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Response To Putin On CFE Treaty

  • July 16th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

nato-flags-ld1.jpgHeads of the Western alliance made a restrained initial response to news that Russia is suspending its adherence to the CFE treaty – Conventional Forces in Europe.

Lee Duffield reports that the pact was a product of the final phases of the Cold War, when the former Soviet Union was in a frame of mind for making concessions.


Locked in difficult, bit by bit negotiations with the Soviet Union over medium or short range missiles, allied negotiators in the late 1980s suddenly found themselves on an easier, even baffling stretch.

Mikhail Gorbachev as the architect of liberalisation – glasnost, and perestroika; openness, and renovation of the Soviet system — wanted rapprochement with the West and an easing of the crushing costs of a permanent military stand-off.

The process was brought forward at Ministerial level, at a series of encounters at different locations in Europe, at one time Geneva, another Paris.

Gorbachev’s Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, began to bring out concessions; his United States counterpart, the Secretary of State George Schultz, might show himself taken aback on occasions; the agreements began to come quickly.

George Bush senior as the American President saw the wrapping up of Cold War hostilities as the opportunity to take a “peace dividend”, with the ending of an arms race.

Political and economic collapse in the Soviet Union after that left the Russian state in no position to bargain; unable to contest any of the undertakings which the Soviet Union gave, and which it, as the chief successor, might want to reconsider.


Vladimir Putin as President of Russia has objected to the process in which his country’s former Warsaw pact allies, and even the three former Soviet republics in the Baltic, were then taken in as members by NATO, the Cold War adversary.

The vision of an encroachment into a former Russian domain has helped to aggravate several differences with the West: the arguments over trade with Poland and other former allies; sensitivity over the relocation of a Soviet military cemetery in Estonia; interruptions to the flow of oil exports to Western Europe in Winter; Western criticism of the Moscow authorities over violations of order and human rights; and Russia’s support for Serbia, in its opposition to independence plans for the province of Kosovo.

Russia today, no longer in a state of collapse, receiving healthy export income from sales of oil, has given up on the idea of making concessions.


The issue of the day is the planned location of American anti-missile defences in the two former Warsaw Pact countries, Poland and the Czech republic — in at least one case actually at the site of a former Soviet military installation.

Putin has spoken on this often in public, and directly with President George Bush and other leaders of the North Atlantic alliance.

He sees it as further tipping an imbalance that was established when a weakened Soviet state signed-off on Conventional Forces in Europe, in 1990.

It apparently makes no difference that the missile defences in question are for protection of the United States against missile attack, not from Russia, but a possible “rogue state” – such as a nuclear armed Iran.


In Brussels this weekend a NATO spokesperson (14.7.07) “regretted” the announcement by Mr Putin that he had issued a decree, to suspend observance of the CFE accord – similar in tone to a brief comment from the White House.

NATO still considered the treaty to be ” important” and “a cornerstone of European security”, the spokesman said.

It was a “disappointing step in the wrong direction,” he told the BBC.

Mr Putin has said that security is at risk and exceptional circumstances have arisen; the suspension would come into effect late this year.

The CFE treaty limits the deployment of non-nuclear weapons between the Atlantic Ocean and the Urals mountains.


The NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, was questioned (26.10.06) about the enlargement of the alliance, to take in the Eastern European states, after he had a meeting with President Putin in Moscow.

It was shortly before the last summit of NATO leaders in Latvia, one of the former Soviet states gone over to the “other side”.

He said the Russian Federation had entered a partnership and cooperation agreement with the 26- member alliance.

” NATO’s enlargement up until now has brought security and stability, so I do not see and cannot see anything negative about NATO’s enlargement,” he told journalists.

“You know NATO’s enlargement is a performance-based process …”

Question: “Can you tell me whether NATO is ready to provide other guarantees, besides verbal guarantees, that the Russian Federation will be protected, taking into account that the former defence ring consisting of the countries of former Warsaw Pact and former U.S.S.R. Republic is now vanished? So how can you guarantee that?”

“I do not share the assumption which is underlying your question,” said the Secretary General.

“Do not forget that the NATO enlargement we have seen in its different stages, lastly in 2004, has made those nations you mentioned, explicitly or implicitly, also partners of the Russian Federation.

“This NATO-Russia partnership, do not forget, is more than just a bureaucratic difference.

“It’s not a 26 plus one partnership; it’s a 27 partnership, which means that the Russian Federation participates, as it is absolutely right, on an equal footing.”

Words of reassurance; evidently not reassuring enough in mid-2007.

Picture: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), headquarters at Brussels.