US Can Respond to Russian Violations Without Breaking INF Treaty

The US has both diplomatic and military options to respond to Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty within the scope of the treaty itself, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

“There’s no new intelligence” suggesting that Russia plans to return to compliance with the INF Treaty, Selva told the committee. The Department of Defense plans to present a full range of response options to President Donald Trump after the completion of the ongoing nuclear posture and ballistic missile defense review efforts, he said, which “will take several more months” to complete.

Among possible options, Selva said the US could undertake “research and development efforts to field, but not test, intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles within the boundaries of the treaty.” Both Senate and House versions of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act have anticipated this possibility and would establish a program of record for an intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile system.

Selva clarified to the committee that the risk of Russia’s violations is strategic more than tactical.

“Given the location of the specific missiles and deployment,” he said, “they don’t gain any advantage in Europe” from their INF-violating ground-launched system.

Nonetheless, he said, “the inability to enforce the standards” of the treaty in this case “renders all other agreements less compelling.” As such, Selva told the senators the US “should use all the tools that exist within the INF treaty” to compel the Russians to return to compliance and maintain strategic balance in nuclear forces.