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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian military chief says no need to give up INF Treaty

RIA Novosti

17/10/2007 18:51 SOLNECHNOGORSK (Moscow Region), October 17 (RIA Novosti) - Relinquishing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty could spur the use of weapons of mass destruction, Russia's top military official said on Wednesday.

President Vladimir Putin last week said Russia could pull out of the U.S.-Russian arms reductions treaty, unless it was expanded to impose restrictions on other countries as well.

"Breaking this treaty could lead to irreversible consequences, when a large number of countries will equip missiles with high-precision warheads and more exotic types of WMD," said Army General Yury Baluyevsky, chief of Russia's General Staff.

The former Soviet Union and the U.S. signed the INF Treaty on December 8, 1987. The agreement came into force in June 1988 and does not have a specific duration.

The INF treaty banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles). By the treaty's deadline of June 1, 1991, a total of 2,692 such weapons had been destroyed, 846 by the U.S. and 1,846 by the Soviet Union.

The treaty strongly favored the U.S., as many treaty provisions, such as counting Soviet RSD-10 Pioneer (NATO reporting name SS-20) multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) missiles as equivalent to single-warhead Pershing II systems allowed NATO to regain strategic nuclear superiority over Russia in Europe.

However, Baluyevsky said it would be unwise to pull out unilaterally from the treaty because the move could prompt other countries to pursue the development of ballistic missiles.

"Today, I would not favor a hasty decision to abandon the treaty, although Russia does need missiles of this [intermediate range] type," Baluyevsky said, adding that the recent deployment of Iskander-M short-range missiles allowed Russia to ensure strategic parity without violating the provisions of the INF treaty.

He also reiterated Russia's proposal to the United States to expand the treaty to other countries in order to stop the uncontrollable spread of intermediate ballistic missile technology.

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