Putin attacks NATO ‘muscle-flexing’ in the East

Elitsa Vucheva
November 21. 2007

Russian president Vladimir Putin has criticised what he calls NATO’s “muscle-flexing” near his country’s borders and confirmed the suspension of Russia’s participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE).

“In violation of previous agreements, military resources of NATO members are being built up next to our borders”, Mr Putin was quoted as saying on Tuesday (20 November) by AFP.

“Russia cannot remain indifferent to the clear muscle-flexing”, he told a meeting of defence officials in Moscow.

Consequently, Russia will “certainly” withdraw its participation from the CFE on 12 December, said the country’s armed forces chief of staff, General Yury Baluyevsky.

Both chambers of its parliament approved the move earlier this month.

The CFE dates back to the end of the cold war – in 1990 it set limits on weapons of NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. It was then revised in 1999.

Russia had ratified the updated document in 2004, but some NATO members, including the US, have refused to do so saying that Moscow should withdraw forces from Georgia and Moldova’s separatist Trans-Dniester region first.

For its part NATO has qualified the Russian decision as “regrettable”.

“All NATO members continue to abide by the restrictions on the numbers and movements of equipment like tanks and aircraft, which the CFE treaty requires, even if it hasn’t entered into force, so there is no need to talk about muscle-flexing”, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said according to the Associated Press.

In addition to suspending the CFE, the Russian president said on Tuesday that the combat readiness of the country’s nuclear missiles should be raised.

“One of the most important tasks remains raising the combat readiness of the strategic nuclear forces. They should be ready to deliver a quick and adequate reply to any aggressor”, he was quoted as saying by Russian press agency Interfax.

Mr Putin’s statements reflect growing political tensions between Russia and the West, particularly the US.

The Russian discontent has been triggered by US plans to build missile defence bases in Poland and the Czech Republic – former Soviet Union satellite countries.

Moscow disapproves of US intervention in central and Eastern Europe – a region which it is seen as considering as its strategic backyard.

© EUobserver.com 2007
Printed from EUobserver.com 23.11.2007

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