December 1, 2007

Putin Withdraws From Treaty

Vladimir Putin continues his saber-rattling with his withdrawal from the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. He signed into law the suspension, which will take place on December 12th, that will throw out the final Cold War treaty that kept Europe and Russia from flooding the borders with heavy arms and allowed the decades-long standoff to wind down peacefully. Putin says he wants a new treaty, one that allows Russia to defend itself:

President Vladimir Putin signed a law Friday suspending Russia's participation in a major conventional arms treaty that had limited NATO and Russian military deployments in Europe.

The Kremlin had been threatening all year to scrap the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, and on Friday Putin signed a law passed this month by parliament providing for that step. The suspension takes effect Dec. 12.

Putin's decision comes two days before parliamentary elections and after a campaign marked by harsh anti-Western rhetoric and claims that the president has restored Russia's ability to stand up to the United States and the NATO alliance.

Signed in the last days of the Cold War, the accord limited the number of tanks, combat aircraft and attack helicopters, as well as artillery pieces and other heavy weapons, that NATO and the Soviet Union could deploy in Western Europe and the western part of Russia.

Senior Russian generals have said there will be no immediate deployment of military hardware to Russia's western borders following the suspension. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Russia is ready to discuss implementing an amended version of the treaty.

Putin says he withdrew from the CFE partly because of US plans to install anti-missile systems in eastern Europe. They also want the US and other NATO members to ratify amendments made to the CFE in 1999, which the Western nations has so far not done. Lavrov's offer pertains to the amended version of CFE, which Russia sees as beneficial to its security.

NATO, however, sees it differently. The amendments hinged on Russian withdrawal from Georgia and Moldova. Russia only now has begun withdrawal from Georgia eight years later, and still doesn't plan on pulling out of Moldova. Until Russia agrees to remove its troops from former Soviet republics, NATO countries do not want to offer Russia favorable security terms.

With the Russian elections about to begin, Putin undoubtedly intends this to be a show of force to the US and NATO. He wants to ride anti-Western feeling -- and stoke it up as well -- all the way into an unassailable parliamentary majority that will then bolster his grip on power. The CFE is just the first diplomatic victim of the Putin power grab.


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