Until fairly recently, the INF treaty had for a long time been of interest only to arms control junkies. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty back in December 1987. It banned all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. It entered into force in June 1988. Three years later, the two countries had destroyed some 2,600 missiles—the first time ever that an entire class of nuclear arms had been eliminated…
U.S. officials have said that, if Moscow does not correct the problem and come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, they will ensure that Russia gains no significant military advantage from the violation. A range of options are being considered, some which would be consistent with the treaty and others which would require withdrawal. The options include defensive measures to defeat the Russian GLCM as well as "counterforce" capabilities that would presumably allow the cruise missiles to be attacked before launch.
A June 4 Associated Press story noted that one counterforce option could entail deployment of new U.S. land-based missiles in Europe. That got noticed in Moscow. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow "placed much attention" on the report. Colonel General Victor Zavarzin, a member of the Russian federal assembly's defense committee, warned "if the Americans indeed deploy their ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe, in this case we will face the necessity of retaliating."
It comes as no surprise that the possibility of U.S. INF missiles in Europe provoked concern in Moscow. The Soviets really did not like the U.S. GLCMs and Pershing II ballistic missiles deployed in Europe in the 1980s, a key factor in getting Moscow to change its negotiating stance and ultimately accept a treaty banning all INF missiles. The thought that the Pentagon might dream up a Pershing III makes the Russian Ministry of Defense nervous—and hopefully reminds the Kremlin of why it saw value in the INF Treaty in the first place. '