In a recent article, Mark Schneider of the National Institute for Public Policy points out that Russia’s compliance issues with arms control treaties have worsened under Vladimir Putin.
In 2007, Russia tested a multiple-warhead version of the SS-27 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) despite a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) provision against it. Rather than following up on President Obama’s 2009 declaration that “violations [of international agreements] must be punished,” the Obama Administration conceded and legitimized this new multiple-warhead ICBM in New START.
This policy will only encourage Russian efforts to continue expanding and modernizing its nuclear arms arsenal. For example, Schneider adds that there are reports of Russia violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty through the construction of the Russian R-500 ground-launched cruise missile. The missile reportedly has a range of 600–1,800 miles and is a modification of a previous model that is already banned. Despite the fact that this missile is operational, it is not included in the Obama Administration’s recent compliance reviews.
Just recently, Russia illustrated its continued disregard for compliance with the launch of its new Rubezh ICBM, a missile that Schneider describes as “at least a willful circumvention of the INF treaty, and possibly a material violation.” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin praised the launch, describing it as a “missile defense killer” and a weapon that “neither current nor future American missile defense systems will be able to prevent…from hitting a target dead on.”
The United States unilaterally reducing its nuclear arsenal despite Russia’s repeated compliance violations is a poor policy. The U.S. should actively enforce compliance, not make concessionary policies in response to mounting violations. If Obama believes that “words must mean something,” then the U.S. should pursue proactive policies that improve the security of its citizens while preventing adversaries from using arms control to gain advantage over the U.S.
Joshua Holdenried is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.