Putin freezes arms treaty commitment
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he was suspending Russia's obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, a move he linked to U.S. plans for a missile defence shield in Europe.
Putin, in a hawkish annual speech to both houses of parliament, said the NATO signatories to the 1990 treaty were not respecting it, and the U.S. plan to put missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic made matters worse.
He said Russia would look at withdrawing from the treaty altogether if negotiations he proposed with NATO countries failed to resolve Russia's grievances.
Russia says the missile shield plan -- which Washington says is intended to protect from attacks by so-called "rogue states" -- is a threat to its national security.
"(NATO countries) are ... building up military bases on our borders and, more than that, they are also planning to station elements of anti-missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic," Putin said.
"In this connection, I consider it expedient to declare a moratorium on Russia's implementation of this treaty -- in any case, until all countries of the world have ratified and started to strictly implement it."
He made the announcement as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and NATO counterparts prepared to meet Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a NATO-Russia meeting in Oslo.
"I propose discussing this problem in the NATO-Russia Council, and, should there be no progress in the negotiations, to look at the possibility of ceasing our commitments under the CFE treaty," Putin said.
The CFE treaty sets limits on the quantity, type and location of conventional armaments countries on either side of the old Iron Curtain can maintain.
Putin said it was an anachronism that Russia should be restricted in how it can deploy its armed forces within its own borders, while NATO countries used pretexts to bend the terms of the treaty.
"It is hard to imagine that anyone would restrict the United States, for example, in moving its troops around its own territory," he said.
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