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December 1, 2007
Putin Withdraws from CFE Treaty
Vladimir Putin, in advance of parliamentary elections where he has virtually guaranteed himself an overwhelming victory, has withdrawn Russia from one of the cornerstones of post-cold war diplomacy; the Conventional Armed Froces in Europe (CFE) treaty that limited conventional weapons and forces that both sides could deploy in Europe:
Senior Russian generals have said there will be no immediate deployment of military hardware to Russia's western borders following the suspension. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Russia is ready to discuss implementing an amended version of the treaty. Putin is using as an excuse our decision to deploy anti-missile batteries in Eastern Europe. But the real reason is that Putin wants to show the Russian people that their country will not kowtow to NATO or the United States and that Russia will strike an independent course in foreign policy.
The United States, the European Union and NATO had urged Russia not to suspend the treaty, which was regarded in Western Europe as a cornerstone agreement for maintaining security on the continent.
"NATO regrets this decision," spokesman James Appathurai said in a statement. "We hope that the Russian Federation will not take any unilateral actions that undermine the integrity of the Treaty. Allies are looking forward to discussing the issue
Does this mean that a new cold war is brewing on the horizon? Russian conventional forces are still in a pitiful state, the result of a decade of neglect. And Putin would not give up the trade and technology transfers he is receiving from the west lightly.
But this almost certainly means even less cooperation from Russia on such international issues as Iranian nukes, the Balkans, and the Middle East. By opting out of the CFE, Putin is signaling that the west will have to deal with him as an equal and that there will be a price for cooperation in the future.