U.S. Cries Foul As Russia Tests 9M729 Cruise Missile, But Who Violated The INF Treaty first?

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Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Brian Kalman, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

One of a multitude of stories in the usual barrage of anti-Russia war hysteria, concerns the reported deployment of a brand-new weapon system whose existence, if confirmed, would represent a transgression against the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The INF Treaty has been in force since the late 1980s and bans land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 500km and 5,500km. Since that time, both the U.S. and Russia have not only eliminated existing stocks of weapons falling into this category, but also refrained from testing or deploying new ones. The recently fielded Iskander brigades, whose launch vehicles can use both cruise and ballistic missiles, is compatible with the INF Treaty in that the range of the missiles it utilizes are 500km or less.

In usual dramatic fashion, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, at a House Armed Services Committee hearing held in Washington D.C. on March 8th, accused Russia of deploying the new missile in violation of the spirit and intent of the INF Treaty. He further elaborated that:

“We believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility…We have to account … for what that means.”

“I don’t have enough information on their intent to conclude other than they do not intend to return to compliance. Absent some pressure from the international community and the United States as a co-signer of the same agreement…”

The 9M729 cruise missile appears to be a modification of the already deployed 500km range 9M728 cruise missile currently used by Iskander brigades. The 9M729 differs from its predecessor in that it possesses a longer airframe. Its greater size allows its fuel load, and therefore range, to be greatly expanded. The size of the 9M729 is quite close to that of the Kalibr Ship Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM), whose range is estimated at 3,000km or more. The performance of the 9M729 is likely to be similar to its naval counterpart.

Some media reports also claim that at least one battalion of four launch vehicles, each with six ready-to-launch missiles, has already been deployed in the Central Military District. While so far the stories have not been corroborated in any way, and there are no images of the alleged new system available anywhere, the deployment of such weapons is easily within Russia’s technical capabilities. What would the purpose of deploying such a system be, particularly considering that the Kalibr SLCM, which is now deployed on ships of the Black Sea Fleet, the Caspian Flotilla, and with the Baltic Fleet and Northern Fleet slated to receive Kalibr-equipped ships in the upcoming years, has been covering intermediate to long range missile delivery very effectively alongside the conventional Kh-101 cruise missiles of the Long-Range Aviation units?

Should the reports of a land-based cruise missile system be confirmed, there are several possible explanations which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The first explanation is that the missile is INF-compatible, because its range is in excess of 5,500km. The INF Treaty was, after all, negotiated in the 1980s, and at that time a cruise missile capable of such performance would have had the size of at least a fighter aircraft. Thirty years later, however, considering the advances in jet propulsion technology, such performance can be built into a small weapon. If that is the case, it is equally likely that the other contemporary Russian cruise missile systems, namely the Kalibr and the Kh-101, are capable of a similar range.

The second explanation is that the deployment is a response to the U.S.’s own violations of the INF Treaty. They include the placement of Aegis Ashore ballistic defense systems in Poland and Romania that use the Mk 41 vertical launch cells which, when installed aboard US Navy cruisers and destroyers, can carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, whose range falls within INF parameters. U.S. ABM tests have used ballistic missile target vehicles which are de-facto intermediate range ballistic missiles. Finally, even the existing Predator and Reaper drones, to say nothing of the developmental supersonic and stealthy UCAV drones, also violate INF restrictions.

Thirdly, and consistent with technological advances having made INF and many other treaties obsolete, it seems likely that Moscow desires the resumption of comprehensive discussions on arms control, as well as broader collective security measures on the Eurasian continent. Since the US cannot oppose the 9M729 deployment without invoking the INF Treaty, that deployment is likely to have the desired effect of restarting a genuine conversation on European security.

The deployment of the 9M729 is most likely a response by Moscow, to the U.S. deployment of the first Aegis Ashore Anti-Ballistic Missile/ Ballistic Missile Defense (ABM/BMD) station in Deveselu, Romania, as a component of the European Phased Adapted Approach (EPAA). The U.S. government has repeatedly asserted that the Aegis Ashore station in Romania, and the station being built in Poland, are defensive in nature. The Aegis Ashore stations are said to be armed with the latest SM-3 BMD missile that does not carry a warhead, relying on kinetic impact to destroy ballistic missiles. The website of the U.S. 6th fleet, responsible for covering Europe and Africa makes the following assertion:

“Missile defense and the EPAA assets are strictly defensive in nature. The U.S. interceptors are not armed with an explosive warhead of any kind. Instead, the interceptor collides with the threat warhead and relies on energy derived from the collision of two objects moving at incredible speeds to neutralize the threat. The interceptors have no capability as an offensive weapon.”

Although this statement is true, it does not enlighten the reader at all about the launch system utilized by the SM-3. The Mk-41 vertical launch system (VLS) comes in a number of variants, any of which can be mounted in the Aegis Ashore system. The Mk-41 is produced in 13 different configurations, and three mission-specific sizes: Strike, Tactical and Self-Defense. The Strike module carries the Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile (LACM). Further developments of the Tactical module can carry the Tomahawk LACM, ASROC, Evolved Sea Sparrow, SM-1, SM-2, SM-3, or SM-6 standard missiles. The Mk-41 VLS equipped Aegis Ashore station in Romania is very much an offensive weapon, as it utilizes a dual-use (offensive/defensive) missile system.

The President of the Russian Federation made it very clear that Moscow understands the dual-use nature of Aegis Ashore stations in Europe. Putin expressed this quite succinctly at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in July of 2016 when addressing western journalists.

Not only would the deployment of an intermediate range 9M729 help in countering the establishment of Aegis Ashore stations in Romania and Poland, it also politically counters U.S. hypocrisy and false assertions that EPAA is solely defensive in nature, and brings the entire concept and the validity of the INF Treaty into question. Has the INF Treaty reached the point of obsolesce? When a number of modern technologies are considered, it is obvious that new negotiations are required, if the spirit of the INF Treaty has any hope of an extension farther into the 21st century. The Russian act of essentially taking a LACM used on its naval warships and placing it on a land-based launcher to test its feasibility, should not be any more controversial than the U.S. military permanently basing missile launch systems ashore in Europe, that are essentially systems used for launching LACMs from its own naval warships. Russia’s decision should be seen as a reactionary measure, following the example set by the United States.

According to the INF Treaty, the deployment of identical cruise missile systems at sea is permissible, while their deployment on land is not. This clearly favors the U.S., whose only land borders are shared with friendly nations, one of which is a NATO member.

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  • Solomon Krupacek

    interesting. some months ago you write, this missile does not violate the INF. when i wrote, but yes, my comment disappeared…

    • John Whitehot

      I don’t believe that your comment disappeared. I’m more inclined to believe that you deleted it yourself.

      • Solomon Krupacek

        i never deleted my comment.

        otherwise, why lie they? this i never understood at russians. they will lie also eif there clere evidences about thruth.

        and i do not think only on SF. the russian propaganda and government lied, too. they could simply say, the USA did not revolved the ABM treaty, therefore we mede important steps. but no, they try to see as angels…and lose face and trust.

        • Dear friend,
          The situation when your comment was deleted but you was not banned in the comments section was almost impossible. In general (in 99%), if some user pushes the SF admin to delete his comments (using trolling, hate speech etc), he gets at least a temporary ban.
          It will be also interesting to see THAT article, which you refer, to get the real context of your claim. As to THIS article, we recommend you to watch/read it more carefully to get the clear picture of the situation. You mix possibilities with facts (9M729 deployment): “While so far the stories have not been corroborated in any way, and there are no images of the alleged new system available anywhere, the deployment of such weapons is easily within Russia’s technical capabilities.”
          And last but not least, if you want to push the idea that this analysis is some kind of “propaganda”, take care to provide some facts to confirm your statement.
          Sincerely yours,
          SF Team

          • Solomon Krupacek

            OK, I accept Your argue. Maybe there was another failure, independent upon you. It is right, many times are problems with Disqus.

            On teh other hand, the whole russian machinery lied about these new misiles . Also you informed, that these are in favour with INF and there is no problem with the range. And it is not true. I do not understand, why do you do this? This old diseas was present also in soviet era. Be a man and say: yes, we developed new missile. the yankies did not prolonged the ABM treaty, this is our answer. And nobody could tell anything. Russia HAS right to defeat itself. But if yiu first deny, later agree, it i so destructing for you.
            Once again, not only you did dis misinformation, but all russian media.

            Have a nice day! :)

          • SF has nothing with the Western or Russian mainstream media. But it will be interesting to see that “SF articles” about the 9M729 missile which you refer. If you cannot provide a proof, we will be pushed to consider your comment as a poor trolling attempt.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            this was several weeks ago. i will try to find during weekend.

            hace a nice day!

          • John Whitehot

            If you believe that this site produces misinformation and still feel the need to read it and comment over it one must assume that either you gave yourself the mission to counter that misinformation, or somebody else did it.

            It will also be interesting to see how are you going to prove that Russia lied about this missile, since there ‘s no way you ever had access to such non-public information.

    • More

      Solomon Krupacek
      Maybe you dreamt up your comment, LoL:))

  • watcher12

    How many bases does Russia have in Mexico? This could indeed be a serious issue. Perhaps Cuba should become active for russia again?

    • Aung Naing

      Plus Venezuela.

  • Nigel Maund

    Excellent Video!

  • Nigel Maund

    US hypocrisy never fails to stagger the imagination; we make the rules and you obey but we can do as we please! …………..What a lot of poppycock and as they say in the US “tell that to the Marines”.

  • Real Anti-Racist Action

    Israel carries out illegal nuclear weapon research daily, and breaks all international agreements.
    Russia is not breaking anything.
    The focus should be on Israel, never let them change the dialog nor the agenda.
    Everyone, keep your eye on the ball, never fall for miss direction in media.

    • More

      Real Anti-Racist Action

      There will be no focus on Israel as the MSM media is owned by the people who love Israel more than any other country.

      Even RT does not do any features on Israel’s Nuclear arsenal.

  • Aung Naing

    Stay away from Russia and China borders.You shall have peace.

  • Jesus

    Why should sea based cruise missiles with ranges greater than 500 Kms be acceptable by INF, while land based cruise missiles are not?
    The INF favours US, since its navy can deploy close to Russian coastlines by surface or submarine vessels and fire these cruise missiles that have long ranges.
    Land based cruise missiles with ranges of +5000 kms favors the Russians because they can attack any US target in Europe or Asia with impunity.

  • More

    “…U.S. CRIES FOUL AS RUSSIA TESTS 9M729 CRUISE MISSILE…”

    The US can cry and squeal as much as it wants as it deserves a taste of its own medicine.

    • AMHants

      In the meantime, US and coalitions are bombing schools in Syria, They must be so proud.

      Hundreds of Refugees Feared to Be Victims of US Coalition’s Strikes Near Raqqa… https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201703221051840124-raqqa-us-strikes-victims/

      • More

        AMHants
        Read about the act of US Coalition terror, its very sad.

        The US Axis is controlled by a psychotic cabal with lingering Neanderthal DNA (based on scientific study and fact), this cabal lacks humanity.

        Their propensity of aggression, war mongering, mendacious, avaricious, manipulative and conniving nature is derived from their lingering Neanderthal DNA as explained in a book:

        “Chosen People From the Caucasus” by Michael Bradley.
        http://www.michaelbradley.info/

        The May 6, 2010 issue of Science, Journal of the American Academy of Sciences, has finally confirmed that modern human populations have significant Neanderthal genetic admixture.

        This study by the Max Planck Institute of Leipzig under the overall leadership of Dr. Svante Paabo also included some researchers from the Harvard University School of Medicine.

        • AMHants

          Thanks for the recommendation the ‘Chosen People From The Caucasus’, it sounds an interesting read. I wonder if they will also find DNA links to reptiles, as I could seriously believe that.

          How far we have regressed in the 21st century, as we focus on our Neanderthal weaknesses, from the past, rather than seek to progress.

  • AMHants

    Does anybody remember when President Putin and President Bush signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty in 2002? The George Bush walked away and violated START I? What did Bush want, just after signing SORT? He wanted to place First Strike (clue) Missile Defence Systems, on all Russia’s borders. 5 minutes from Moscow and leaving Moscow unable to defend herself from a nuclear assault.

    Move forward, along comes Obama and he wanted to take the ambitions one step further. Wanting to make the systems portable, FSMDS, ship, air, space and landbased platforms. Not much later, Obama and Clinton would give Russia anything, a discounted $500,000 speech from Bill to the Uranium One investors, a big cheque to the Clinton Foundation, following the Uranium One deal, where Hilary gave US Uranium to Russia. When Obama, was happily handing the UK nuclear secrets to Russia. For some reason President Medvedev would not sign and ratify START II, owing to the portable FSMDS, 5 minutes from Moscow and leaving Russia unable to defend herself from nuclear attack. I wonder why? Anyway, Obama, took out the clause, START II ratified and signed off, only for Obama to let it slip, that NATO would place the FSMDS on Russia’s borders.

    Owing to this, Russia spent her $60 billion defence budget wisely, producing new weapons and systems that actually work and training up her Forces to deal with any scenario, that might come their way.

    So why are the US whinging, yet again, because Russia had to beef up their weapons, systems and Forces, because the US double crossed them, yet again.

  • Ghostship

    The 9M729 used to be called the SSC-X-8 by NATO with the X indicating eXperimental. Recently NATO renamed it the SSC-8 which certain media in the west assumed meant that the cruise missile had been deployed. However, NATO has provided no evidence of that so this story (long-range cruise missile deployed in contravention of INF Treaty) is real fake news.

  • Ted

    This is a decent story, but why the “US CRIES FOUL” title. Should read , a guy in the US at a hearing nobody ever heard of in front of a panel nobody has ever paid attention to, casually mentioned his opinion that he believes Russia violates INF treaty. I think its pretty obvious that a treaty is only good as it serves both sides purposes. That the INF treaty always was a triumph of cold war BS! The idea that Russia’s new missile does not violate it because its missiles have a range greater then the stated range for LACM in the treaty is not worth making, as its near as stupid as the US claim that its MK 41 cells are not a violation as long as they are not loaded with a LACM.