Russia and NATO in talks to rescue arms treaty

Top defence officials from Moscow and NATO are holding talks in Brussels in an effort to patch up their differences. U.S. missile defence plans in Europe, NATO's eastward expansion and Russia's suspension of a key arms treaty are to be discussed.

The discussions took place under the Russia-NATO Council, set up in 2002 as a forum for political dialogue between Moscow and the alliance.
Russia objects to NATO's plans to sign up some of the former Soviet republics, saying this could create new divisions in Europe.
Moscow is also opposed to U.S. missile defence elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.  The U.S. argues the shield is needed to counter a potential threat from so-called rogue states such as Iran – a threat Russia doesn't believe exists.
Russia is one of the four countries to have ratified the adapted version of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty which limits five forms of conventional arms across Europe.
However, NATO countries haven't done so despite numerous calls from Moscow.
Russia maintains it was forced to suspend the treaty after talks on the agreement were deadlocked.
Head of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, says Russia in merely responding NATO's “refusal to ratify the adapted version of the CFE treaty for eight years”.
He said Russia's action was intended to draw attention to the issue and thereby to strengthen the CFE treaty.
He added that the suspension is not irreversible: “We are not pulling out of the treaty, but only suspending it – we may reverse this decision at any time. By the way this would not require Parliament’s approval since it’s under the president’s jurisdiction, and we could make this decision when the main condition is met – when all members ratify the adapted version of the agreement”.

Analysts' comments

A military expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Aleksey Arbatov, says Russia will “honour the limits set by the CFE treaty”.

“Usually states pull out of agreements in order to start doing exactly what these treaties prohibit them from doing. For instance, the U.S. withdrew from the ABM treaty and started deploying its shields in Alaska and California – now it is planning to do it in Europe – something the ABM didn't allow”.

Arbatov said the situation with Russia is different: “We are suspending the CFE treaty, but we are not going to build up arms above the limits set by the treaty”.

Vadim Kozyulin from the Russian Political Studies Centre compared NATO’s attitude to Russia to that of “a good teacher in front of a bad pupil”.

“During certain periods Russia was rather flexible, surrendering positions one by one. Now Russia has changed its attitude to this subject and fixed its position. Now Russia has changed its attitude to this subject and fixed its position. NATO countries probably still do not believe that Russia is serious. Now it is probably time to understand it,” he said.