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.
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.
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.