Russia Suspends Arms Agreement Over U.S. Shield
By ANDREW E. KRAMER and THOM SHANKER
MOSCOW, July 14 — President Vladimir V. Putin, angered by American plans to deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe, formally notified NATO governments on Saturday that Russia will suspend its obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, a key cold war-era arms limitation agreement.
The decision ratcheted up tensions over the missile shield plan, but also reflected a trend of rising anti-Americanism and deep suspicion toward the West here as Russia’s March presidential elections approach.
Russia’s suspension will take effect in 150 days, according to a copy of the president’s decree posted on a Kremlin Web site. That delay leaves open the possibility of further negotiation on the 1990 treaty, which resulted in a huge wave of disarmament along the former East-West divide in Europe.
Despite a Foreign Ministry statement that Russia would reject any limitations on redeploying heavy weaponry on its Western border, the Kremlin’s move is not expected to radically transform the security situation.
But the decision is a strong indicator that the smiles and warm embraces between Presidents Bush and Putin just a few weekends ago at the so-called lobster summit in Maine did little to soften the Kremlin’s pique over proposals to build two American missile defense bases in former Soviet satellite states, Poland and the Czech Republic.
So on Saturday, Mr. Putin reached for a powerful diplomatic tool to fend off what he has described as American bullying and NATO and European encirclement, both economic and military, that the Kremlin believes encroaches into a Russian sphere of influence. White House officials expressed immediate disappointment after the announcement from Moscow, but pledged to continue to meet with their Russian counterparts to resolve the dispute.
“We’re disappointed Russia has suspended its participation for now, but we’ll continue to have discussions with them in the coming months on the best way to proceed in this area, that is in the interest of all parties involved and provides for security in Europe,” said Gordon D. Johndroe, the National Security Council spokesman.
Critics of the United States’ handling of relations with Russia have warned that the Bush administration was creating an environment in which the Putin government, emboldened by a flood of oil dollars and seeking to re-establish its status in the world, could pick and choose among its treaty obligations. After all, the Bush administration has put less stock in official treaty relations than many predecessors. Under Mr. Bush, the United States pulled out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty so it could pursue the goal of a global antimissile shield, the exact effort that has so angered Mr. Putin and his inner circle ...full text