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Russia Quitting Arms Treaty Seen As Ire Over European Missile Defense Plan

By | July 16, 2007

      Russia Saturday suspended its participation in a conventional arms treaty, according to Itar-Tass, the official Russian news agency.

      Some Western observers see this as a move by Moscow to lash out in frustration at U.S. and NATO plans for formation of a ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield in Europe.

      Russian President Vladimir Putin signed papers suspending the Russian role in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, according to Itar-Tass.

      Both NATO and the United States responded by deploring the action, according to the International Herald Tribune in Paris and other media.

      Putin’s action, seen as a slap at the United States, came less than two weeks after he visited with President Bush at the Bush family vacation compound in Maine, a visit that White House strategists had hoped would soften Putin’s vitriolic rhetoric directed against the proposed BMD installation in Europe, which Russians portray as on their doorstep. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, July 2, 2007, page 1.)

      Bush argued that the European BMD system is intended merely to erect a shield against missiles from Middle Eastern nations such as Iran, protecting European nations, U.S. troops there, and the United States homeland.

      The BMD system is not intended for, and not capable of, defeating Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, Bush assured Putin.

      Under the plan, the existing U.S. Ground-base Midcourse missile Defense (GMD) system, would be extended to the Czech Republic (radar) and Poland (interceptors in silos).

      Agreements with those nations haven’t been finalized yet, so a Democratic-led Congress moved to cut funding for advance work on the European GMD system. Polish President Lech Kaczynski is in Washington today and tomorrow to negotiate a deal with Bush.

      However, the Senate voted for protecting Europe from Iranian missiles, heartening proponents of the European BMD system. (Please see separate story in this issue.)

      According to Russia, Putin’s move pulling his nation out of the conventional-arms treaty was prompted by “extraordinary circumstances affecting Russia’s security and requiring immediate measures.”

      Putin had threatened to do this earlier, in a speech in April, but Americans had hoped to dissuade him from the pullout in talks during Putin’s visit to Maine.

      Itar-Tass said the treaty pullback was prompted by problems with NATO nations not observing the conventional-forces treaty and delaying their ratification of it.

      Americans are hoping a 150-day notice period before Russia actually withdraws from the treaty will provide time to dissuade Moscow from the pullout.

      It is of a piece with increasing bellicose and blustering talk from Russian leaders aimed at thwarting the plan to erect a European shield against ballistic missiles from Iran.

      Bush wants the shield put in place because Iran has tested many missiles, including one fired from a submerged submarine, and because Iran continues to ignore Western urgings to abandon nuclear materials processing. While Iran says the radioactive materials would be used for electrical power generation, Western nations fear the fissile material instead may be used to manufacture bombs.

      Also, an Iranian leader said Israel should be wiped off the map.

      And Iran sends terrorists into Iraq.

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