One thing that the United States and Russians can agree on is that it’s senseless that they are the only two countries in the world that are notionally forbidden from possessing this category of weapon. “Nowadays,” a Russian defense official complained in 2014, “almost 30 countries have such missiles in their arsenals.”
China, in particular, is outdoing itself. The head of US Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, told Congress last year that the Chinese military “controls the largest and most diverse missile force in the world, with an inventory of more than 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles. This fact is significant because the US has no comparable capability due to our adherence to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.” According to Harris, 95 percent of the Chinese missiles “would violate the INF if China was a signatory.”
Given Russian cheating, the INF treaty as a practical matter prohibits only the United States from having such missiles. What sense is there in that? Arms-controllers often fall back on the argument that US self-restraint has a symbolic effect, discouraging other countries from developing weapons by the force of our example, but this is manifestly untrue.