Russia May Quit Nuclear Treaty Unless Others Join (Update3)
By Ken Fireman
Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country may withdraw from a treaty with the U.S. limiting short-range nuclear weapons in Europe unless it is expanded to include other countries.
Putin also signaled continued Russian opposition to an American plan to base a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, urging the U.S. to refrain from ``forcing forward your relations with the Eastern European countries.''
Putin made the comments at the start of a meeting today with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates at Putin's dacha outside Moscow.
``We need other participants in international relations to assume the same obligations as those which have been assumed by the Russian Federation and the United States,'' Putin said, speaking through an interpreter.
``If we are unable to attain such a goal of making this treaty universal, then it will be difficult for us to keep within the framework of the treaty in a situation where other countries do develop such weapon systems, among them countries located in our vicinity,'' said Putin.
Putin's comments concerned the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
The Russian leader didn't identify the countries whose missile deployments concerned him. Gates, in a brief response, said the U.S. was also concerned about missile deployments ``by others in the neighborhood -- I would say in particular Iran.''
The talks come at a time of increasing tension between the former Cold War rivals. Putin has moved to reassert his country's authority, using oil wealth to finance military improvements.
Withdrawing from the treaty would be a political gesture rather than a significant military move, said Yevgeny Volk, a political analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Moscow.
``It's a very serious political move indicating Russian disappointment with relations with the U.S. and NATO and the present political-military situation in Europe,'' he said by telephone today. ``From the military point of view it doesn't really have such importance because everyone knows Russia's military capacity is limited'' by comparison with its nuclear arsenal when the treaty was signed.
It does, however, mean ``Russia can implement its threat to redeploy missiles to threaten Europe once again'' should the U.S. go ahead with plans to deploy its missile defense system in the continent, Volk said.
Rice and Gates are in Moscow to discuss differences with the Russians, in particular, Putin's opposition to the U.S. missile defense plan.
In a separate meeting with Rice and Gates, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. officials had brought with them ``detailed proposals'' on missile defense as well as a treaty limiting conventional military forces in Europe and ``arrangements for following the lapse'' of the treaty.
Putin has announced that Russia will withdraw from the accord, known as the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, effective Dec. 12.
Lavrov and Rice both acknowledged that the two countries had disagreements, while pledging to work constructively to narrow them.
``We are ready to work constructively aimed at bringing our positions closer,'' Lavrov said. ``We have our differences and there is no need to hide them.''
In the earlier meeting with Putin, Rice said the U.S. was prepared to make an effort to overcome differences with Russia because the things that unite ``us in trying to deal with the threat of terrorism, of proliferation, are much greater than the issues that divide us.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Ken Fireman in Moscow at email@example.com
Last Updated: October 12, 2007 08:26 EDT
And the real crux of the matter is: