Pentagon officials say they are developing “military options” to press Russia over its 2008 cruise missile tests, which officials say likely violated the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
The 1987 INF Treaty saw both the US and Soviet Union destroy a number of intermediate-range cruise missiles, both nuclear and conventional. Both sides have sought to sidestep the restrictions in different ways, with the US focusing on submarine-launched missiles as a replacement for ground-based ones.
When President George W. Bush began pushing for missile defense systems in Eastern Europe in the middle of last decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials suggested Russia could withdraw from the INF over the deployments, and the tests of the cruise missiles in 2008 appear to have been preparation for such a move.
Ultimately, Russia did not withdraw from the INF, and rather developed a multi-stage missile that attempted to comply with the letter of the treaty, as with the American sub-launched missiles, while adding capabilities meant to be banned.
Despite the US making it a huge deal now, the 2008 tests weren’t even raised in talks with Russia until May 2013, and the US only got around to declaring it a perceived violation in July of 2014.
The Pentagon seems to be using the putative violation as a chance to push for more nuclear weapons funding, saying they need to develop more nuclear capabilities to counter any potential future Russian violations, if they occur. Hawks on the Congressional committees, as usual, are only too willing to oblige.