Vladimir Putin says he wants to resolve the latest arms race with the United States. But progress on arms control depends on Russia moving back into compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – and that is supremely unlikely to happen. The incentives that led Mikhail Gorbachev to sign the 1987 treaty – which bans all ground-launched intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles – no longer apply.
This leaves the United States with no choice but to ready itself and its allies for a post-INF world. While U.S. officials should continue to try to persuade Russia to return to compliance, they have to assume that Moscow will defy any such initiatives. Even as they pursue negotiations in good faith, America and its NATOallies should focus on preparing forces to survive and retaliate against attacks by Russia’s INF-violating weapons. Washington should also sustain research and development of its own conventionally armed ground-launched intermediate-range missiles, or else risk being at an unnecessary military disadvantage, especially in Asia.
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