Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

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The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 (INF) was the first nuclear weapons agreement requiring the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) to reduce, rather than merely limit, their arsenals of nuclear weapons. Signed by President ronald reagan, of the United States, and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, of the U.S.S.R., on December 8, 1987, the INF Treaty eliminated all land-based nuclear missiles with ranges of between 300 and 3,400 miles. The U.S. Senate quickly ratified the treaty in 1988 by a vote of 93–5.

The INF Treaty marked an historic shift in superpower relations and was the first super-power arms control treaty since 1979. It required the removal of 1,752 Soviet and 859 U.S. short- and intermediate-range missiles, most of which were located in Europe. It was the second superpower agreement to ban an entire class of weapons, the first being the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. The INF Treaty also contained unprecedented verification procedures, including mandatory exchanges of relevant missile data, on-site inspections, and satellite surveillance.

Soviet concessions in the INF negotiations grew out of Gorbachev's efforts to limit military competition between the United States and the U.S.S.R. The new Soviet willingness to make arms-control concessions was first evident in the 1986 Stockholm Accord, which established various confidence- and security-building measures between the superpowers and their allied countries, including on-site inspections and advance warning of military movements. In 1988, a year after signing the INF, Gorbachev continued his ambitious program of military cuts by announcing a unilateral reduction of 500,000 troops, including the removal of 50,000 troops and 5,000 tanks from eastern Europe. These developments met with a positive response from the United States and its north atlantic treaty organization allies, and created an atmosphere that would be conducive to future arms accords, including the conventional forces in europe treaty of 1990 and the strategic arms reduction treaties of 1991 and 1993.

Several successor states to the Soviet Union, including Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, continue to implement the treaty. Other European nations, including Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, voluntarily destroyed their medium-range missiles in the 1990s. The United States also persuaded Bulgaria to destroy its missiles in 2002. The right of parties to the treaty to conduct on-site inspections expired on May 31, 2001. However, parties still may conduct satellite surveillance to ensure that member states comply with the treaty. The treaty established the Special Verification Commission to implement the treaty, and the commission continues to meet regularly.

further readings

Falkenrath, Richard A. 1995. Shaping Europe's Military Order: The Origins and Consequences of the CFE Treaty. Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Sheehan, Michael. 1988. Arms Control: Theory and Practice. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.

Wirth, Timothy E. 1988. Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Conventional Balance in Europe. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.


Arms Control and Disarmament; Cold War; Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

On‐Site Inspection Agency

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On‐Site Inspection Agency. On‐site inspection, a long‐term demand of the United States for verification of nuclear arms control and disarmaments agreements, was finally accepted by the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. The verification provisions of the INF Treaty of December 1987 between the United States and USSR authorized on‐site inspectors to monitor and record the elimination of missiles. Consequently, the Department of Defense established a small, 40‐person agency to conduct and receive INF Treaty inspections; more than 230 on‐site inspections were conducted in the first year. In 1990, President George Bush signed the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and the Wyoming Memorandum of Understanding on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, each stipulating on‐site inspections. The On‐Site Inspection Agency expanded from 40 to 250 people. American inspection and escort teams consisted of military officers, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and civilian specialists. The officers had experience as military attachés, foreign area officers, and/or weapons specialists. The NCOs served as translators.

In July 1991, Bush and Gorbachev signed the START I Treaty; nine months later, twenty‐seven nations concluded the Open Skies Treaty. Within a year, the United States had signed the START II Treaty (5 nations) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (153 nations). Each agreement included provisions for extensive monitoring through on‐site inspections. The On‐Site Inspection Agency expanded to 760 persons between 1991 and 1994.[See also Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare; START (1982).]


Joseph P. Harahan , On‐Site Inspections Under the INF Treaty, 1993.

Joseph P. Harahan

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Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty 1987

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