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Russia throws out NATO inspectors but calls for dialogue

Russia’s involvement in a key European arms treaty is now officially suspended, yet Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says there’s a chance the CFE, or similar pact, can be revived.

The Conventional Forces in Europe treaty was established at the end of the cold war but stalled NATO members refused to ratify it. They claimed Moscow has failed to reduce troop numbers in key areas.

After the CFE was amended in 1999, NATO said Russia had unacceptable troop numbers in the North Caucuses, Moldova and Georgia.

Russia says troops only remain in Moldova to guard dangerous weapons' silos. As far as Moscow's concerned, NATO's failure to ratify lacks any legal basis.

“I think the major reason for pushing Russia for this Istanbul Commitments is mostly because of strategic consideration to force out Russia from former republics of the Soviet Union,” believes Ivan Safranchuck, Director of the World Security Institute.

But U.S. plans for a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic sounded treaty's death knell. Moscow insists it's a threat to Russia's national security while the U.S. calls it a protection against 'rogue states'.

Russia also accuses the Atlantic Alliance of double standards because it continues to expand.

Now the CFE is suspended, Russia will neither provide NATO with data on its conventional forces nor accept military inspections.

It is also free to redeploy forces to its southern region in case it's needed.

“What's at stake is the predictability, the confidence building and I think on that score that something that's on the minus for people at this stage in terms of regrettable loss,” said Isabelle Francois, Director of the NATO Information office in Moscow.
But the reality is the suspension is not a complete withdrawal and the door is not closed to further dialogue.

“This will not be another arms race, this will rather be a qualitative renewal of arms in the framework of the treaty. And if needed, we could probably change the power balance on our fronts,” believes Leonid Ivashev from the Academy of Geopolitics.