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Russia drops its arms obligations

The Russian State Duma has voted to suspend Russia`s participation in the European arms control agreement. Earlier President Putin had said Russia should withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. The move comes as the U.S. and NATO say they'

The Head of the State Duma Committee for Foreign Affairs, Konstantin Kosachev, has said the reason for the moratorium is that only four states out of 30 participants have ratified the CFE treaty.

“It’s up to Europe to decide now. It’s enough to ratify the adapted treaty to rule out any negative scenarios. In military terms, Russia is not going to build up its conventional forces in Europe. The decision to suspend the treaty means stopping exchanges of information and inspections,” commented Mr Kosachev.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, says Russia has not abandoned the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.
“We have not cancelled our ratification of the CFE Treaty. We are just suspending our participation in an agreement that has long been outdated. We are expecting that all parties to the treaty will ratify the adapted version. It can be fulfilled and updated with due account taken of today’s reality and in any case it needs to be updated after the ratification,” said Mr Lavrov.

The landmark arms control agreement, signed in 1990, limits the number of tanks, aircraft and other military hardware that can be deployed in Europe. It also establishes a military balance between NATO and the former Warsaw Pact countries.

Nine years later it was amended to adapt to post-cold war realities. The new version of the treaty, however, cannot come into legal force until all thirty countries ratify it.

Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus have already done so but not all NATO members have. They say they will do so only after Russia fulfils its obligation, under the Istanbul treaty of 1999, to withdraw its forces from Georgia and Moldova. 

Russia, for its part, says it has pulled out its troops from those territories and that the only Russian servicemen there now are invited peacekeepers.

In April, after a tense conference in Vienna, Vladimir Putin said Russia would consider a moratorium.

“Our partners are acting improperly. They are using the agreement to build up their system of military installation near our country. Near our borders. Moreover they are planning to set up elements of an anti-ballistic missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland. And this creates a real threat to our country. In connection with this I consider proclaiming a moratorium on Russia's fulfilment of this treaty,” said Vladimir Putin back then.

In July, the Russian President proposed a moratorium on the CFE treaty by Russia.

The last round of talks on the CFE took place a month ago but it produced no new compromise.

RT political commentator Peter Lavelle says Russia’s move is quite logical: 

“The treaty was designed at the very end of the Cold War and everyone took advantage of it. NATO then said it wouldn’t expand – but it did expand. Also, all those new countries in Eastern Europe that joined NATO refused to sign the treaty. So they’ve got the purpose of an agreement without signing it. So Russia's said, ”If you want the purpose of the treaty, then sign it."

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department does not think Russia's decision to pull out of the CFE Treaty will help resolve the matter. Spokesman Sean McCormack says the Bush Administration is working on finding a solution to fit every side.

“We have troubles and problems with the idea of suspending the treaty. We are working closely with other treaty members to try to address some of the concerns that have been detailed by the Russian government,” Mr McCormack said.