THIRTY years ago, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, banishing an entire category of destabilising weapons from Europe. Some 2,700 ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km were destroyed in a deal that presaged the end of the cold war. Yet today the treaty is imperiled by Russian violations. If those do not cause it to collapse, the response America is contemplating may.
America first announced its concerns over Russian violations in 2014, a few months after Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea. The treaty obliges both countries not to possess, “produce or flight-test” new intermediate-range ground-launched missiles. Russia, the Americans said, had tested a cruise missile that breached that agreement. No countermeasures were proposed, apparently in the hope that the Russians would be embarrassed into quietly abandoning the new system.