The Death of the INF Treaty Has Given Birth to New Missile Possibilities

Steven Pifer

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty came to an end in August. The United States and Russia no longer are barred from developing and deploying land-based, intermediate-range missiles, and the Pentagon apparently aims to deploy such missiles in Europe and Asia.

The INF Treaty Is Finished

The INF Treaty, signed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibited the United States and Soviet Union (later Russia) from testing or possessing land-based ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between five hundred and fifty-five hundred kilometers. Unfortunately, Russia violated the treaty by testing and deploying the 9M729, a prohibited land-based, intermediate-range cruise missile.

The United States and its European allies could have done considerably more to try to persuade the Kremlin to return to compliance, but it is now too late. The INF Treaty is dead.

Missiles for Europe

The Pentagon is planning or developing four land-based missile systems that would have contravened the INF Treaty’s limits. Two seem intended mainly for European contingencies, as the Army seeks long-range, precision conventional fires to strike targets such as communication nodes, second-echelon forces and anti-access/area denial capabilities (A2AD) out to a range of one thousand kilometers.

The Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) will replace the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). ATACMS has a range of three hundred kilometers, while the PrSM originally was planned with a range of just less than five hundred kilometers—the INF Treaty’s lower limit. The Army will now likely extend the PrSM’s range; one report has suggested that the range could increase to seven hundred kilometers.

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