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Russia's Upper House Backs Suspension Of CFE Treaty

The treaty limits the deployment of tanks and other conventional weapons (file) (AFP) November 16, 2007 -- Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, has voted unanimously to suspend Moscow's participation in the Conventional Forces In Europe (CFE) Treaty, a Cold War-era agreement that limits the deployment of tanks and other conventional weapons west of the Urals.

The bill, which was passed earlier this month by the State Duma, effectively confirms a presidential decree issued in July that announced Russia’s intention to suspend its participation in the treaty after a 150-day waiting period.

Russia's chief of the General Staff, Yury Baluyevsky, addressing lawmakers during today's Federation Council session, described the decision to suspend participation in the treaty as of December 12 as a correct and logical step from Moscow's point of view.

He also said that NATO, which negotiated the arms agreement with the former Warsaw Pact, also clearly understood the reasoning behind Russia's decision.

'No Longer Relevant'

The CFE Treaty took 10 years to negotiate, and came into force in 1992. It 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.

Russia believes that the Cold War-era treaty is no longer relevant, and has criticized the failure of NATO states to ratify the treaty's successor. Following the breakup of the Eastern bloc, a new agreement, dubbed the CFE II, was negotiated in Istanbul in 1999 to reflect the new post-Soviet landscape by setting arms limits for individual countries.

NATO states comply with the CFE II's provisions, but the military alliance has made clear that it will not ratify it until Moscow complies with commitments it made in Istanbul to remove its troops and equipment from Georgia and Moldova.

That has been the main point of disagreement between Moscow and NATO ever since. And 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, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree on July 14 that Moscow would be suspending its participation in the original CFE Treaty.

The State Duma voted unanimously on November 7 to support Putin's decree, and the legislation was then passed on to the Federation Council.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after today's vote that Russia sought to "restore strategic stability and the military and political balance on the European continent."

"We expect a reaction that would allow putting arms controls in Europe in order," he told journalists in Moscow. "This can be done only by adopting an agreement on adjusting the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and, in general, by modernizing what is a hopelessly outdated [arms control] regime."

Lavrov also made clear that the move should be considered a suspension, and not what he called the "extreme measure" of withdrawal.

Conventional Forces In Europe

Conventional Forces In Europe

A Russian soldier watching Russian armaments leave Georgia in 2006 (epa)

AGREEMENTS ON CONVENTIONAL FORCES IN EUROPE. The CFE treaty is an arms-control agreement originally negotiated between NATO and the Warsaw Pact as a guarantor of European security in Europe in the waning days of the Cold War.

  • The original CFE Treaty took 10 years to negotiate, was signed by 30 states ** in November 1990, and came in to force in 1992. Its aim: to reduce stockpiles of conventional armaments between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural mountains.

The blocs limited themselves to:

20,000 tanks
20,000 artillery pieces
30,000 armored combat vehicles
6,800 combat aircraft
2,000 attack helicopters

  • The CFE-1A, a 1992 addendum, has resulted in the withdrawal of more than 700,000 troops from Europe since 2001 and the destruction of 50,000 pieces of military equipment by 1995.
  • The CFE-II, negotiated in Istanbul in 1999, reflected the new, post-Soviet landscape by setting arms limits for individual countries, rather than zones. The agreement aided NATO's expansion efforts by allowing signatory states to allow foreign forces on their soil.
  • NATO states have not ratified the CFE-II due to concerns over Russia's failure to comply with commitments it made during the negotiations. Under the Istanbul Accords, Russia pledged to set a timetable for closing its remaining military bases in Georgia and to completely withdraw its forces from Moldova.
  • The CFE-II will come into force once ratified by all 30 CFE signatories. Thus far only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine have ratified the CFE-II.
  • In ratifying the agreement in June 2004, Russia called on the signatories not to delay in ratifying the document. Russia expressed concern that Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, as nonmembers of the treaty, could possibly harbor NATO troops near its western border.

(** Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. )