Countries, states, and federations often ban certain types of behaviors that can be used in military conflicts for a number of reasons, including preserving the environment and keeping uninvolved parties from getting harmed.
For three decades – the 30-year period ended just this year – the Russian Federation and the United States of America had agreed not to make, possess, or test low-flying cruise or high-arching ballistic missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,000 kilometers. Further, neither country could make or keep ground-based launchers of such types of missiles. Both nuclear and run-of-the-mill warheads were covered under the treaty, which was known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed into action in 1987.
Even though the treaty was set to expire on Feb. 1, 2019, the United States federal government formally notified Russia the day after that it would be withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty effective six months after its Feb. 2, 2019 publication. The Trump administration had alleged multiple times that the Russian Federation failed to operate in concordance with the provisions of the treaty, something that Barack Obama also did while he was in office.
Earlier today, on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, the Pentagon formally announced that it had carried out a test of a missile that previously would have violated the treaty – there was no treaty to violate at the time the missile was launched – this weekend. The Pentagon’s officials went on to identify that the test was carried out a few miles from the coast of California.
The type of missile launched was a Navy Tomahawk cruise missile, which flies low to the ground and is controlled by an advanced computer system. The missile successfully hit its target from more than 310 miles away, or over 500 kilometers, in terms of the metric system, after being launched from San Nicolas Island. It was equipped with a conventional warhead as opposed to its nuclear counterpart.
Two weeks ago, Russian officials claimed that the country would only test missiles that were previously banned under the treaty if the United States did first, though U.S. officials have long claimed that Russia has violated such rules on multiple occasions while the treaty was still in effect.
The primary reason that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed was that the chances of a real-deal nuclear war taking place as the result of an untrue, false launch alarm were much higher than without the types of missiles that were banned under the treaty.