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Estonia considers joining adapted CFE before Russian moratorium

RIA Novosti

15/11/2007 16:21 TALLINN, November 15 (RIA Novosti) - Estonia's government decided on Thursday to set up a commission on joining the adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty before Russia's moratorium comes in force on December 12.

The modified version of the arms control treaty, which Western countries consider a cornerstone of European security, was signed on November 19, 1999 by all NATO countries except Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia.

The governmental commission will assess the possibility of joining the adapted CFE treaty, conduct consultations with NATO partners, and formulate Estonia's position on the issue ahead of the Russian moratorium.

The original CFE treaty was signed in December 1990 by 16 NATO countries and six Warsaw Pact members. The document set equal limits for the sides on five categories of conventional weapons - battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters.

Moscow considers the original CFE Treaty to be outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion. Only Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan have ratified the adapted version of the document.

NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Moldova and Georgia as a condition for their ratification of the modified CFE Treaty. New members cannot join the treaty until it is ratified by all current members.

The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, voted on November 7 in favor of President Vladimir Putin's bill to impose a unilateral moratorium on the CFE Treaty.

The moratorium is set to come into effect on December 12, after final approval of the upper house of parliament, expected to vote on the issue on November 16, and of the president.

Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the Russian General Staff, said that during parliamentary hearings on the issue that the Baltic States remained "grey zones" not covered by arms control agreements.

He also said the current treaty favored the U.S. and NATO because it allowed them to exceed national and territorial ceilings on the number of armaments, and monitor Russian troops in the European part of Russia.

Baluyevsky reiterated that NATO had substantially exceeded armament levels permitted by the CFE for NATO members - by 6,000 tanks, some 10,000 armored vehicles, over 5,000 artillery items and some 1,500 combat planes.

He insisted that the treaty was discriminatory and that any possible future dismantling of it would not affect Russia as much as it would affect Europe.

"Russia has a sufficient arsenal of forces, means, and resources to ensure its security and national interests," Baluyevsky said.

However, according to the Kremlin, the upcoming moratorium does not stipulate that Russia will permanently pull out of the CFE Treaty, although it temporarily "freezes" Russia's implementation and serves as a warning that the country will protect its national interests.

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