Russia May be Deploying Missile Tied to Treaty Violation

A Russian soldier guards a mock ballistic missile during a 2010 training exercise near Moscow. Russia may be deploying a cruise missile tied to its alleged breach of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty, a U.S. expert said on Wednesday.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
July 31, 2014, 9:49 a.m.

A U.S. ana­lyst says Rus­sia may be put­ting a new type of mis­sile in­to launch-ready po­s­i­tion, des­pite its link to an in­tensi­fy­ing nuc­le­ar feud with Wash­ing­ton.

The coun­try’s de­fense min­istry last week pub­lished a pho­to­graph that ap­pears to show sol­diers hand­ling an Iskander-K cruise mis­sile can­is­ter at a base near Luga, about 75 miles from Es­to­nia, nuc­le­ar-arms ex­pert Hans Kristensen said in a Wed­nes­day as­sess­ment. The Rus­si­an im­age went pub­lic just days be­fore the United States form­ally ac­cused Mo­scow of break­ing a Cold War arms-con­trol treaty by test-fir­ing a ground-launched cruise mis­sile with com­par­able cap­ab­il­it­ies.

The U.S. State De­part­ment has not pub­licly named which mis­sile it be­lieves Rus­sia launched in vi­ol­a­tion of the 1987 In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nuc­le­ar Forces Treaty, and Mo­scow has denied com­mit­ting any breach of the pact.

“News me­dia re­ports and oth­er in­form­a­tion in­dic­ate that the vi­ol­a­tion pos­sibly con­cerns the Iskander-K,” wrote Kristensen, who heads the Nuc­le­ar In­form­a­tion Pro­ject at the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­ic­an Sci­ent­ists. Rus­sia already has de­ployed a short­er-range, bal­list­ic-mis­sile vari­ant of the weapon, called the Iskander-M.

Asked re­cently wheth­er Rus­sia is now also field­ing the Iskander-K, one seni­or gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial “did not want to say,” Kristensen wrote. The FAS ana­lyst ad­ded, though, that Mo­scow’s top de­fense of­fi­cial last year said the mil­it­ary had be­gun de­ploy­ing Iskander weapons in com­plete pack­ages, rather than in “piece­meal” form.

The vague com­ment by Rus­si­an De­fense Min­is­ter Sergei Shoigu “could in­dic­ate that the Iskander units are be­ing equipped with both the Iskander-M bal­list­ic mis­sile and Is­lander-K cruise mis­sile, and that Luga is the first west­ern mis­sile bri­gade to re­ceive them,” he wrote.

In his ana­lys­is, Kristensen joined oth­er arms-con­trol ad­voc­ates who cau­tioned Wash­ing­ton against pulling out of the mis­sile re­gime in re­sponse to the pos­sible vi­ol­a­tion.

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