Putin threatens to scrap weapons treaty

Russia on Thursday stepped up its row with the United States over American plans to build a missile defence shield in Europe by announcing that it was considering withdrawing from a Soviet-era weapons treaty.

President Vladimir Putin said that Russia was considering a moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty (CFE), under which Nato and the Warsaw Pact agreed to reduce their conventional armed forces at the end of the cold war.

Nato had failed to implement the treaty, he said. Unless it did so Russia, would dump it unilaterally.

Putin described the US plan to site missile interceptor and radar bases in Poland and the Czech Republic as a “direct threat”. Nato countries were “building up military bases on our borders and, what’s more, are also planning to station elements of anti-missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic”, he said, in what was probably his last State of the Nation address.

“In this connection, I consider it expedient to declare a moratorium on Russia’s implementation of this treaty — in any case, until all countries of the world have ratified and started to implement it.”

Putin’s announcement and defiant tone suggest that the US administration’s attempts to convince Moscow the shield is not directed at Russia have not worked.

Earlier this week the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, assured Putin during a trip to Moscow that the shield was solely directed at rogue missiles fired by Iran or North Korea. on Thursday the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, dismissed Russian fears as “purely ludicrous”.

Nato officials sought urgent clarification of Russia’s intentions. At a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Oslo, the Nato Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said he would ask Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, to explain what Putin meant. “The Nato allies attach great importance to the CFE treaty and are of the opinion that the adapted CFE treaty will be ratified,” he said.

Under the treaty, signed by the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, Russia agreed to scrap much of its military hardware in Europe and limit the number of troops stationed on its northern and southern flanks.

The Kremlin says Nato countries are not abiding by the treaty. “It takes two to tango and you can’t dance a tango on your own,” said spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

On Thursday analysts said Putin’s move probably would not make much difference to Russia’s military capacities, but it would allow Russian generals to carry out exercises without informing their Western counterparts — and keep Russian troops in the disputed breakaway regions of Georgia and Moldova.

“Putin is trying to put the ball back in America’s court,” said Sergei Karaganov, the deputy director of Moscow’s Institute of European Studies.

Putin also used Thursday’s address to accuse the West of meddling in Russia’s affairs. “There is a growth of flow of money from abroad for direct interference in our internal affairs,” he claimed — an apparent reference to Russia’s small but growing opposition movement.

Putin gave no clue as to who is likely to succeed him when he steps down next year. Under Russia’s Constitution he can only serve two follow-on terms. But he hinted that he does not intend to leave politics just yet — leaving the door open for him to come back as president in 2012. — Guardian Unlimited Â

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

2019: The ones who left us

From Uyinene Mrwetyana, Oliver Mtukudzi to Xolani Gwala, Mail & Guardian remembers those who have passed on

More battles ahead for domestic worker unions

Florence Sosiba, speaks to the Mail & Guardian about how important domestic workers are and exclusion in the COIDA

“Life has been good to me, considering where I come from” – Xolani Gwala

Just over a year ago, veteran radio presenter Xolani Gwala’s cancer was in remission. He spoke to the Mail & Guardian once he was back on air.

Kanya Cekeshe’s lawyer appeals decision not to grant him bail to the high court

Kanya Cekeshe’s legal team filed an urgent appeal at the Johannesburg high court on Tuesday against Monday’s judgment by magistrate Theunis Carstens.

Leader’s principal aim to build IFP

Gravitas: Velenkosini Hlabisa brings his experience to his new post as leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Police Minister Bheke Cele addresses Jeppestown

Police minister Bheki Cele visited Jeppestown on Tuesday to speak to business owners and community leaders.

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

General Counsel of the Bar slams Zuma Foundation

Another summons has been served on Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla residence, requiring the former president to appear before the Zondo Commission next year

CR17 report is not perfect, but the investigation was rational,...

So says public protector Busisiwe Mkwhebane’s lawyer, who said she had reason to suspect the money was being laundered through the campaign

‘We struggle for water, but power stations and coal mines...

A proposed pipeline will bring water polluted with Gauteng’s sewage to the Waterberg in Limpopo to boost the coal industry during the climate crisis

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…