Gates: Russia Sought to Abandon Nuclear Missile Treaty in 2007

Moscow opposition to INF Treaty kept secret during 2010 New START ratification debate

The Russian government told the United States more than eight years ago that it wanted to abandon the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at a Senate hearing last week.

“The Russian defense minister as early as 2007 approached me about doing away with the INF Treaty,” Gates said in Senate Armed Services Committee testimony Wednesday.

Gates said he was told by the Russian defense minister that the irony of the INF Treaty is that “the United States and Russia are the only countries that cannot have intermediate range missiles.”

The Russian minister told Gates that if Moscow abandoned the treaty it would not point its new medium-range missiles west, but would “put them in the south and in the east, meaning Iran and China,” he stated.

The State Department formally declared Russia to be in violation of the INF Treaty last year for developing and testing a ground-launched cruise missile banned by the accord. The treaty called for elimination of all U.S. and then-Soviet missiles missiles with ranges of between 300 and 3,400 miles.

The Washington Free Beacon first reported last month that Russia flight tested the illegal INF cruise missile, identified by defense officials as the SSC-X-8, on Sept. 2. The missile did not fly beyond the 300-mile range covered by the INF Treaty ban during the test, and intelligence analysts assessed described the missile as flown in a “nuclear profile,” or as a nuclear-capable delivery system.

Moscow so far has refused to return to compliance with the treaty, and the Obama administration has delayed responding to the treaty breach despite pressure from Republicans in Congress who want the United States to answer what they regard as a militarily significant arms violation.

Cotton asked Gates whether the United States should now consider the Russian offer to abrogate the INF Treaty, and whether in response to the treaty violation the United States should develop new nuclear warheads to counter the Russian buildup.

“Well, theoretically, my answer would be yes,” Gates said.

“But I would tell you, practically speaking, I spent virtually the entire four and a half years that I was secretary of defense trying to get first, the executive branch, and then the Congress, to figure out a way to modernize the nuclear weapons we already have. That effort was a signal failure.”

Gates said a priority in developing nuclear arms should be to modernize the current arsenal to make them safer and more reliable instead of building new weapons.

Full article: Gates: Russia Sought to Abandon Nuclear Missile Treaty in 2007 (Washington Free Beacon)

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