Jeffrey LewisDid Rumsfeld Propose Changes to the 1987 INF Treaty?

Nobody, Pavel Podvig included, seems to be able to craft a compelling reason for Moscow to threaten to pull out of the INF Treaty.

But maybe, Ivanov didn’t bring it up. Maybe Rumsfeld did.

Artur Blinov, writing in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Moscow) on 11 March 2005, speculates that Secretary Rumsfeld opened season on the INF Treaty in his January meeting with Russian Defense Minister Ivanov:

These explanations provide grounds for yet another possibility: that Ivanov mentioned the withdrawal option as a counterargument to some ideas put forward by Rumsfeld. Because it is no secret that, as a “hawk,” the secretary would not be averse to lifting from the United States some of the restrictions imposed (or self-imposed, like the moratorium on resuming nuclear tests) on the arms race. Ivanov might have responded to this with a counterthesis of his own, a kind of threat that is not in principle new. We know, for example, that in the period of international crisis occasioned by the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia in 1999 expert military circles in Russia were already discussing the idea of withdrawing from the INF treaty, but that in the end it was judged unproductive.

In that context, Ivanov’s question about possible reponses to Russian withdrawl and Rumsfeld’s lack of concern has a certain playground quality. “Then I quit, Donny.” “Fine, Sergei, see if I care.”

The one data point is Defense Spokes-flack Larry Di Rita’s confirmation—in the passive voice—that the issue “arose” during the meeting.

It’s plausible that Rumsfeld has finally decided to take INF down the ABM route. I mentioned in my previous post on this subject that some missile defense advocates have been trashing the INF Treaty on the grounds that it inhibits missile defense testing.

Missile defense advocates also believe that the START agreement stands in the way of missile defense testing. But collapsing START would be disastrous, since it provides the mechanism by which the IC verifies the Moscow Treaty and generally keeps tabs on the Russian nuclear arsenal. Then again, with our awesome new missile defense system, we don’t have to worry about that anymore.

A reporter asked Under Secretary Feith about possible US objections to INF early on; might be time to ask again.

Photo Note: The Iskander missile (above right), Pavel Podvig argues, removes the Russian military’s traditional complaint agains the INF.


  1. Michael Roston (History)

    I think this restricting missile defense thing must be all there is to it, now that you bring it up. Looking at START and its interaction with SORT, Alexander Pikayev warned in 2002 that:

    “the dialogue will boil down only to problems of observing the START-1 Treaty which remains in force till the year 2009. And most likely in the process of these consultations, instead of drafting some new framework for strategic relations, Russia and the US will strive to review some of the provisions of the Treaty and instead of the new framework we will get a creeping erosion of the START-1 Treaty which—with a high degree of likelihood—will not in its present form exist beyond the year 2009.”

    So, that means a 3-year period during which the SORT treaty will be completely unverifiable, excepting by “National Technical Means.”

    This is from Press Conference with Senior Officials of the PIR Center and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Russian-US Strategic Framework in Light of the Coming Summit.