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Arms Treaty Exit

DW staff (sp)October 29, 2007

Germany and France urged Russia on Monday, Oct. 29, to reconsider plans to suspend compliance with a key 1990 arms control treaty, saying the move risked touching off a new arms race.

Russian soldiers
Putin has increased arms spending to restore Russia's military capabilityImage: AP

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, said all European states would lose out if Russia went ahead with its plans to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty (CFE).

"The stated plan by Russia to scrap its participation in the CFE treaty is a matter of concern for us," the two wrote in a joint article published in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and France's le Figaro. "An erosion of the CFE treaty could spark new arms races and create new conflicts."

CFE exit linked to US missile shield plans

The CFE treaty, signed in 1990 between the then-22 NATO member states and the Warsaw Pact, limits the deployment and storage of military aircraft, tanks, artillery and other heavy non-nuclear weapons from Russia's Ural mountains to the Atlantic.

Vladimir Putin
Putin is playing hardball with the USImage: AP

In July of this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree pulling Russia out of the treaty, considered a centerpiece of international disarmament efforts. Russian's formal withdrawal will come into effect on December 12.

US plans to station missile defense stations in Poland and the Czech Republic are widely regarded as being the immediate trigger for Moscow's CFE withdrawal.

In 1999, taking heed of the changes since the initial signing in 1991, the treaty was adapted to accommodate post-Cold War realities. Russia at the time pledged to withdraw troops and ammunition from the breakaway provinces of Transnistria in Moldova and South Ossetia in Georgia.

NATO's member states refuse to ratify the adapted treaty unless Moscow fulfils the commitments, while Russia resents this linkage.

Ministers warn of new "Cold War"

On Monday, Steinmeier and Kouchner called the CFE treaty an "anchor of stability" for European security.

"We appeal to the Russian government to refrain from the planned suspension and to use the path of negotiation in order to protect its legitimate interests," they wrote in the article.

Bernard Kouchner
Kouchner has joined Steinmeier in urging Russia to drop its treaty exit plansImage: AP

The two foreign ministers also warned of "the specter of a new Cold War."

"A relapse into old conflict patterns should be avoided. That calls for flexibility on all sides," they wrote.

Russia has also been calling for changes to another landmark arms control treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in 1987, which bars both Russia and the United States from deploying intermediate-range missiles.

Russia says that leaves it unable to adequately protect itself from countries on its eastern and southern borders, including Iran, India and Pakistan, which have growing arsenals.

Moscow has also called the INF treaty a Cold War relic because it did not include countries outside of Europe that have since built up their military weaponry.