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16 May, 2023 12:08

Russian MPs greenlight withdrawal from arms treaty

The State Duma has passed a law allowing Russia to formally exit the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe
Russian MPs greenlight withdrawal from arms treaty

Russia’s lower house of parliament passed a law on Tuesday on terminating the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). A draft of the legislation was submitted to the State Duma by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.

Ahead of the vote, the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, Leonid Slutsky, noted that the CFE has long existed only on paper, and insisted that its denunciation will only serve to strengthen Russia’s security.

The agreement, signed in 1990 by NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries – comprising the USSR and its allies in Europe – was intended to put limits on the number of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, helicopters, and aircraft stationed in Europe. Its purpose was to prevent the sides from amassing forces for a blitzkrieg-type offensive, and establishing a military balance.

However, Russia suspended its participation in the CFE in 2007, accusing NATO members of repeatedly violating provisions of the agreement and refusing to ratify an updated version of the treaty.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on Monday explained that the treaty “has long ceased to correspond to reality” and “did not really work for many years”, suggesting that Russia’s withdrawal would not have any impact on regional security, which, he said, has already been damaged by the actions of NATO-aligned countries.

Ryabkov pointed out that the US-led military bloc, meanwhile, has continued to expand its membership, thereby bypassing restrictions imposed by the pact. He noted that Russia only suspended its participation in 2007, in the hope that the viability of the arms treaty could one day be restored.

“Western countries had more than enough time to show common sense. But they preferred to follow the path of further NATO expansion and confrontation with Russia, Ryabkov said.

Earlier this year, Russia also suspended its participation in New START, the last bilateral nuclear arms reduction agreement with the US. Moscow explained the move by pointing to Washington’s refusal to allow Russian inspections of its nuclear facilities and alleged use of the Ukrainian military to carry out proxy attacks against Russia’s strategic aviation.

On Tuesday, Ryabkov reiterated that Russia does not intend to publish data on the total number of its warheads under the START agreement, despite the US recently publishing its own. “START has been suspended,” the official stressed.