Russia has pulled out of a key European arms treaty.
The Conventional Forces in Europe treaty was signed between the Soviet Union and NATO in 1990 and limits the signatories’ deployment of tanks, heavy artillery and combat aircraft.
Russia has threatened to pull out of it in the past because of US plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe. The move means it can deploy as many troops and weapons as it likes along its borders; it has complained there are too many limits on moving troops within its territory despite security concerns.
This is a political act. Presidential elections take place next year and this is a good way to get citizens motivated.
The missile programme is key to what has happened, but it is not the only factor.
The treaty was amended in 1999 to reflect the break-up of the Soviet Union, but part of the revised deal was that Russia would withdraw troops from parts of Georgia and Moldova with Russian-speaking majorities. It has not. NATO members haven’t ratified the treaty (although Russia has) because of this.
According to BBC, it will be 150 days before Russia’s move takes effect. The country will no longer allow military inspections or give details of its deployments.
Russia has become increasingly assertive under Vladimir Putin. After years of economic decline and shrinking global standing a boom from oil wealth has given the country new confidence. The great Russian bear has re-awoken and is flexing its muscles.
But its wealth under Putin has come with the erosion of democratic liberties. To put it bluntly, the nation is a political basket case and has been for many years.
By focusing on a target outside Russian borders — or in this case two, the old Cold War reliables of NATO and the United States — legislators can deflect from internal problems.
Withdrawal from the CFE raises the spectre of old conflicts and sparks fears of new ones. While essentially a move to curry favour with the Russian electorate and raise the nation’s profile internationally, it does not imply a new Cold War looms.
However, nobody can predict who Putin’s successor will be. That is why these diplomatic issues must be resolved soon. Failure to do so will only widen the schism between Russia and NATO/the US. Who knows where that will lead?by