Brookings Now

Did Russia Violate 1987 INF Arms Control Treaty?

Fred Dews and Elina Saxena

Steven Pifer, senior fellow and director of the Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, recently spoke to NPR about the White House’s accusation that Russia has violated an important arms control treaty. Pifer explained that:

The treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces signed in 1987 prohibited Washington and Moscow from producing, testing, or deploying ground launched or ballistic missiles in the range from 500 to 5,500 kilometers, and what the administration has said is that it has seen the Russians testing a ground launch cruise missile in that range band, and of course any violation of this treaty is important, and testing might not be as serious as actually deploying the missile, but it’s still a serious violation.

When asked about the Russian response, Pifer said that in the last few months, “denial has been a fairly common part of their diplomatic strategy … the question is can you get them to move beyond that?” and “get them into a constructive way where you might be able to bring them back into full compliance with the treaty?”

He also stresses that “we shouldn’t make this just an American-Russian problem,” stating that these missiles, due to their shorter range, are “really not a direct threat to America,” but are “a direct threat to Europe and Asia.” Thus, he recommends that the “U.S. government should talk to our NATO allies.”

Pifer explained that the “political fallout of Russia withdrawing from the treaty in terms of damaged relations with Russia’s neighbors in both Europe and Asia would be substantial.”

Listen to the full interview below or on

To read more about what Pifer has said about Russia and the INF treaty, visit the links below:

What should Obama do about Russia and the INF Treaty? Channel Reagan. (op-ed, 7/30/14)

The INF Treaty, Russian Compliance and the U.S. Policy Response (testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, 7/17/14)

Don’t Scrap the INF Treaty (Pifer, 6/19/14)

The Moscow Missile Mystery: Is Russia Actually Violating the INF Treaty? (1/31/14)

The Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces: History and Lessons Learned (paper by Pifer, Avis T. Bohlen, William F. Burns and John Woodworth, December 2012)