NATO, West Regret Moscow's Decision to Pull out of CFE Treaty

NATO regrets Moscow's decision to suspend its commitments under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the alliance's spokesperson said Saturday.

The moratorium on honoring the CFE treaty until NATO ratifies an upgraded CFE treaty was decreed Saturday by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

James Appathurai said: "NATO considers this treaty to be an important cornerstone of European security," he said describing Russia's move as "a disappointing step in the wrong direction."

The West's reaction

The British Foreign Office was quoted as saying in a statement it regretted Russia's decision and expected a resumption of dialogue on the issue.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is making a tour of the Baltic states, expressed "deep concern" over the Russian moratorium and said he hoped Moscow would not "go beyond" the decision, which left room for a solution.

The "deep concern" was shared by the French Foreign Ministry, whose spokeswoman Pascale Andreani described Russia's move as "contradicting the dialogue and mutual understanding we have been attempting to maintain in Europe, as well as between NATO and Russia."

The Foreign Ministry in Poland, which has not yet honored its Istanbul commitments as part of the CFE, said it was "astonished" by Russia's moratorium on the treaty and related international agreements.

"Poland is astonished by the Kremlin decision," Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told a RIA Novosti correspondent adding that Warsaw would like to hold expert negotiations on the issue.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry also expressed its regrets. However, Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mandzhaladze said Russia itself had not yet honored its CFE-related commitments to withdraw its peacekeeping contingent from Gudauta, which could be a reason why NATO's members have not yet ratified the treaty's redrafted version of 1999.

Kote Gabashvili, head of the external contacts committee at the Georgian parliament, said although Russia's decision to pull out of the treaty concerned Georgia indirectly, it could be most opposed by Poland, Germany, the Baltic states and Ukraine and pose a threat to European security.

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet labeled the news as "extremely bad" and said he hoped it would not lead to a new arms race.

Russia's CFE suspension measures

Russia will consider the CFE treaty and related international agreements frozen 150 days after all participants in the CFE treaty have received notices from the country.

"Upon President Putin's instructions the Russian Foreign Ministry will circulate relevant notices July 14, 2007," the body said in a statement.

Among other things, Russia will not comply with any conventional arms limits, the Foreign Ministry said, however, the amount of Russian weapons will depend on the situation in the military and political spheres. The Foreign Ministry added that the moratorium "does not imply that we are shutting the doors to further dialogue."

Problematic CFE treaty

Russia has repeatedly expressed concern about the emergence of new NATO bases close to its borders and the bloc's reluctance to ratify an updated CFE Treaty, which has regulated the deployment of troops and weapons on the continent since the Cold War.

Moscow considers the original CFE treaty signed in 1990 to reduce conventional military forces on the continent outdated since it does not reflect either the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact or the breakup of the Soviet Union. The CFE treaty was amended in 1999 in Istanbul in line with post-Cold War realities, and has so far only been ratified by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.

Moldova and Georgia have refused to ratify the CFE until Russia withdraws its troops from their territory. Russia maintains a peacekeeping contingent in Georgia and a battalion guarding ex-Soviet ammunition depots in self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr in Moldova.

NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Transdnestr and other post-Soviet regions as a condition for their ratifying the CFE treaty. NATO's reluctance to ratify the re-drafted pact is a key source of tension between Russia and the Western security alliance.

The Russian president first proposed imposing a moratorium on the CFE treaty in his state of the nation address in April. Putin said that Russia had been honoring all commitments under the CFE treaty ever since it ratified it.

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