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Former Cold War Foes Fail To Agree On Arms Treaty Review

Russia wants Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- three former Soviet states that are now part of NATO and the European Union -- to join the treaty and wants limits on Russian military movements, which hamper its freedom in the south, to be cut, Antonov said.
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

by Jean-Michel Stoullig
Vienna (AFP) June 15, 2007 NATO member states and countries from the former Soviet bloc wrapped up Friday a four-day review of a key arms control pact without a final agreement. Both sides said however that they would maintain a dialogue. Anatoly Antonov, head of the Russian delegation, reflected growing tensions between Russia and the United States when he accused NATO countries of continuing "with their admonishments" and complained that "no one listens to us."

The CFE treaty "has become meaningless, no longer viable... it's an anachronism," he told reporters at the end of the special meeting at the headquarters of the Vienna-based Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The treaty, which came into force in 1992, limits deployments of tanks and troops in countries belonging to NATO and the former Warsaw Pact in eastern Europe.

Antonov said Russia was not for now suspending its application of the treaty, as threatened earlier by President Vladimir Putin, although the Kremlin was still reflecting on the matter.

"We made explicitly clear we are considering a suspension but that we would engage in consultations," Antonov said.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) said in a statement that it regretted "that it was not possible to reach agreement on a final document."

But Karin Look, head of the US delegation for the last part of the meeting, said "we are heartened that Russia ... agreed for dialogue to continue."

The main source of disagreement between the two former opposing blocs is the continuing presence of Russian troops in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.

Look, a top US State Department official, told journalists that Russia would have to completely withdraw its troops from those regions for Western countries to ratify a 1999 "adapted" version of the CFE. Moscow has already ratified it.

The two sides disagree over the commitments laid out in this revised treaty and their fulfillment of those conditions.

But NATO countries said in a statement that they looked forward "to renewed dialogue to ensure the continued viability of this landmark treaty, including its flank regime."

This shows "some flexibility on the part of the Alliance," especially as the statement was also made on behalf of Turkey, Russia's neighbour, a European diplomat said.

Look was positive, saying "the conference was constructive... it seriously grappled with issues Russia had."

She also announced new talks before the autumn but deplored "the Cold War rhetoric we keep hearing" and warned that a decision by Russia to suspend or pull out of the CFE "would be very unfortunate" and "serious."

Russia wants Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- three former Soviet states that are now part of NATO and the European Union -- to join the treaty and wants limits on Russian military movements, which hamper its freedom in the south, to be cut, Antonov said. It is also demanding that Western countries ratify the 1999 revised treaty by 2008.

Moreover, Russia has criticised the deployment of US troops in new military bases in Romania and Bulgaria.

But according to Look, "there will be no substantial deployment of (US) troops" in those countries.

Moscow called for the extraordinary meeting to re-examine the CFE at a time of tensions between Moscow and the West, sharpened by US plans to build an anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe and the prospect of independence for the Serbian province of Kosovo.

The 1990 CFE treaty limits the use of five categories of heavy weaponry in a zone running from the Atlantic to the Ural mountains.

Since its entry into force, 60,000 tanks, military transport vehicles, planes, helicopters and artillery have been destroyed or dismantled, and the number of troops stationed over the entire territory covered by the CFE has been reduced from 5.7 million to less than three million.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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