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Russia promises not to build up arms during CFE moratorium

RIA Novosti

19/09/2007 15:20 (Recasts para 2, adds details, background in paras 3-12)

MOSCOW, September 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will not scale up armaments for the duration of a moratorium on the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, a senior Defense Ministry official told Russia's parliament Wednesday.

"Measures to build up arms are hypothetical, or science fiction," Major General Vladimir Nikishin, deputy head of a ministry department, told the State Duma, Russia's lower house.

In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a moratorium on the CFE Treaty, which limits Russian and NATO conventional forces and heavy weaponry from the Atlantic to the Urals. No NATO countries have ratified the treaty's amended version. The moratorium is to come into force later this year if the West does not ratify the treaty.

The president's announcement came after a tense conference in Vienna, where NATO member states refused to ratify the amended CFE Treaty until Russia fully withdraws its troops from Georgia and Moldova, a commitment given by the late President Boris Yeltsin in Istanbul in 1999.

The CFE Treaty was amended in 1999 in Istanbul in line with post-Cold War realities, and has so far only been ratified by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.

Nikishin also said NATO had substantially exceeded armament levels allowed by the CFE for NATO members - by 6,000 tanks, some 10,000 armored vehicles, over 5,000 artillery items and some 1,500 warplanes.

He said this was due to NATO expansion. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania joined the alliance in 2004.

Nikishin said Russia should not stop negotiations with Western partners on participation in international military agreements.

Moscow considers the original CFE Treaty, signed in 1990 by 30 countries to reduce conventional military forces on the continent, outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

Moldova and Georgia have refused to ratify the treaty until Russia withdraws its troops from their territories.

Russia maintains a peacekeeping contingent in Georgia and a battalion guarding ex-Soviet ammunition depots in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr, in Moldova.

NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Transdnestr and other post-Soviet regions as a condition for their ratifying the CFE Treaty. NATO's reluctance to ratify the re-drafted pact is a key source of tension between Russia and the Western security alliance.

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