Why Is Moscow Cheating On The INF Treaty And Is Washington Minimizing The Implications?

The Center for Security Policy today asked the Bush Administration to disclose publicly the full extent of Soviet violations of the 1987 INF Treaty in light of two instances of reported non-compliance within the past two weeks. Ironically, on 23 February 1990, just a few days prior to the first of these apparent violations — involving covert deployment of undeclared SS-23 launchers and missiles — the Administration advised the Congress that: "The INF Treaty continues to meet its goal of eliminating an entire class of U.S. and Soviet missiles under condition of strict verification. As of November 30, 1989, the USSR has eliminated all 957 of its shorter-range missiles and all 238 of its launchers for such missiles." (Emphasis added.)

After the Bush Administration’s compliance report was sent to Capitol Hill, the U.S. government discovered in East Germany a number of launchers (reportedly 6) for the INF Treaty-limited SS-23 shorter-range missile system, together with a significant quantity (reportedly as many as 24) associated missiles. This discovery gave lie to the assurances in the compliance assessment: The Soviet Union had evidently deliberately failed to declare these launchers and missiles as being either in the Soviet inventory or in the hands of Moscow’s East German allies. What is more, this covert mobile missile deployment was successfully concealed for over two years.

The Center has learned that yet another significant Soviet violation of the INF Treaty occurred this weekend and that the strong protests of Secretary of State James Baker have been personally rebuffed by Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. In two separate incidents on Friday, the ninth of March and Saturday, the tenth, Soviet personnel crudely breached their obligations under the INF accord bearing upon U.S. monitoring rights at the Votkinsk missile factory.

As a result of conscious, and evidently officially sanctioned, actions of Soviet individuals, the United States was unable to exercise its right to scan canisters exiting this facility. The purpose of such scanning is to assure the United States that SS-20 missiles banned by the INF Treaty were no longer being assembled at this facility — only the intercontinental-range SS-25 missiles not constrained by that pact.

Despite formal representations by the U.S. government, including a direct communication over last weekend by Secretary of State James Baker with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Union has refused to permit American personnel at Votkinsk to utilize the treaty-authorized monitoring device, nicknamed "Cargoscan." Indeed, on 9 March, they actually rammed a locomotive towing a missile rail-car through the U.S. treaty monitoring station without stopping for the mandated inspections. This action was repeated on 10 March with two more rail-cars bearing missile canisters. In the process of crashing through the U.S. portal-monitoring facility, the Soviets reportedly damaged a barrier and warning device.

The Center views with alarm this Soviet behavior and urges that the Bush Administration do nothing that could be perceived as minimizing the significance of such non-compliant activities — all-too-reminiscent as they are of Moscow’s past record of contempt for its arms control obligations — or otherwise viewed as acquiescing in these violations. It specifically recommends:

  • First, that the United States revisit at once its ill-advised decision to permit mobile missiles under the emerging strategic arms reduction treaty. These missiles will also be unverifiable, will likely be covertly maintained by Moscow and will pose a vastly more significant strategic threat than do their shorter-range counterparts.

  • The Bush Administration should closely reconsider the adequacy of its on-site inspection demands — both for the existing INF agreement and for upcoming accords regarding strategic, chemical and conventional forces and nuclear testing. Clearly, the Votkinsk experience has shown the shortfalls of the current standard, and of the practice of working out "technical details" regarding such inspections after the treaties are signed (as was done with the Votkinsk inspection arrangements).

  • Finally, the Center believes this evidence of unacceptable conduct at the highest of the Soviet government offers further compelling evidence as to why a formal "second opinion" on the prospects and implications of Soviet behavior is so urgently required. Director of Central Intelligence Webster’s benign assessment of the current — and all prospective — Soviet regimes does not square with the evidence of Moscow’s ongoing non-compliance. Neither is it likely to stand up to rigorous analysis and challenge from a new "Team B" of independent, non-governmental experts.

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