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Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

INF Treaty: Executive Summary

Treaty Name:  The Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty)

Signed by the United States: December 8, 1987
Ratified by the Senate: May 27, 1988
Entry Into Force: June 1, 1988
Suspended: February 2, 2019
United States Withdrawal:  August 2, 2019

Background:  In the mid-1970s the Soviet Union achieved rough strategic parity with the United States. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union began replacing older intermediate-range SS-4 and SS-5 missiles with a new intermediate-range missile, the SS-20, bringing about what was perceived as a qualitative and quantitative change in the European security situation. The SS-20 was mobile, accurate, and capable of being concealed and rapidly redeployed. It carried three independently targetable warheads, as distinguished from the single warheads carried by its predecessors. The SS-20s 5,000 kilometer range permitted it to cover targets in Western Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and, from bases in the eastern Soviet Union, most of Asia, Southeast Asia, and Alaska.

On November 12, 1979, the NATO ministers unanimously adopted a "dual track" strategy to counter Soviet SS-20 deployments. One track called for arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce INF forces to the lowest possible level; the second track called for deployment in Western Europe, beginning in December 1983, of 464 single-warhead U.S. ground-launched cruise (GLCM) missiles and 108 Pershing II ballistic missiles.

Initially the Soviet Union refused to engage in preliminary talks, unless NATO revoked its deployment decision; however, by July 1980, the Soviet position changed, and preliminary discussions began in Geneva in the fall of 1980.

The U.S. approach to the negotiations, developed through extensive consultations within NATO, required that any INF agreement must: (1) provide for equality both in limits and rights between the United States and the Soviet Union; (2) be strictly bilateral and thus exclude British and French systems; (3) limit systems on a global basis; (4) not adversely affect NATO's conventional defense capability; and (5) be effectively verifiable.

At the beginning of the talks, the Soviet Union opposed the deployment of any U.S. INF missiles in Europe and proposed a ceiling of 300 "medium-range" missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft for both sides, with British and French nuclear forces counting toward the ceiling for the West.

During the first two years of the talks, which ended with a Soviet walkout on November 23, 1983, the United States continued to emphasize its preference for the "zero option" even while introducing the concept of an interim agreement based on equally low numbers of INF systems.

During 1984 there were no INF negotiations. U.S. deployments were carried out as planned in the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, while preparations for deployment continued in Belgium.

In January 1985, Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko agreed to separate but parallel negotiations on INF, strategic arms (START), and defense and space issues as part of a new bilateral forum called the Nuclear and Space Talks (NST). The United States and the Soviet Union agreed that all questions regarding these three areas would be considered in their interrelationship. Negotiations would be conducted by a single delegation from each side, divided into three groups -- one for defense and space, one for START, and one for INF. Formal talks resumed in March 1985 in all three areas.

In the fall of 1985, the Soviet Union hinted at the possibility of an INF agreement independent of START or defense and space issues. As U.S. GLCM deployments continued, the Soviet Union outlined an interim INF agreement that would permit some U.S. GLCMs in Europe, but which would permit SS-20 warheads equal to the sum of all warheads on U.S., British, and French systems combined. The Soviets also offered to freeze INF systems in Asia -- contingent on U.S. acceptance of their proposals and provided the Asian strategic situation did not change.

In November of 1985, President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev met in Geneva, where they issued a joint statement calling for an "interim accord on intermediate-range nuclear forces." At the end of 1985, the United States proposed a limit of 140 launchers in Europe for both sides and proportionate reductions in Asia while emphasizing collateral constraints on shorter-range missiles, since these systems can cover the same targets as longer-range systems.

A series of high-level discussions took place in August and September 1986 followed by a meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986, where the sides agreed to equal global ceilings of systems capable of carrying 100 INF missile warheads, none of which would be deployed in Europe. The Soviet Union also proposed a freeze on shorter-range missile deployments and agreed in principle to intrusive on-site verification.

Several months later, on February 28, 1987, the Soviet Union announced that it was prepared to reach a separate INF agreement. On March 4, 1987, the United States tabled a draft INF Treaty text, which reflected the agreement reached at Reykjavik, and submitted a comprehensive verification regime. In April the Soviet Union presented its own draft Treaty, and by July, it had agreed in principle to some of the provisions in the U.S. comprehensive verification regime, including data exchange, on-site observation of elimination, and on-site inspection of INF missile inventories and facilities. In a major shift, however, the Soviet side proposed the inclusion of U.S.-owned warheads on the West German Pershing IA missile systems. The United States responded by restating that the INF negotiations were bilateral, covering only U.S. and Soviet missiles, and could not involve third-country systems or affect existing patterns of cooperation.

During April meetings with Secretary Shultz in Moscow, General Secretary Gorbachev proposed the possible elimination of U.S. and Soviet shorter-range missiles. At the June 1987 meeting of the North Atlantic Council, NATO foreign ministers announced support for the global elimination of all U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range and shorter-range missile systems. On June 15, President Reagan proposed the elimination of all U.S. and Soviet shorter-range missile systems.

On July 22, 1987, General Secretary Gorbachev agreed to a "double global zero" Treaty to eliminate intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

On August 26, 1987, Chancellor Kohl announced the Federal Republic of Germany would dismantle its 72 Pershing IA missiles and not replace them with more modern weapons if the United States and the Soviet Union scrapped all of their INF missiles as foreseen in the emerging Treaty. This was a unilateral declaration by the FRG and is not part of the INF Treaty, which is a bilateral U.S.-Soviet agreement.

In September, the two sides reached agreement in principle to complete the Treaty before the end of the year. On December 8, 1987, the Treaty was signed by President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev at a summit meeting in Washington. At the time of its signature, the Treaty's verification regime was the most detailed and stringent in the history of nuclear arms control, designed both to eliminate all declared INF systems entirely within three years of the Treaty's entry into force and to ensure compliance with the total ban on possession and use of these missiles.

In 2014, the United States declared Russia in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to produce, possess, or flight-test a GLCM with a range capability between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The United States subsequently identified Russia’s violating weapon as the 9M729 cruise missile system. On December 4, 2018, the U.S. Secretary of State announced that Russia was in material breach of the INF Treaty, and that the United States would suspend its obligations in 60 days should Russia not return to full and verifiable compliance.

On February 1, 2019, the U.S. Secretary of State announced that the United States was suspending its obligations under the INF Treaty effective February 2, 2019. The United States also provided on February 2, 2019, a six-month notice to Treaty parties of its intent to withdraw from the Treaty.

On February 2, 2019, the Russian President stated that the Russian Federation would respond in kind by suspending its obligations under the INF Treaty. The Russian Federation suspended its obligations under the INF Treaty on March 4, 2019.

Treaty Structure:  The Treaty consists of 17 articles; an MOU that established a data base of definitions, missiles slated for elimination, and technical data; an elimination protocol; an inspection protocol, an MOA on verification procedures, and a section on corrigenda.

Treaty Objectives: The Treaty requires the elimination of all shorter-range and intermediate-range missiles from the arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia and the other successor states). The Treaty's main objective was to stabilize the heretofore rapidly expanding nuclear forces of the U.S and the USSR and to prevent nuclear war between them.

Treaty Provisions:  Article I establishes the fundamental agreement to eliminate ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5500 kilometers.

Article II defines the ballistic and cruise missiles subject to the Treaty, including the fact that they must weapon-delivery vehicles in order to be subject to the Treaty.

Article III identifies specific missiles to be eliminated. For the U.S., those missiles are the: Pershing II, 1a, 1b and BGM-109G GLCM. For the USSR, those missiles are the: SS-20, SS-4, SS-5, SS-12, SS-23 and SSC-X-4 GLCM.

Article VI prohibits Parties from producing or flight-testing INF-range missiles in the future.

Article VII sets parameters for R&D missiles which were not specified INF missiles, but which have ranges in the INF ranges and existed before the Treaty was signed.

Article XI establishes extensive On-Site Inspection rights for verification of compliance.

Article XIII establishes the SVC as the framework for meeting to discuss Treaty-related issues.

Article XV establishes that the Treaty shall be of unlimited duration.

Information Exchange:  Article IX.2 requires the Parties to provide data updates and notifications through the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers. Article IX.4 requires the Parties to provide data updates no later than 30 days following every six-month interval after entry into force of the Treaty. The Parties are required to provide a number of notifications, including notifications of elimination dates, locations, number and types of items of missile systems to be eliminated. Notifications are also required for launches of R&D booster systems. Information may also be exchanged through the SVC forum.

Verification:  Verification of the Treaty is assured through On-site inspections and National Technical Means. The On-site inspections include baseline data inspections, closed-out facility inspections, and missile systems elimination inspections. The Treaty establishes continuous portal and perimeter monitoring activities at former missile production facilities in the territory of each Party.