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Duma Votes To Suspend Participation In Key Arms Treaty

By Ron Synovitz

November 7, 2007 -- Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, voted unanimously today to suspend Moscow's participation in the Conventional Forces In Europe (CFE) Treaty.

The bill, which now goes to the upper house, can be seen as confirmation of a decree issued by President Vladimir Putin in July, which announced Russia’s halt to its participation in the treaty after a 150-day mandatory waiting period.

The CFE Treaty took NATO and the former Warsaw Pact 10 years to negotiate.

It came into force in 1992 and set limits on the deployment between the Atlantic Ocean and the Urals of conventional heavy weaponry such as tanks, artillery, and aircraft, and provided for regular mutual inspections.

Following the breakup of the Eastern bloc, a revised treaty, CFE II, was negotiated in Istanbul in 1999 to reflect the new post-Soviet landscape by setting arms limits for individual countries.

However, only four countries -- Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine -- ratified the revised treaty. NATO countries did not ratify it, saying they would do so only after Russia complied with commitments it made to remove its troops and equipment from Georgia and Moldova.

That has been the main point of disagreement between Moscow and NATO ever since.

Following the failure to reach agreement on this and other issues -- particularly on the planned deployment of a U.S. missile-defense shield in Central Europe -- Putin issued a decree on July 14 stating that Moscow would suspend its participation in the original CFE Treaty.

Today, following the Duma vote, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained that Moscow is not repealing its ratification of the amended CFE Treaty. "We are only suspending our participation in a treaty that is hopelessly out of date," Lavrov said. "And we are waiting for all other participants of the CFE Treaty to ratify the amended version so it can be implemented and modernized with the consideration of new realities."

There was no immediate reaction from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Although it is not an OSCE agreement, the CFE Treaty was negotiated in parallel with confidence-building talks among participating states of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the forerunner to the OSCE.

According to Putin’s original decree, Russia’s suspension of its participation in the CFE Treaty should come into force next month.

Until now, NATO has said its members will continue to abide by the treaty’s provisions, even though its members will not ratify it until Moscow pulls its troops out of Georgia and Moldova.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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