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US Responds to Putin's Call for Meeting on Forces in Europe

29 May 2007

A Pentagon spokesman says the United States would be "disappointed" if Russia stopped meeting its obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. The comment came the day after Russia called for a meeting of the treaty's signatory nations next month. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

At his daily briefing, Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman responded to President Putin's call for a meeting. "The U.S. position on this is that we would be disappointed at any suggestions that Russia might cease to implement its obligations under the CFE Treaty. NATO, as you know, places a high value on the treaty's contribution to European security," he said.

At the State Department, a spokesman told reporters the Conventional Forces treaty has served the international community well, but that it is Russia's right to call a meeting and U.S. officials will be happy to attend.

Russia wants a three-day meeting starting on June 12 in Vienna.

The 1990 treaty regulates the size and composition of conventional military forces in Europe. It resulted in a reduction of Cold War era forces facing off against each other on the continent. The treaty was amended in 1999, but some countries have refused to ratify the amended version until Russia withdraws its forces from Georgia and Moldova.

Russia rejects the idea of connecting those two issues, but President Vladimir Putin has said he wants to suspend Russia's participation in the treaty and has threatened to withdraw from it permanently. The statement Monday calling for the meeting said Russia has been adhering to the amended treaty, while other signatories have refused to ratify it. The statement also cites the expansion of NATO into areas formerly under the influence of the Soviet Union.

Russia's concerns about the treaty are also widely seen as related to its opposition to U.S. plans to put parts of its new missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The White House reports President Bush and President Putin spoke about several issues during a phone conversation on Monday, but did not say whether missile defense or the Conventional Forces treaty were among them. The two men will meet next week in Germany during the annual Group of Eight summit.

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