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The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, has adopted a bill paving the way for Moscow’s withdrawal from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE).
Signed in 1990, the CFE treaty sought to limit deployment of conventional military forces in Europe by both the Western NATO alliance and the Soviet-Era Warsaw Pact.
“We have already written it [the treaty] off. It is a relic of the past,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said at a plenary Duma session on May 16.
“What other [signatory] states will do is up to them to decide,” he added.
The bill was introduced last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appointed Ryabkov to represent him at parliamentary discussions of the issue.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council and a former president, said the move would let Russia deploy forces wherever necessary to ensure its security.
“The State Duma has renounced the CFE treaty. Good riddance,” he said on his Telegram channel. “This document became irrelevant for us back in 2007.”
“Now, none of the previously suspended international commitments can prevent us from placing our weapons wherever we want … including parts of Russia that are in Europe,” he added.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told The Epoch Times that the move “further demonstrates the Russian government’s disregard for arms control and is the latest in a series of actions to undermine Europe’s security architecture.”
Washington: Move ‘Changes Nothing’
The CFE treaty was originally intended to maintain a balance of forces in Europe between members of NATO and Warsaw Pact states.
The Warsaw Pact was a collective defensive treaty between the Soviet Union and seven eastern and central European socialist republics. It came into being in 1955–six years after the creation of NATO–at the height of the Cold War.
In 1991, shortly before the Soviet Union’s dissolution, the Warsaw Pact was officially disbanded. It was succeeded, however, by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a six-country military alliance led by Moscow.
In addition to Russia, current CSTO members include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
In 2007, Moscow declared a moratorium on the implementation of CFE treaty provisions. In 2015, it suspended its participation in the CFE Joint Consultative Group, while remaining a party to the treaty–albeit in name only.
Since then, Belarus, a key Russian ally, has represented Moscow’s interests at meetings of the Joint Consultative Group.
According to the State Department spokesperson, Moscow’s decision to withdraw from the treaty “changes nothing on the ground.”
“Since 2007, Russia has ‘suspended’ its implementation of the CFE treaty without a valid legal basis,” the spokesperson said.
“And it was failing to fully live up to its obligations under the treaty even before that ‘suspension’,” the spokesperson added.
U.S. Forces ‘Loom over St. Petersburg’
In line with the treaty’s terms, the withdrawal process will take roughly six months, Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency.
“The first step is to notify all member states of our intention to withdraw,” he said.
Three weeks after notification, he added, a summit of CFE member states will be convened to “review issues pertaining to the withdrawal.”
“There, we will once again reiterate … that it was the West, by its destructive actions, that has made our commitment to the CFE untenable,” the diplomat said.
According to Ryabkov, Finland’s recent accession to NATO—and its willingness to host U.S. forces on its territory—“have significantly deteriorated the military and political situation in Europe.”
“Now U.S. and NATO forces will loom over St. Petersburg—not only from the southwest … but also from the northwest,” Ryabkov added, noting that U.S. deployments in Finland were not restricted under the CFE treaty.
In April, Finland officially became NATO’s 31st member.
Early this month, reports emerged that Washington and Helsinki were negotiating a defense cooperation agreement that would let the United States deploy troops and equipment on Finnish territory.
Russia and Finland share a border approximately 830 miles in length.
Sweden is also on track to join the Western alliance, pending the approval of NATO member Turkey.
Ryabkov also claimed Moscow had evidence that certain “East European states”—which he did not name—had “directly violated” the CFE treaty’s terms.
Under these circumstances, he added, “even the formal preservation of Russia’s status as a party to the treaty … contravenes our national security interest.”
According to the State Department spokesperson, Moscow’s decision to withdraw from the Soviet-Era contract “contrasts with [NATO] allies’ efforts to sustain the CFE treaty.”
“Russian arguments that attempt to justify withdrawal with reference to circumstances in Ukraine, or Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO, are not credible,” the spokesperson added.
Early last year, Russia invaded Ukraine, which also aspires to join the NATO alliance. Kyiv and its allies decry the invasion as an unprovoked war of aggression.
Moscow says its “special military operation” was necessary to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and halt the further eastward expansion of NATO.