The INF Treaty experience is both a case study in the complexities of negotiating and implementing competitive arms control agreements and a useful primer for better understanding all arms control agreements concluded since the late 1980s.
As the last of the superpower arms control agreements negotiated and partially implemented in cold war conditions, the INF negotiations took place against a background of global rivalry rooted in fundamentally different views of the world. The negotiations evolved by gradual steps. They had their origins in NATO efforts to redress a perceived destabilizing imbalance in the European theater caused primarily by an unrestrained buildup in the mid-1970s of Soviet SS-20s targeted on Europe. Even within NATO, the formulation of an agreed position--the Allied dualtrack approach which sought to restore the military balance by a combination of arms control negotiations and deployment of new U.S. missiles on European soil--required several years of painstaking effort. Two more years elapsed after announcement of the NATO dual-track decision in December 1979 before the INF negotiations began. The Soviets agreed to negotiate in Geneva only after an intensive diplomatic and media campaign had failed to split NATO or derail the deployment side of the NATO approach.
The INF negotiations themselves were protracted. They lasted just over six years from the opening of talks in Geneva in November 30, 1981, until the Treaty was signed at the Washington Summit on December 8, 1987. Close coordination within the Alliance was necessary to maintain NATO