Friday, November 30, 2007
Putin Signs Law Suspending CFE Treaty
India/Russia - Russian tanks T-90s, 26 Jan. 2004
The suspension allows Russia to deploy additional heavy weaponry on its European territory
November 30, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- President Vladimir Putin has signed into law legislation suspending Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty -- an agreement considered to be a cornerstone of European security.
Putin's signature puts the finishing touch on a process he initiated in July, when he issued a decree announcing Russia's intention to halt its observance of the treaty after a 150-day waiting period.
Both houses of parliament rubber-stamped the president's bill earlier this month, allowing the bill to be signed into law. In a short statement today, the Kremlin announced simply that "President Putin signed the federal law on suspending the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty."
The suspension will go into effect on December 12, freeing Russia to deploy additional conventional heavy weaponry such as tanks, artillery, and aircraft on its territory west of the Ural Mountains.
U.S. and EU officials participating in the OSCE ministerial conference in Madrid had made last-ditch attempts to persuade Moscow not to suspend its participation in the CFE.
"We don't believe any country should walk out of a major, landmark European arms treaty unilaterally," U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said during a news conference.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, expressed the EU's "deep concern over the emerging uncertainties about the future viability of the treaty."
Cold War Relic
Russian officials have characterized the treaty as a Cold War-era relic that has lost its relevance in today's global situation.
After the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament, unanimously approved the CFE bill on November 16, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia sought to "restore strategic stability and the military and political balance on the European continent."
"We expect a reaction that would allow putting arms controls in Europe in order," Lavrov said. "This can be done only by adopting an agreement on adjusting the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and, in general, by modernizing what is a hopelessly outdated [arms control] regime."
The CFE treaty took NATO and the Warsaw Pact 10 years to negotiate, and came into force in 1992. It set limits on each bloc's deployment of weaponry between the Atlantic Ocean and the Urals and provided for regular mutual inspections.
Following the breakup of the Warsaw Pact, a new agreement, dubbed the CFE II, was negotiated in Istanbul in 1999 to reflect the new post-Soviet landscape by setting arms limits for individual countries.
Russia and three other postcommunist states -- Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus -- signed and ratified the CFE II treaty. But while signing and complying with the new treaty's provisions, individual NATO states have made clear that they would not ratify it until Moscow complied with commitments it made in Istanbul to remove its troops and equipment from Georgia and Moldova.
That has been the main point of disagreement between Moscow and NATO ever since, and led Putin to issue a decree in July announcing Russia's intention to suspend participation in the original CFE treaty.
The move helped cement the Kremlin's position vis-a-vis the West as it openly feuded with the United States and the European Union over a proposed missile-defense shield in Central Europe, NATO expansion, and the future status of Serbia's Kosovo province.
The Kremlin's tough stance against Washington and Brussels has proved to be an immensely popular move during election season. Citizens of Russia will vote in State Duma elections on December 2 and in presidential elections on March 2.