The Pentagon is taking steps to develop new missiles, following the Trump administration’s decision to suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a 1987 arms-control agreement that the Trump administration has said it plans to exit due to Russian violations.
“We will commence fabrication activities on components to support developmental testing” of conventional, ground-launched missiles, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza told CNN in a statement.
She added that these activities “would have been inconsistent with our obligations under the Treaty” prior to the administration’s move last month to suspend its treaty obligations though she stressed that the missile was non-nuclear.
“This research and development is designed to be reversible, should Russia return to full and verifiable compliance before we withdraw from the Treaty in August 2019,” she added.
While the Pentagon began researching concepts for the missile back in 2017 in response to Russian missile activities, that research was considered compliant with the treaty.
Earlier this month the Kremlin issued a statement saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed a decree suspending implementation of the INF Treaty.
The US has long accused Russia of violating the treaty through the development and deployment of the SSC-8/9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, an allegation supported by the NATO allies and denied by Russia.
Russia is “overhauling its nuclear forces—including those that threaten European territory, such as the dual-capable, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)-violating SSC-8/9M729 ground-launched cruise missile,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of US European Command, said in a statement provided to Congress earlier this month.
“Russia seeks advantage over the US and its European allies through its non-compliance with long-standing arms control treaties. Its violations of the INF Treaty allowed Moscow to develop capabilities that the United States continued to forego,” he added.