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Russia's Parliament Suspends Arms Control Treaty Compliance


Russia's lower house of Parliament has voted unanimously to suspend the country's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, considered to be a major element of European security. VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports.

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, voted 418 to 0 to suspend the country's compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

The unanimous decision confirms a suspension plan announced in July by President Vladimir Putin in response to a U.S. proposal to build a missile defense system in Central Europe. Washington says the system is designed as a defense against Iran, but Moscow views it as a threat to Russian security.

The CFE treaty was adopted in 1990 by NATO and the Soviet Union to set limits on conventional weapons such as tanks and aircraft. But the Soviet collapse changed Europe's military equation and Russia now wants to amend the treaty to correspond with its current security needs.

However, NATO countries say Russia must first fulfill its commitment made at the 1999 Istanbul summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to withdraw its military from the former Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia.

Russia says its troops are serving as peacekeepers in those two countries.

In remarks to lawmakers, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kisliak brought up the Baltic countries as another of Russia's concerns.

With the Baltic countries' accession to NATO, says Kisliak, the issue of a gray zone has emerged on our borders. The problem is that having left the Soviet Union, the Baltic States are not covered by any arms-control regime.

Russian officials say the Duma decision can be reversed if NATO countries ratify an amended version of the CFE treaty.

Some Western countries are concerned that Russian withdrawal from the current CFE treaty could raise tensions and lead to a new arms race.

But a military analyst in Moscow, Pavel Felgenhauer, says an arms race is unlikely because - in his view - Russian military industries are in no condition to produce large quantities of weapons. Felgenhauer is concerned that CFE suspension will lead to greater secrecy in Europe.

The analyst says that inspections, advance warnings, announcements and everything that goes into fostering transparency from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains will no longer exist.

The vote by the State Duma to suspend the CFE Treaty must be approved by the upper house of Parliament and signed by President Putin. Both are expected to do so. The suspension is scheduled to go into effect December 12, but President Putin is also being given the authority to reverse the decision.