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Russia Pulls Out Of Key European Arms Treaty

NATO states have refused to ratify the new pact on the grounds that Moscow has failed to honour commitments made in 1999 to withdraw Russian forces from the ex-Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova. Putin's insistence that all countries ratify the CFE appeared particularly aimed at the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were once part of the Soviet Union and are not part of the treaty.

Defence treaty guarantees security in post-Cold War Europe
Vienna (AFP) July 14 - The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, from which Russia announced its withdrawal Saturday, is one of the key post-Cold War security accords in Europe. The CFE was signed on November 19, 1990 in Paris by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact -- two opposing blocs during the Cold War -- and was modified in 1999 to adapt it to the European security environment following the fall of the Soviet Union. The CFE's initial aim was to eliminate the capacity of either side to launch a surprise attack or large-scale military offensive.

The treaty, which entered into force in 1992, states that no country may station forces on the territory of another treaty member without the latter's permission. But the 1999 amendment to the treaty has not entered into effect due to a dispute between NATO and Russia. Russia ratified the adapted treaty in 2004 but NATO countries refuse to do so because of the continuing presence of Russian troops in Georgia and Moldova. Saturday, Russian news agencies reported that President Vladimir Putin had signed a decree suspending his country's application of the treaty.

Russia had already threatened in April to pull out of the CFE due to what it sees as a US military buildup near its borders, and a conference convened in Vienna in June to review the CFE treaty at Moscow's request ended without the parties reaching an agreement on a final document. Russia has been infuriated by US plans for a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and military bases in Romania and Bulgaria.

NATO says the CFE treaty "continues to serve as the cornerstone of security and stability in Europe" by reducing tensions from arms buildups and increasing confidence-building, transparency and cooperation between members states. The 1990 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. There is a strict inspection and transparency regime in the treaty.

by Conor Humphries
Moscow (AFP) July 14, 2007
Russia will no longer respect a key arms treaty that limits the deployment of military forces in Europe, the Kremlin said Saturday in the latest escalation of tensions between Moscow and the West. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending Russia's adherence to the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) arms control treaty due to "exceptional circumstances ... broaching on the security of the Russian Federation," the Kremlin said in a statement.

A spokesman for NATO, Russia's partner in the treaty, called the move "a step backward." A White House spokesman described it as "disappointing."

While the moratorium will likely have little practical impact on troop deployments, analysts said it was the latest assertive move from a Kremlin that wants to rewrite the rules of transatlantic relations to take account of Russia's newfound strength.

"It wants to revise the rules of the game in the Euro-Atlantic area written when Russia was weak," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Moscow-based journal Russia in Global Affairs.

"Europe will be extremely uneasy over this and Russia is hoping that this nervousness will lead to a softening of its position." Relations between Russia and the West have taken a plunge in recent months with disagreements over the deployment of elements of a US missile shield in central Europe and the fate of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo.

Analysts have suggested that upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections have put pressure on the Kremlin to flex its diplomatic muscle.

Putin's decree, signed Friday, ordered the foreign ministry to immediately inform the other signatories of Russia's decision, triggering the automatic suspension of Russia's participation 150 days later.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on a visit to Nida, in Lithuania, expressed his "great concern."

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement that Washington would continue to discuss the treaty with Moscow.

The CFE, which came into force in 1992, is one of the key post-Cold War security accords in Europe.

It limits deployments of tanks and troops in countries belonging to NATO and the former Warsaw Pact in eastern Europe and lays down measures aimed at confidence-building, transparency and cooperation between member states.

While both sides are violating the rules on troop deployments already, ending mutual confidence-building measures and inspections could add to Russian-EU tensions, said independent defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer.

Russia has threatened several times to pull out of the treaty amid unease over US military encroachment into territory once part of the former Soviet Union, including plans to develop a US missile defence shield in Europe.

In recent months Moscow suggested it would target missiles at Europe if the United States went ahead with the proposal.

Despite the tensions, the foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday that the decision to freeze the CFE was "difficult" and was only taken after repeated appeals to Russia's western partners about the "outdated" treaty.

"So far we have not seen any constructive response to our legitimate concerns," the statement said, adding, however, that it "does not mean that we have closed the door on dialogue."

Three months ago, Putin threatened to pull Russia out of the CFE until all of NATO's current members ratified a new version of the treaty agreed in 1999.

The CFE, originally signed in 1990 by the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the former Warsaw Pact, was adapted to take into account the collapse of the Warsaw pact.

NATO states have refused to ratify the new pact on the grounds that Moscow has failed to honour commitments made in 1999 to withdraw Russian forces from the ex-Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.

Putin's insistence that all countries ratify the CFE appeared particularly aimed at the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were once part of the Soviet Union and are not part of the treaty.

The three are all now members of NATO.

earlier related report
Russia's treaty freeze puts pressure on Europe
Moscow (AFP) July 14 - Russia's decision to withdraw from a key European arms treaty ratchets up pressure on the European Union as an assertive Moscow tests Brussels' resolve, analysts said. Russia announced Saturday that it would suspend adherence to the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) arms control treaty, a key agreement that limits the deployment of forces in central and eastern Europe.

But while US moves to install anti-missile bases in the region were seen as a key cause of the Kremlin's decision, it is Europe that is likely to suffer most from the fall-out, analysts said.

"The CFE treaty is much more important to the European countries than the United States," said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent defence analyst.

Russia "has other problems with Europe and here we have another factor reducing confidence and deteriorating relations," he said.

While actual troop deployments are unlikely to change much, the biggest practical effect of Russia's decision will be an end to mutual inspections and confidence-building measures governed by the treaty, Felgenhauer predicted.

"Confidence will worsen especially with the European countries," he said.

The hope in Moscow is that the uncertainty will weaken European resolve over a number of issues, analysts said.

"It will push Europe into a more active position on missile defence," Interfax news agency cited Ivan Safranchuk of the International Centre on Defence Information as saying.

Europe has largely backed US plans for an anti-missile radar station in the Czech Republic and interceptor rockets in Poland, plans which Russia says threaten to upset the balance of power on the continent.

Others were doubtful attempts to pressure the EU would bear fruit.

"Europe will be extremely uneasy over this and Russia is hoping that this nervousness will lead to a softening of its position," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Moscow-based journal Russia in Global Affairs.

"But I think these calculations are wrong and that a frightened Europe will throw in its lot with the United States."

He said the decision to freeze the CFE was part of a wider Kremlin move to use its newly found strength to remould the foundations of transatlantic relations.

"It wants to revise the rules of the game in the Euro-Atlantic area written when Russia was weak," he said.

Russia also appears to be using its geopolitical strength to put pressure on Europe over business ties, said political analyst Boris Kagarlitsky, director of Moscow's Institute for Globalization.

The withdrawal from the treaty "will be seen in the West as an attempt to put pressure on a number of issues including in the economic sphere," he said.

Disagreements over energy security and a dispute over deliveries of Polish meat have prevented Moscow and Brussels from agreeing a new mutual cooperation agreement.

"At some stage Russia will put all of these things on the table. Whether it gets what it wants is another question," Kagarlitsky said.

earlier related report
US, NATO 'disappointed' at Russian pullout of arms treaty
Paris (AFP) July 14 - The United States and NATO, along with several European states, expressed disappointment Saturday over Russia's suspension of its participation in a key arms control treaty.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe also expressed its concern, and called on all signatories to the treaty to look at the underlying causes of Russia's decision.

"We're disappointed Russia has suspended its participation for now," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe in a statement.

"But we'll continue to have discussions with them in the coming months on the best way to proceed in this area, that is in the interest of all parties involved and provides for security in Europe," he added.

The Kremlin announced Saturday that President Vladimir Putin had signed a decree suspending Russia's application of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty.

The CFE treaty, which came into force in 1992, is one of the key post-Cold War security accords in Europe.

It limits deployments of tanks and troops in countries belonging to NATO and the former Warsaw Pact in eastern Europe and lays down measures aimed at confidence-building, transparency and cooperation between member states.

Russia had threatened several times to pull out of the treaty amid unease over US military encroachment into territory once part of the former Soviet Union.

Moscow particularly objected to US plans to place elements of a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The US State Department said it was "disappointed" by Russia's announcement.

Washington "remains committed CFE's full implementation ... (and) look forward to continuing to engage with Russia and other parties to create the conditions necessary for ratification by all 30 CFE states," a statement said.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai also expressed disappointment.

"It's a disappointing move, a step backwards. NATO considers this treaty to be an important foundation of European security and stability," he said.

The OSCE expressed its concern through Spain, which currently holds the presidency of the 56-member organisation.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos called on all signatory states "to renew their efforts to examine the underlying difficulties swiftly and earnestly and work together to overcome them."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier meanwhile expressed his "great concern."

Speaking in Lithuania during a tour of the Baltic countries, he said the treaty was a central element in the international architecture of disarmament. "That is why we obviously regard Moscow's announcement with great concern."

"In the next few days we will see what concrete measures will be taken because of this announcement," he said, adding that he hoped Russia would go no further than suspend the treaty.

Polish foreign ministry spokesman Robert Szaniawski said Warsaw regretted the decision.

But he added: "Taking previous announcements into account, this decision is not a surprise and doesn't have immediate consequences."

Warsaw hoped the decision did not mean "a future denunciation of the treaty" by Putin, given Russia's importance for European and world security.

Romania's foreign ministry also expressed its "disappointment."

"Romania considers that the CFE treaty represents a basis for European security," the ministry said, adding that it hoped "that dialogue between the states participating in the CFE treaty will be maintained and that all of the states will continue to respect their obligations within the framework of the treaty."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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