By Anastazja Kołodziej
How would the United States leaving the INF Treaty impact Poland?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) criticized Russian statements threatening to target NATO member states, following President Vladimir Putin’s comments during his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly on Feb. 20.
At the address, President Putin stated that “Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapons that can be used not only in the areas we are directly threatened from, but also in areas that contain decision-making centers for the missile systems threatening us.”
The Kremlin’s reasoning for these statements is their claim that the United States has broken the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by establishing the Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland.
“Using medium-range target missiles and deploying launchers in Romania and Poland that are fit for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, the US has openly violated these clauses of the Treaty,” Putin said.
The INF Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the U.S. on Dec. 8, 1987, required the U.S. and the former Soviet states that possessed nuclear weapons (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan) to destroy ground-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,000 kilometers. It also prohibited them from possessing or producing more of these types of missiles.
The U.S. Department of State rebutted the Kremlin’s claim that the Aegis Ashore sites violate the INF Treaty by saying that the sites are “fully consistent” with the terms of the treaty because the system can only launch defensive interceptor missiles.
The United States and NATO have repeatedly accused Russia of violating the treaty. In 2014, the U.S. State Department said the Kremlin had broken the treaty by possessing, producing or flight-testing missiles, but did not provide more details. In 2017, the department identified a system that the Kremlin calls the 9M729, which is an “extended-range version of the Iskander K,” a short-range cruise missile that is compliant with the INF Treaty, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. On Feb. 1, 2019, NATO put out a statement officially urging the Kremlin to return to full compliance with the INF Treaty.
Also, on Feb. 1, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the United States will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in six months unless the Kremlin returns to “real and verifiable” compliance.
“For arms control to effectively contribute to national security, all parties must faithfully implement their obligations,” said President Trump.
On Feb. 2, President Putin announced that the Kremlin will also suspend the agreement, citing alleged violations by the United States as reason for Russia to halt the treaty.
Poland has expressed support for the decision of the U.S. to withdraw from the treaty.
“We share the view that Russia is violating the treaty by introducing new missiles. If the treaty has been breached, then a justified question arises as to whether it should go on,” Jacek Czaputowicz, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, said at the 2019 Munich Security Conference on Feb. 15.
It is vital for Poland’s national security that the United States to maintain a strong defense against the Kremlin. It is also in the interest of the U.S. that Poland be safe and secure, as a strong Poland promotes the American values of political freedom and free enterprise in East Central Europe.
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