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Russian commentators see CFE Treaty suspension as impetus for new negotiations
July 14, 2007

Russia's decision to suspend its involvement in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) has been met with optimism by Russian commentators. The suspension is seen as justified because of other member countries' failure to comply with the treaty, and there is hope among commentators that this decision will stimulate new negotiations on the CFE Treaty and on disarmament in Europe in general. The decision was criticized by one analyst as being dubious from a legal point of view.

"No Cold War"

Analyst Ivan Safranchuk of the Centre for Defence Information was quoted in an Interfax news agency report on 14 July as saying that there would be no new Cold War following the decision, but that some European countries may change their views on the USA's plans to deploy missile defence components in Europe

"Relations with Europe are important to Russia at both a political and economical level, to the extent that Russia does not need a Cold War," Safranchuk was quoted as saying. He also said that this move by Russia could "push Europe towards a more active position on missile defence".

"The USA may try to profit from the ghosts of the Cold War, because any worsening of Russian-European relations pushes Europe towards the USA," he said. Safranchuk also pointed out that Russia's move could be criticized from a legal point of view. "The way it has been legally formulated may cause a lot of criticism: it is not quite clear how this conforms with international law," he was quoted as saying, adding that the decision should have been formulated as a law approved by parliament rather than as a presidential decree.

When asked how the West would react, Safranchuk predicted "criticism, criticism and even more criticism" from other CFE Treaty member states. Russia can stop inspections and mandatory reporting

The head of the Centre for Military Political Analysis Anatoliy Tsyganyuk said in an Ekho Moskvy radio news broadcast at 0900 gmt that the suspension allows Russia to reject foreign military inspections and to stop reporting on troop movements and exercises.

"From now on foreign military delegations will not be allowed to enter Russian territory at their own request," Tsyganyuk said.

"The second and most important thing is that from now on Russia is not going to inform the CFE Treaty participants, particularly NATO countries, about all troop movements on its territory and all exercises it carries out," he added.

Suspension to prevent new Operation Barbarossa

The leader of Russia's Liberal-Democratic Party (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, hailed the decision in an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio during the 0900 gmt news broadcast.

"We signed the document. We ratified it. We brought our troops out of everywhere: we chased all our tank armies out of the Ural mountains; we closed some missile bases; we removed our military bases from Cuba and Vietnam. And in response, Western countries haven't even ratified the agreement and they aren't reducing the number of troops," he said.

"Therefore, we consider this step completely sensible and timely. It shows that Russia acts on the basis of its own national interests, and that we will not allow 22 July to take place ever again," he added, referring to Operation Barbarossa, when Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union during World War II.

New and more constructive negotiation on CFE Treaty

Analyst and Public Chamber member Vyacheslav Nikonov believes that the decision will lead to "new and more constructive" negotiations on the CFE Treaty, according to a RIA Novosti news agency report of 0940 gmt. He also said that the decision had been provoked by the fact that "not one of its (Russia's) demands (regarding the treaty) has been taken into account".

CFE Treaty became "load of nonsense" after NATO expansion

Ruslan Pukhov, the director of the Centre for Strategy and Technology Analysis, said on Ekho Moskvy radio at 1000 gmt that it was natural for countries to leave treaties which no longer benefit them.

"The CFE Treaty was biased from the very beginning, and not beneficial to Russia or the Soviet Union. Since NATO expansion the agreement has simply become a load of nonsense, which we clung on to for some reason during President Yeltsin's whole time (in office) and during President Putin's first term," he said.

"In general it is completely logical that countries leave agreements. It is enough to remember that George Bush left the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, when it was believed that the agreement was not beneficial for the USA right then and there," he went on to say.

"It is the same with the CFE Treaty. The CFE Treaty ties our hands and introduces limitations along our flanks. The situation, especially in Eastern Europe, is not favourable for us from a military point of view. So Russia is trying to minimize its participation in international agreements and regimes which were forced upon it when it was weak," he concluded.