The Financial Times is reporting that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov asked Donald Rumsfeld how the Bush administration would respond to Russian withdrawl from 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty during their January 2005 meeting in Washington.
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita confirmed that “the issue arose in the context of general discussion…”
The Financial Times also quoted Russian sources as having said that Rumsfeld indicated “he did not care” if Russia withdrew from the INF Treaty and that a Russian Foreign Ministry delegation later withdrew the proposal. The Pentagon denied the first and could not confirm the second.
Its not clear to me what the precise Russian objection to INF is—some suggest INF restricts the forces Moscow could deploy against Beijing—but NTI has documented plenty of Slavic grousing about the treaty. I am sure Pavel Podvig at the Russian Strategic Forces Blog will have more to say about this …
The INF Treaty has its opponents in the United States, too. David Smith penned a 2002 op-ed for Inside Defense arguing that the INF and START treaties “pose significant hurdles to our missile defense efforts” by denying the US target IRBMS. Smith advised Rumsfeld to re-evaluate the INF Treaty from a missile defense perspective. While their at it, Smith suggested Rumsfeld should also “ask the services to take a clean look at possible missile requirements, unfettered by treaty limitations.”
[In fairness, when asked about Smith’s proposal, Doug “Spanky” Feith said he hadn’t seen the analysis and characterized discussions with the Russians about changes to the INF and other treaties as preliminary.]