KYIV, March 13 - The impending demise of a Cold War-era arms control treaty has sparked pledges from the leaders of both Ukraine and Russia to develop and field more intermediate-range missiles.
“We are no longer bound by any limitations either on the range of our missiles or on their power,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a March 9 speech, The Daily Signal reported.
“We have additional opportunities in Ukraine due to the fact that the Russian Federation has de facto broken the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the United States legally withdrew from it,” Poroshenko said.
Signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, banned missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.
At its inception, the INF Treaty was meant to reduce the risk of war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union—and it remained a cornerstone of European security after the Cold War. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the INF Treaty rolled over to apply to post-Soviet countries, including both Russia and Ukraine. For its part, the U.S. continued to respect the pact, too, even though it did not apply to other countries like China and Iran.
In February, however, the U.S. suspended its obligations under the INF Treaty, claiming that Russia had been developing and deploying missiles in violation of the pact’s limits for years. The U.S. said it will completely withdraw from the treaty within six months of the announced suspension unless Russia returns to compliance.
In turn, Moscow denied any violations and announced that Russia was likewise suspending its participation in the INF Treaty. Then, in a February address to Russian lawmakers, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had plans to develop a new generation of missiles and target them at the U.S. if Washington follows through on canceling the Cold War pact and deploys new missiles to Europe.
Roughly 40 percent of the Soviet Union’s space program industry was located in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro during the Cold War. It’s where Soviet engineers designed and built rockets such as the Satan intercontinental ballistic missile, which was designed to strike the United States with nuclear weapons.
After the Soviet Union’s breakup—and despite the ongoing war in the Donbas—Ukraine never developed a missile capable of launching from Ukrainian soil to strike Moscow. With the INF Treaty’s demise, however, that looks likely to change.
Yet, some experts warn that Ukraine’s prospective missile development program, no matter how limited it might be, could spur Moscow to retaliate—and with potentially devastating consequences.
“Any attempt [by Ukraine] to develop [intermediate-range ballistic missiles] targeted on Russia immediately provides a justification for Russia to escalate the war with its own pre-emptive missile strikes across Ukraine. It is senseless and, frankly, suicidal,” Stephen Blank, senior fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council, told The Daily Signal. (ds/ez)