Russia Suspends Arms Treaty
07/11/2007 Russia's parliament has voted to suspend Moscow's support for a key treaty limiting the deployment of armed forces along its border with Europe. Parliament's lower house, the Duma, unanimously agreed to temporarily abandon the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty (CFE). The bill still faces approval in the upper house in December before President Vladimir Putin can sign it. The CFE is one of many issues recently putting Moscow at odds with the West. The Duma approved the bill in the 418-0 vote.
In the motion, MPs said the CFE treaty "no longer responds to the security interests of the Russian Federation" in light of Nato expansion and other factors in Europe. The vote amounted to legislative confirmation of a decree signed by President Putin in July.
The CFE was one of the most significant arms control agreements of the Cold War years. It set strict limits on the number of conventional weapons - battle tanks, combat aircraft, heavy artillery - that the members of the Warsaw Pact and Nato could deploy in European territory stretching from the Atlantic coast to the Urals.
In the wake of the collapse of communism, the treaty was revised in 1999, in part to address Russian concerns. Russia ratified the 1999 revised version, but Nato has not done so. Nato states are first demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia and Moldova, but Moscow says the issues are not linked. The Kremlin has also voiced concern over US plans to station part of a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The above is in response in BUSH below:
Washington (AFP) Oct 23, 2007
President George W. Bush on Tuesday warned that Europe urgently needs a US missile defense system to blunt a growing threat from Iran, despite vocal opposition from Russia.
In a speech to the US National Defense University, Bush said the world may have less than a decade before arch-foe Tehran possesses rockets able to reach the United States and strike any country in Europe, perhaps by 2015.
"Today we have no way to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat. And so we must deploy a missile defense system there that can," he said. "The need for missile defense in Europe is real, and I believe it is urgent."
But Bush seemed starkly at odds with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said in Prague that the United States might build the system but delay activating it until there was "definitive proof" of an Iranian threat.
"We would consider tying together the activation of the sites in Poland and the Czech Republic with definitive proof of the threat, in other words Iranian missile tests and so on," Gates said in a joint news conference with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.
Bush's message was that the world could ill-afford to wait.
"Our intelligence community assesses that, with continued foreign assistance, Iran could develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States and all of Europe before 2015," he said.
"If it chooses to do so, and the international community does not take steps to prevent it, it is possible Iran could have this capability. And we need to take it seriously now," he said.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Gates was referring to the "possibility" that the missile shield may not have "to be deployed if we can verify that Iran doesn't have ballistic weapons that they could aim at our NATO allies or at us.
"But those are lots of 'ifs,'" she said. "We do believe that we are going to need it to prevent against a threat from Iran."
Bush also sought to soothe angry Russian opposition to the plan, insisting that the system aimed to thwart possible attacks from North Korea or Iran -- not Moscow.
"The Cold War is over. Russia is not our enemy," he said, noting that the US plan calls for 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic and could be "easily overwhelmed" by Moscow's massive missile arsenal.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math," quipped Bush.
The United States has been increasingly vocal about what it says is the threat posed by Iran, including its nuclear program, alleged support for terrorism, and alleged aid to insurgents targeting US forces in Iraq.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin has blasted US plans for a separate US missile shield and warned Washington against any military action against Iran, which says it seeks atomic energy for civilian purposes.
Top officials in Moscow have questioned US assessments of Iran's nuclear program and missile development, and warned darkly of "measures to neutralize that threat" if Russian fears are ignored.
Gates said Tuesday in Prague that Washington had proposed a Russian presence at the planned US anti-missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Bush also signaled he was open to a proposal from Putin to use radar facilities in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan and southern Russia, installations that would not peer into Russian territory, but that they would be in addition to current US plans.
"We believe these sites could be included as part of a wider threat monitoring system that could lead to an unprecedented level of strategic cooperation between our two countries," he said.