|Russia and the CIS News Digest
CFE Meeting Ends Without Agreement
June 15 (EIRNS)Russian negotiator Anatoli Antonov, chief of security and disarmament at the Russian Foreign Ministry, pronounced today's outcome of an extraordinary conference in Vienna, Austria on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty thoroughly "unsatisfactory." The angry Russian response to NATO's posture during the talks is widely covered in the Russian media today.
The four-day conference of signatories to the CFE was called at Russia's initiative. On the eve of the meeting, the Moscow daily Kommersant reported that the four major Russian objections to the current state of affairs remain the ones cited by President Vladimir Putin in his April 26 annual Message to the Federal Assembly. First, NATO expansion has led to a steep increase in the number of weapons allowed in the area. Second, the USA intends, in violation of the treaty, to place significant forces in Romania and Bulgaria. Third, Western countries are not meeting their obligations to speed up the ratification process. Fourth, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are not participants in the treaty, despite an agreement with NATO that they should be. Russian negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov said that the present treaty, ignoring NATO's eastward expansion, prevents Russia from deploying on its flanks, e.g., in the Transcaucasus region, while the United States is setting up bases in Bulgaria and Romania.
In his April 26 message, Putin laid out the obsolete features of the CFE agreement, signed in 1990 between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and updated in 1999. Several former Warsaw Pact members are now in NATO, including the candidates for new U.S./NATO bases. "Today," said Putin on April 26, "all that this treaty means is that we face restrictions on deploying conventional forces on our own territory." Meanwhile, there are NATO members that have not ratified the CFE and its force reduction measures, demanding that Russia complete the withdrawal of its forces from Georgia and Moldova first. Putin said that that time, "I believe that the right course of action is for Russia to declare a moratorium on its observance of this treaty until such time as all NATO members without exception ratify it and start strictly observing its provisions." If no progress were made through negotiationssuch as the just-ended special conferencePutin said, "I propose that we examine the possibility of suspending our commitments under the CFE."
Subsequently, First Deputy Premier Sergei Ivanov stated several times, that the CFE was effectively under a freeze for the cited reasons. Today, after the conference failed to even issue a joint statement, Antonov said, "The current CFE treaty has for all intents and purposes become meaningless. It's no longer viable." He said that the NATO participants in the meeting had not listened to Russia, had "continued to admonish us," and had given plenty of "fine, polite, elegant lip service." Antonov said, "We're not reaching for the skies. We're not shooting for the moon. We're just trying to re-establish the viability of the treaty."
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Karin Look, according to an AP wire, countered that today's Russian statements about the CFE were "Cold War rhetoric. She called the CFE "the cornerstone of security and stability in Europe," and said that Russia's complaints had been addressed "seriously and cooperatively."
Antonov said Moscow remains open to further talks. But he said Putin would "carefully analyze and ponder" the stalemate and decide what to do next. Some officials in Vienna reportedly were discussing the possibility of holding another conference on the CFE this Autumn.
See this week's InDepth for coverage of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, held June 8-10, "President Putin Calls for New Economic Architecture"; and for the Russian's government's war-avoidance policy, "Russia, Kazakstan Reach New Agreements."