Washington D.C. (GPA) – Russia has allegedly finished the development of a new class of cruise missiles and deployed them in what may be a violation of a landmark arms control agreement between the Soviet Union and the US.
The missiles had already been considered as a violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty when Russia first began flight testing in 2014. The treaty explicitly bans the development of new ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles that have a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
Russia moved ahead with the testing anyway since then and has now apparently announced that two sets of the missiles have been completed. One missile battalion has been deployed to an undisclosed location according to Russian officials, while the other remains at a testing site in Kapustin Yar in the southeast region of the country.
The missile was previously classified by the US as the SSC-X-8 but intelligence agencies have now dropped the X, an indication that the SSC-8 has now completed the development phase. It’s expected that now that the missile is ready for deployment the US will respond somehow whether it be with more missile defenses moved to Europe of the possible further deployment of missile carrying submarines and warships.
While this story seems to be originating only from a report in the New York Times it seems to be a real possibility since the US intelligence agencies have removed the experimental designation from the missile program. We do know the development program did exist since it caused tension between the US and Russia two years ago.
It’s unclear how this will change US – Russia relations even further since Donald Trump recently cancelled the last arms agreement made with Russia in 2010 saying it was a “bad deal.” If true, it’s also likely this move will cause further panic among the already jumpy NATO members in Eastern Europe.
Trump may be getting the first taste of the arms race he said he was up for and confident the US will win. The move by Russia also comes just before Defense Secretary James Mattis is set to start a visit to the EU parliament in Brussels and attend a European meeting of NATO’s Defense Ministerial, and is likely to change the atmosphere of the talks, which were originally supposed to concern terrorism.
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