A Monday story in the Washington Times reports that the Obama White House has announced that Russia is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by President Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s. Russia is testing a cruise missile that is in violation of the treaty that prohibits such weapons with ranges between 310 miles and 3,450 miles. The Obama Administration has known of this violation for quite some time, but is only now just getting around to publically announcing it.
The National Review indicates that Russia is in possession of a ground based cruise missile called the R-500, or the Iskander-K, that is in violation of the INF treaty. Press reports suggests that Russia has a second missile that also breaches the INF restrictions. This appears to be RS-26 Rubezhm officially classified as an ICBM and thus not restricted by the treaty, but actually an IRBM when using multiple warheads.
The development constitutes an unraveling of the post Cold War balance between Russia and the United States in which Reagan era arms control agreements had reduced the threat of nuclear war between the two countries. It suggests that Russia Vladimir Putin holds the current United States government in deep contempt. He believes that he can do anything he wants to enhance Russia’s power and nothing will be done about it.
There are a number of things that the Obama Administration can do something about it besides just complaining. It could begin augmenting both American and European missile defense systems, using the reason that they are needed to now counteract Russia’s arms buildup. It can even suspend America’s own compliance with the INF treaty and begin extending the ranges of existing missiles and embark on the development of its own intermediate range cruise and ballistic missiles. When or if the administration will take these steps are uncertain. But what is certain is that Cold War 2.0 is now in full swing.