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Russia no longer bound by CFE treaty

RIA Novosti

12/12/2007 12:13 (Recasts para 5, adds background, details, quotes in paras 4, 6-9, 14-15, 18-21)

MOSCOW, December 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's unilateral moratorium on a major arms reductions treaty in Europe came into force immediately after midnight on Wednesday.

The law to freeze Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty has been unanimously approved by parliament and signed on November 30 by President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow considers the original CFE treaty, signed in December 1990 by 16 NATO countries and six Warsaw Pact members, to be discriminatory and outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

Russia is particularly concerned about the so called flank limitations under the CFE treaty, which essentially prohibit Moscow from reinforcing its military contingents in the North Caucasus military district and in Russia's northwest Leningrad military district.

Russia has been pushing for a new adapted version of the CFE, which sets specific 'ceilings' for each participant of the treaty on five categories of conventional weapons - battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters.

However, NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Moldova and Georgia as a condition for their ratification of the modified document. As a result, only Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan have so far ratified the adapted document.

Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the Russian General Staff, earlier said that the current treaty favored the U.S. and NATO because it allowed them to exceed national and territorial limitations on the number of armaments, freely deploy and re-deploy military contingents anywhere in Europe, and monitor Russian troops in the European part of Russia.

According to Russia's Defense Ministry, NATO has 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 1,500 combat planes.

Baluyevsky also said at the time that the Baltic States, which had not signed the adapted document, remained "grey zones" not covered by arms control agreements.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement early on Wednesday that under these unfair conditions Russia "had no alternative but to suspend its CFE membership to protect its interests in the sphere of military security."

The ministry said Russia would not immediately increase the strength of its Armed Forces along its borders, but would not hesitate to do so if the need arises.

"During the temporary suspension of Russia's participation in the CFE treaty, the country will not be bound by limitations [under the treaty], including by 'flank limitations', on the number of deployed conventional weapons," the statement said.

"At the same time, we do not have plans to amass and concentrate these weapons on the borders with our neighbors," the document said.

In practical terms, Moscow will not share with NATO information specified by the provisions of the CFE treaty, and will not allow any NATO military inspections on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The ministry also said that Russia could resume its participation in the treaty shortly after NATO countries ratify the adapted version of the CFE treaty, signed on November 19, 1999 by all NATO countries except Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia.

The moratorium "is justified politically, is legitimate, and allows Russia to resume its participation in the treaty by presidential decree if our [NATO] partners show their political will [by ratifying the adapted document]," the statement said.

The ministry reiterated that Russia proposed to NATO concrete measures to revive the arms control treaty, which the West considers the cornerstone of European security. They include agreements on how to compensate for misbalances in the number of deployed weaponry, which emerged after NATO's expansion, and the abolishment of the so called flank limitations on the territory of Russia.

In addition, Moscow insists that new NATO members - Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia - must sign the treaty and immediately ratify it together with other NATO countries.

"We are waiting for a constructive response from NATO to these proposals," the Foreign Ministry said, stressing the need for productive dialogue on the issue with respect to mutual concerns.

"Russia is ready to continue a result-oriented dialogue on the CFE even during the current moratorium," the statement concluded.

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