On Monday October 26, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a statement concerning additional steps to de-escalate the situation in Europe under the terminated Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), as the Kremlin's website says.
According to the head of state, Russia confirms the moratorium, noting that it will last until US-manufactured missiles of similar classes appear in the respective regions. In order to help find a compromise, President Putin invited all the parties interested to consider specific options for reciprocal verification measures to remove existing concerns.
"In particular, these options could include verification measures with regard to the Aegis Ashore systems with Mk-41 launchers that are deployed at US and NATO bases in Europe, as well as 9M729 missiles at the sites of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the Kaliningrad Region," the Russian leader added.
The goal of such verification measures would be to confirm the absence of ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles at the sites covered by the agreements, as well as the Russian 9M729 missile, the presence of which caused disagreement between Moscow and Washington. It is worth noting here that on October 20, Pentagon Chief Mark Esper announced Washington's plans to increase the number of its medium-and shorter-range missiles in Europe and Asia to the Russian and Chinese level. The Russian proposal should remove the parties' reciprocal claims as regards the INF Treaty violation.
It bears reminding that the Soviet Union and the United States entered into the INF Treaty in December 1987. The document prohibited the two countries' production and deployment of medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles (with a killing envelope of 1000 to 5500 kilometers) and shorter-range (500 to 1000 kilometers).
In February 2019, the United States accused Russia of allegedly failing to comply with agreement provisions and was the first to start the procedure for withdrawing from the INF. Washington believes the Russian 9M729 missile breaches the agreement. Moscow has denied charges and expressed readiness to demonstrate the questionable missile, but Washington refused to cooperate. On August 2, 2019, the INF Treaty became invalid over the US withdrawal. In response to this step, Russia also had to suspend its performance under the Treaty, while expressing readiness to invite other countries to join the document.
According to Vladimir Putin, the withdrawal of the United States from the INF Treaty was Washington's "serious mistake", which he drew special attention to in his statement: "We consider the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, that entailed its termination, as a serious mistake, which increases the risks of triggering a missile arms race, rise of confrontational potential and sliding into an uncontrolled escalation."
However, if you follow the Russian President, Moscow still believes the INF Treaty has been an important element of the architecture ensuring international security and strategic stability. The Treaty played the most particular role in maintaining predictability and restraint in the missile sphere in the European area. This point is still substantial today, especially given the relentless tension between Russia and NATO, which poses threats to European security. It is no accident that in this regard, President Putin believes that "our call to NATO countries to consider the possibility of declaring a reciprocal moratorium remains relevant" so far.
As the Russian leader's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday, Vladimir Putin is continuing his policy of multifaceted de-escalation in the field of international security. Answering the question whether proposals contained in Putin's statement were worked out together with his foreign partners, Peskov said this was the President's new initiative. He also reminded of other measures aimed to ensure global stability. Earlier, the Russian leader has made a specific statement on information security.
"You know the efforts currently being made at the expert level on the START (Strategic Arms Reduction – ed. note) Treaty. In this respect, the work is underway to ensure strategic stability; the essence is extremely difficult," – Dmitry Peskov said.
Indeed, President Putin has launched a number of disarmament and global strategic stability initiatives in these recent days. They mainly target the United States, since Washington and Moscow account for almost 90% of the nuclear ammunition on our planet. Russia is ready for an open and equitable dialogue, as the Russian leader has once again confirmed in his statement. But whether the United States is ready for this is not a rhetorical question. As practice shows, Washington is generally "deaf and mute" to all of Moscow's disarmament-related peace initiatives. This is confirmed by the stories surrounding the INF and START-3 treaties.
It is really hard to say what will happen to the new Russian initiative by President Putin. After all, America's key political forces that the new Russian initiative targets, have completely plunged into the quagmire of the election race due to end on November 3. It is entirely possible that Donald Trump's administration may positively respond to Vladimir Putin's statement as a pre-election step. For Biden, who urged an immediate extension of START 3, this is also a pretext to take a fresh look at the Russian-American strategic stability dialogue.