On December 12, 2019, the US military conducted another missile test after the country withdrew membership from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
According to the US Department of Defense (DoD), “The U.S. Air Force, in partnership with the Strategic Capabilities Office, at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time (0030 GMT) Thursday conducted a flight test of a prototype conventionally-configured ground-launched ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.”
Disagreements on the INF Treaty
In 1987, the INF treaty was signed between the former Soviet Union (Russia) and the US. Under the treaty, both the countries agreed to prohibit the use of land-based nuclear and conventional ballistic and cruise missiles having a range from 500 to 5,500 kilometers. However, the treaty did not mention the ban or the use of intermediate-range missiles launching from sea or air.
These projectiles were developed by both countries during the Cold War (1945–1990) as a part of their deterrence strategies. Nevertheless, the two countries entered into an agreement to ban these artilleries under the global policy of ‘nuclear disarmament’ as these arms could be easily used.
On February 1, 2019, Donald Trump made an announcement that the US would withdraw from the treaty by accusing Russia of violating the pact for several years. The US put several claims that Russia developed and tested the 9M729 missile, also known as the SSC-8. Russia made a counter-claim alleging that the US missile-defense systems in Eastern Europe violated the treaty.
Moscow suspended its participation in the negotiation talk of the INF treaty since Trump’s statement was announced in February. Six months later in August 2019, the US and Russia formally withdrew from the INF treaty after they accused each other of violating the landmark arms control deal.
US’ Second Test of Missiles
The US military started testing the formerly-banned missiles soon after the country left the treaty. The US’ first ground-based projectiles, called Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missile, was launched on August 18 near San Nicolas Island, off the California coast.
Yesterday’s test of a ballistic missile, which was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles was the second time the Pentagon tested after the collapsed of the INF treaty. According to the Pentagon, “The test missile flew over 500 km before it terminated in the open area of the Pacific Ocean.”
The DoD added, “Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities.” As Mark Esper, the US Secretary of Defense, commented, “The United States will fully develop ground-launched conventional missiles after withdrawing from the treaty.”
Contemporary Nuclear Threats
The US missile test raised various concerns regarding contemporary nuclear threats and the uncertain future of arms control. However, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov responded to Washington’s action, “Russia will not deploy weapon systems banned by the INF treaty up until the point where the U.S. similar systems appear.”
The collapse of the treaty and the recent development of military conflicts between the two largest nuclear-power countries can be a serious threat to global affairs.
Hello, I’m Anna Yeo. If you like my news coverage, please drop a good word in my inbox. I’m journalist by profession and have been part of many major reporting across the globe. I like to write crisp and factual news. I have completed my masters degree in journalism. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]