Russia's defense minister is warning that Moscow may reconsider its commitment to a key arms control treaty because the United States will be redeploying military units closer to Russia's borders. In his speech Wednesday, the Russian official also brushed aside Western criticism of a major arms deal with Iran.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says U.S. plans to move troops and equipment to Romania and other East European countries Russia may cause Russia to reconsider its commitment to the Conventional Forces in Europe, or CFE Treaty. However, Mr. Ivanov says Russia won't make any decision until it gets more details as to the strength and size of the redeployments.
On Tuesday, during a stop in Bucharest, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a deal to set up U.S. bases in Romania, the first such agreement the United States has signed with a former Warsaw Pact country.
In his speech, Mr. Ivanov said the new agreement amounts to a reconfiguration of the U.S. military in Europe and could violate the CFE treaty, which limits the number of troops and weapons allowed on the continent.
Russia has ratified an amended version of the treaty, but the U.S. and other NATO countries have not, saying that Moscow must first honor its commitment to withdraw forces from ex-Soviet states of Georgia and Moldova.
Russia says it does plan to withdraw from those nations but at its own pace, and the issue should not be linked to ratification of the CFE treaty. The withdrawal issue has long been a source of friction in U.S. - Russian relations.
Mr. Ivanov also brushed aside criticism from both the U.S. and the European Union of Moscow's sale of sophisticated air defense missiles to Iran.
This contract is completely legitimate and will be carried out in line with international law and Russia's obligations, he says, adding that it doesn't matter if others don't like it.
Russian media report that Moscow will sell Iran up to 30 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems in a deal worth close to a billion dollars.
The missiles are capable of bringing down aircraft at low altitudes. Russia says the missiles are only for defensive purposes.