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Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Withdrawal from CFE Treaty

The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation expressed concern today over Russia’s intention to withdraw from the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. The Center warned that missed opportunities by the U.S. to stave off escalating tensions between Russia and the United States could have serious implications for international security.

The Kremlin recently announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree freezing participation in the CFE Treaty, citing ”extraordinary circumstances…that affect the security of the Russian Federation and require immediate measures.” The Treaty stipulates that withdrawal can become effective only after a 150-day period following a country’s notification of its intention to withdraw.

Lt. General Robert Gard (USA, ret.), Senior Military Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, warned: “U.S. action to emplace missile defenses near Russia’s borders goes against U.S. promises when NATO expanded in the 1990s. Lack of cooperation with Russia to allay its concerns about plans for permanent U.S. military bases at Russia’s borders is already resulting in tangible costs. Russia’s July 14 announcement of its intent to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty signals once again that it will respond to perceived provocations by the United States.”

Gard added: “Deploying a European component of missile defense is creating dangerous instability while failing to address more likely threats to U.S. and European security. It is time for more measured and consultative U.S. leadership that takes into account commitments to achieve long-term effective security rather than squandering our resources and infuriating the Russians.”

Russia has expressed opposition to U.S. plans to deploy missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland, as it perceives that these capabilities are intrusive in former Warsaw Pact countries and are directed against Russia. The United States has maintained that these defenses are designed to counter a potential missile threat from Iran.

Leonor Tomero, Director for Nuclear Non-Proliferation, noted: “The current disagreement over European missile defense must be seen in the context of ongoing deterioration of the established rules of the U.S.-Russian strategic dialogue, including the Bush Administration’s intent to allow the expiration of the stabilizing verification provisions of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in 2009.”

Russia’s intended withdrawal from the CFE Treaty comes only two weeks after the Bush-Putin summit at Kennebunkport, Maine, which had been intended to mend a growing rift between the two leaders. Tomero commented “The recent lobster summit displayed the niceties of diplomacy but apparently failed to build an effective foundation for improving the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Russia. Its substantive failure should remind the Bush Administration that not even the best day fishing will make a foreign leader forget the interests of those he represents.”

The CFE Treaty provided significant measures for enhancing stability by establishing limitations on countries’ deployment of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, attack helicopters, and combat aircraft. It also allows for NATO inspections of Russian military sites.

The CFE Treaty was signed by Russia and NATO countries at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia had ratified the 1999 amendments requiring withdrawal of its forces from the former Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia and had begun to withdraw its forces. The U.S. and other NATO members have refused to commit to the revised treaty until Russia’s withdrawal is complete.

Release online: http://www.armscontrolcenter.org/audience/media/withdrawal_from_cfe_signals_tensions/

Founded in 1980, the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation is a leading advocate for prudent measures to prevent the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Visit the Center online: http://www.armscontrolcenter.org

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