November 20th, 2007 14:26 EST
Russia could rethink freeze on European arms treaty
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia could rethink its moratorium on the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, if other countries ratify an amended version. Putin said Russia had been forced to suspend participation because of NATO "muscle-flexing".
The Russian leader made the remarks during a high-level meeting with military top brass on the future of the armed forces.
The key topic of the President's address was Russia's relations with NATO.
Putin stressed that “certain countries, including NATO member states, are developing military resources near Russia’s borders”.
“Unfortunately, Russia’s suggestions, such as the creation of a common anti-missile defence system with equal access for all members, have not been taken up. We definitely cannot afford to remain indifferent obvious flexing of muscle,” Putin said.
Differences between the two sides continue to add up. They include disagreements over NATO's eastward expansion, the status of Kosovo, and the U.S. missile defence system in Europe.
Washington insists the shield is designed to protect the West from states like Iran. Russia is not convinced by this argument. It says the whole enterprise is a threat to Russian security.
The Russian leader said security concerns also led to the suspension of the country’s participation in the CFE Treaty:
"I must say we were forced to do that. We are not going to have unilateral commitments. Our partners have not ratified the adapted treaty or even signed it. Shall we wait years for it to happen? Russia will consider resuming its membership of the CFE treaty if our partners join the adapted treaty and begin to implement it," Vladimir Putin said.
This document is one of many arms-control agreements that, according to Moscow, do not respond to geopolitical realities.
Another is the Intermediate Nuclear Forces, or INF treaty. Signed in 1987 between the USSR and the U.S., which banned short and medium-range nuclear weapons. Russian officials have since made it clear they were considering pulling out of it.
The President also told officials that Russia's strategic nuclear forces play a key role in the country's security. "One of the major tasks is to boost the combat readiness of Russian strategic nuclear forces. They must be capable of prompt and adequate response to any aggressor," he said.
The President also noted that the development of the Russian army should become more intense.
The President meets with the Council of senior military officers every year. This is the last time Putin addresses the Council as Supreme Commander-in-Chief before elections. And he let the military staff know he's not going slacken the pace. He reprimanded officials for failing to carry forward some projects. He reminded them once again that he’s not a lame duck President.
Asked to comment on Putin's statements Peter Lavelle, RT's political commentator, noted that NATO has some choices to make.
"They have to consider if they want these agreements to stay in place, or come up with better ones. But we have missile defense possible going to Eastern Europe, NATO is not really interested in it [CFE Treaty], U.S. is certainly not interested in it. And Russia has to respond," Lavelle commented.
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