After years of claiming Russia is violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Tuesday that the US is giving Russia 60 days to comply with the deal.
The big obstacle to this is, despite the US making such allegations for several years, and getting NATO to endorse their narrative, Russia has denied ever violating the deal in the first place, and insists the missile in question, the 9m729, is not banned by the treaty.
The question is based on the missile’s range, with INF banning everything from 500 km to 5,500 km. Russia has only tested the missile to about 400 km, and it is intended to replace a missile that itself was only 400 km. US officials, however, have speculated that the missile has a much longer range.
This makes any deal unlikely, as Russia would not only have to admit the missile has a longer range than it was tested to actually have, but also agree to get rid of the system, which would severely limit their short-range capabilities until they are able to roll out something else that the US would accept.
US officials have been keen to pull out of the INF for awhile anyhow, and this ultimatum is mostly meant to serve as a legal pretext to do so. The withdrawal would allow the US to deploy nuclear missiles into Europe.