Under Secretary of State Andrea Thompson told reporters on Jan. 24 that the United States has presented Russia “time after time after time” with data showing that the missile flew more than 3,000 miles during one of the tests conducted between 2008 and 2013.

“A static display of a missile cannot tell you how far a missile flies,” Thompson said.

Washington has presented Moscow with a proposal for a “verifiable” test of the missile’s range. Thompson didn’t provide details of the test. Moscow countered the offer with its own unacceptable testing proposal, she added.

“They would have controlled the environment,” she said about the Russian plan. “When you go and select the missile, and you select the fuel, and you control all of those parameters, characteristics, you are controlling the outcome of the test.”

Participants attend a news briefing, organized by Russian defense and foreign ministries’ officials and dedicated to SSC-8/9M729 cruise missile system, at Patriot Expocenter near Moscow, Russia Jan. 23, 2019. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Washington has offered to hold arms-control talks with Moscow during a United Nations meeting in Beijing next week, Thompson said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Dec. 4 gave Russia 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty. The 60 days will expire Feb. 2, paving way for the United States to serve an official withdrawal notice. The pullout would be effective 60 days after the notice is served.

Thompson reiterated that the Trump administration will “suspend our obligations” under the disputed INF Treaty if Russia fails to return to compliance by Feb. 2. But the move is “reversible” and Washington has made no final decision on announcing a full U.S. withdrawal, she said.

“I’m not particularly optimistic” that Russia will return to compliance, she told reporters.

The INF Treaty, signed in 1987, prohibits Russia and the United States from possessing or testing short- and mid-range ground-launched ballistic missiles. The two nations destroyed their respective arsenals of these weapons after signing the pact.

National flags of Russia and the United States fly at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia on April 11, 2017. (Reuters/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo)

According to Washington, Moscow has been in violation of the pact since the mid-2000s. Russia developed and deployed the missile systems covertly, according to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

In addition to claiming that their missile is compliant with the treaty, Russia asserts that the United States is using the allegations as a pretext to exit the treaty and develop new missiles.

Both Washington and Moscow have concerns about China’s burgeoning missile arsenal. Unbound by the treaty, Beijing has developed and deployed a vast array of missile systems that both the United States and Russia are prohibited from possessing.

In announcing his intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, President Donald Trump mentioned that he hopes to replace the treaty with a pact that includes China. While U.S. officials have tried to bring Beijing into the INF Treaty several times, each attempt has failed.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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