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Russia could return to CFE Treaty if NATO ratifies - diplomat

RIA Novosti

19/09/2007 14:34 (Adds background, quotes, details in paras 2, 3-16)

MOSCOW, September 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia could lift its moratorium on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) if NATO countries ratify the amended version of the document, a senior Russian diplomat said Wednesday.

The post-Soviet accord limits Russian and NATO conventional forces and heavy weaponry in a broadly-defined Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals.

"We have imposed a moratorium on the old CFE Treaty without abandoning it," acting Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak told lawmakers at a session of the lower house of Russia's parliament, the State Duma.

"If all issues with our NATO partners are resolved, we will put into force the amended version of the treaty," he said.

On July 14 Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a moratorium on Russia's compliance with the CFE Treaty. The president's announcement came after a tense conference in Vienna, where NATO member states refused to ratify the amended version of the document, demanding that Russia fully withdraw its troops from Georgia and Moldova, a commitment given by the late President Boris Yeltsin in Istanbul, in 1999.

The Russian diplomat said NATO countries had been intentionally delaying ratification of the document to keep the newcomers to the alliance, in particular the Baltic states, out of the CFE Treaty.

"In these circumstances, NATO has the possibility of increasing its strength to levels already exceeded the limitations [set by CFE Treaty]," Kislyak said.

According to Russia's Defense Ministry, as a result of its outward expansion in the past decade, NATO has exceeded the limitations on deployed weaponry by at least 6,000 tanks, 10,000 armored vehicles, more than 5,000 artillery pieces and 1,500 aircraft.

Kislyak said Russia was seriously concerned about the presence of three NATO members close to its borders - Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania - that are not party to the CFE Treaty.

"We have a zone comprising three countries near our borders, where no limitations on conventional weaponry are applied, and this is unacceptable," he said.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the three ex-Soviet republics in the Baltic region have not been subject to any obligations under the treaty.

"In the view of our Western partners, they could deploy as many weapons there as their territory allows," Kislyak said, adding that this has not yet happened only because Russia and NATO are currently not in a state of Cold War confrontation.

Speaking about the 1999 amended version of the CFE Treaty, Kislyak said it also needs certain revisions to reflect changes in the balance of power in Europe that have occurred over the past decade.

The deputy foreign minister reiterated that attempts to link the withdrawal of Russian contingents from Georgia and Moldova were politically motivated, as these issues have nothing to do with the treaty.

He blamed the U.S. and NATO for failure to implement the pact, and said the current situation was preventing Russia from ensuring its military stability and security. "We cannot tolerate this any longer," Kislyak said.

However, he said Russia would actively participate in the work of an informal conference on the CFE Treaty scheduled for October 1-2 in Germany.

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