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As the INF Treaty Spat Heats Up, Russia Shows Off a Missile

2 MINS READJan 23, 2019 | 23:12 GMT
Russian Defense Ministry officials display the country's 9M729 cruise missile at the Patriot Park military facility outside Moscow on Jan. 23.
(VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian Defense Ministry officials display the country's 9M729 cruise missile at the Patriot Park military facility outside Moscow on Jan. 23. According to the Kremlin, the missile does not violate the INF Treaty -- in contrast to U.S. accusations.

What Happened: The Russian military presented its 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile — the weapon at the center of a dispute between Moscow and Washington — to a crowd of Russian and foreign officials on Jan. 23. With the show and tell, the Kremlin is aiming to demonstrate that the missile is not, as the United States has claimed, in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Russian officials said the 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8, has a range of just 500 kilometers, which is within the restrictions imposed by the INF Treaty.

(VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Why it Matters: Russia made the presentation of the 9M729 after the country's negotiators offered to provide the United States with more details as to why the missile did not infringe upon the INF Treaty, only for the United States to politely decline. Russia's case rests on a single number on an infographic that claims the range of the missile is less than 500 kilometers, but the United States has claimed that the missile traveled beyond this distance — which would violate the INF Treaty — during initial tests in 2010-2011. 

The presentation appears to be part of Russia's broader information operations campaign geared toward the U.S. public and European states. The gambit also follows a joint session at the Russia-NATO contact group earlier this week, as well as conversations between delegates from Moscow and European leaders, to convince everyone that the Russian military are not, in fact, breaking INF rules.

The 9M729, produced by Russian arms manufacturer NPO Novator, has been central to Washington's argument that Russia is not playing by the rules of the INF Treaty. If Russia doesn't meet a February deadline to comply with U.S. demands, the United States will pull out of the agreement. 

(VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Background/Context: As a result of alleged Russian violations of the INF Treaty, the United States has threatened to pull out of the pact unless Moscow fully adheres to the agreement by a Washington-imposed deadline in February. With negotiations so far proving to be unsuccessful, it appears that Washington will finally abandon the pact come next month.

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