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International Disappointment

Article compiled based on wire reports (nda)July 15, 2007

The United States and NATO, along with several European states, expressed disappointment Saturday over Russia's suspension of its participation in a key arms control treaty.

The CFE Treaty monitored the movement and deployment of troops in EuropeImage: AP

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also expressed its concern, and called on all signatories to the treaty to look at the underlying causes of Russia's decision.

"We're disappointed Russia has suspended its participation for now," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe in a statement. "But we'll continue to have discussions with them in the coming months on the best way to proceed in this area, that is in the interest of all parties involved and provides for security in Europe," he added.

The Kremlin announced Saturday that President Vladimir Putin had signed a decree suspending Russia's application of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty.

The CFE treaty, which came into force in 1992, is one of the key post-Cold War security accords in Europe. It limits deployments of tanks and troops in countries belonging to NATO and the former Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe and lays down measures aimed at confidence-building, transparency and cooperation between member states.

Russia had threatened several times to pull out of the treaty amid unease over US military encroachment into territory once part of the former Soviet Union. Moscow particularly objected to US plans to place elements of a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The US State Department said it was "disappointed" by Russia's announcement. Washington "remains committed to CFE's full implementation ... [and looks] forward to continuing to engage with Russia and other parties to create the conditions necessary for ratification by all 30 CFE states," a statement said.

NATO laments a "step back"

Logo der NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
NATO considers the treaty to be the bedrock of security

NATO spokesman James Appathurai also expressed disappointment. "It's a disappointing move, a step backwards. NATO considers this treaty to be an important foundation of European security and stability," he said.

The OSCE expressed its concern through Spain, which currently holds the presidency of the 56-member organization.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos called on all signatory states "to renew their efforts to examine the underlying difficulties swiftly and earnestly and work together to overcome them."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier meanwhile expressed his "great concern."

Speaking in Lithuania during a tour of the Baltic countries, he said the treaty was a central element in the international architecture of disarmament. "That is why we obviously regard Moscow's announcement with great concern."

"In the next few days we will see what concrete measures will be taken because of this announcement," he said, adding that he hoped Russia would go no further than suspend the treaty.

Poles see no immediate consequences

Raketenabwehr in Japan
Poland could be one of the main site in the US missile shieldImage: AP

Polish foreign ministry spokesman Robert Szaniawski said Warsaw regretted the decision. But he added: "Taking previous announcements into account, this decision is not a surprise and doesn't have immediate consequences."

Warsaw hoped the decision did not mean "a future denunciation of the treaty" by Putin, given Russia's importance for European and world security.

Romania's foreign ministry also expressed its "disappointment."

"Romania considers that the CFE treaty represents a basis for European security," the ministry said, adding that it hoped "that dialogue between the states participating in the CFE treaty will be maintained and that all of the states will continue to respect their obligations within the framework of the treaty."

Finnish Defense Minister Jyri Hakamies Sunday said the decision was negative from a Finnish point of view. In remarks to Finnish broadcaster YLE, Hakamies said tension between the major powers was never good but added the announcement by Moscow should not be over-emphasized.

In Oslo, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store Saturday expressed "regret" over the announcement by Moscow.

In a statement, Store said the CFE treaty "has been an important instrument that has contributed to security and stability in Europe since it came into force in 1992." Norway is a member of NATO.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, currently on holiday, was quoted as saying that the consequences of the Russian announcement needed to be analyzed but could impact the mutual information and inspection system.

Gorbachev suggests move is to "spark dialogue"

Gorbatschow in Bremen Festakt zum 75. Geburtstag von Gorbatschow
Gorbachev believes the US and NATO forced Russia's handImage: AP

Meanwhile Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Sunday that Russia's decision was taken in order to spark dialogue.

"The decision of the head of state was an urgent call... to constructive dialogue and the implementation of the treaty," Interfax news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.

The decision was an "entirely justified response to the question and not an emotional outburst," said Gorbachev, who signed the original treaty in 1990.

He cited the American anti-missile shield and NATO members' failure to ratify an updated version of the treaty as justifications for the suspension.

"It would have been completely incomprehensible if Russia was to continue fulfilling the treaty when the other sides had not even ratified it," said Gorbachev.