The Pentagon has apparently started research on the development of an intermediate-range, ground-based missile that is banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in order to convince Russia to stop violating that same treaty, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously expressed a reluctance to comply with the INF, which was signed during the Cold War.
In early 2017, Russia deployed newly made cruise missiles whose production is banned under the INF, and last week Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the U.S. was exploring ways to bring Russia back into compliance with the treaty after several years of violations. While Mattis has publicly expressed his support for the INF, one official who spoke to the Journal said, "The idea here is we need to send a message to the Russians that they will pay a military price for violation of this treaty. ... We are posturing ourselves to live in a post-INF world ... if that is the world the Russians want."
Putin said earlier this month that Russia would have an "immediate and reciprocal" response if the U.S. were to withdraw from the INF. Republican hawks like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have pushed President Trump to withdraw from the treaty and develop more intermediate-range missiles.