Experts to House Panel: U.S. Should Develop New Air-Launched Cruise Missile in Answer to Russian Treaty Violation

March 30, 2017 2:36 PM
Architect of the Capitol photo.

Developing a conventional variant of a long-range air-launched cruise missile would be one way to show the Kremlin that the United States is not ignoring Russia’s continuing violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, three national security experts told members of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committee Thursday.

“We don’t want to give Russia a gift,” Frank Rose, a former assistant secretary of state dealing with arms control, said in allowing Moscow to deploy land-based cruise missiles without consequences. Another way to point out the risks for non-compliance is to remind Russia “NATO is a nuclear alliance.”

In convincing all the members of NATO that the violation of the bilateral treaty between Moscow and Washington affects them, Robert Scher, a former assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, said the United States needs to convince them, “to look at Russian aggression writ large.” This would its include military actions in Georgia and Ukraine, economic intimidation or its neighbors, cyber attacks and meddling in other nations’ political affairs.

He added it would be “very difficult” to bring Russia back into compliance now because the systems are already in place.

Treaties, such as INF and “Open Skies,” Jon Wolfsthal, a former senior director for arms control on the National Security Council, are part of a network “designed to create security and stability in Europe” but also affect other allies such as Japan and South Korea. More than 30 nations have signed the 1992 “Open Skies” treaty that allows unarmed military flights over signatories’ territories to asses military capability.

However, “Russia no longer sees European security is in their interest,” Rose added in answer to a question at the joint hearing. In fact, it “is muddying the waters” in a disinformation campaign claiming the United States is the nation violating the 30-year-old INF treaty.

But right now, “we are in an action-reaction cycle with Russia,” rather than prepared for discussions over a number of issues including nuclear arms. “We need to react but not overreact,” Wolfstahl said.

Rose said a new round of economic sanctions likely would only come from the United States since other allies and partners are not signatories to the treaty.

Later, he said the United States needs to be clear to its allies what is at stake and what it wants and share information about how Russia’s violation affects them.

In this area and other security affairs, “we need to lead NATO,” Scher said. The alliance’s inherent strength is that it gives Washington “an asymmetric advantage” in dealing with Moscow, and that needs to be retained.

Another reaction to the violation, Rose said could be selling Tomahawk and Joint Air to Surface Stand Off missiles to NATO allies. Scher added deploying rocket artillery and cruise missile defense systems in Eastern Europe “to better protect our forces and allies” were also possibilities. He also suggested keeping an option of the United States deploying land-based cruise missiles as well, but he and the others agreed this would be a difficult sell to NATO.

All three said the United States should not withdraw or suspend the INF treaty and termed it unrealistic that countries such as China, Iran, Pakistan and India would agree to its terms.

“We have tried diplomacy” over this kind of violation for a number of years, but “these diplomatic efforts have not worked,” Rose said. He said measures such as the European Reassurance Initiative and modernizing the nuclear triad have helped counter Russia’s moves along its borders and are reminders to Moscow of NATO’s unity.


John Grady

John Grady

John Grady, a former managing editor of Navy Times, retired as director of communications for the Association of the United States Army. His reporting on national defense and national security has appeared on Breaking Defense,,,, Government Executive and USNI News.

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