Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The warming of the New Cold War

Putin warns NATO against border build-up

President Vladimir Putin warned NATO against "muscle-flexing" on Russia's border Tuesday and ordered top generals to raise the combat readiness of the country's nuclear missiles.

Meanwhile, the armed forces chief of staff, General Yury Baluyevsky, also confirmed that Russia would suspend adherence to a key Cold War arms treaty on December 12, news agencies reported.

"In violation of previous agreements, certain member countries of the NATO alliance are increasing their resources next to our borders," Putin told a meeting of defence chiefs in Moscow in comments broadcast on state television.

"Russia cannot remain indifferent to the clear muscle-flexing," he said.

The Kremlin leader, who earlier this year threatened to target nuclear missiles at Europe, said he wanted the atomic arsenal put on a higher level of readiness.

"One of the most important tasks remains raising the combat readiness of the strategic nuclear forces. They should be ready to deliver a quick and adequate reply to any aggressor," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Baluyevsky told the meeting of top brass that Russia would "certainly" suspend its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty on December 12.

"We will certainly fulfil this ruling exactly on time," Baluyevsky was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying, following a vote in parliament to suspend application of the CFE.

However, Putin left the door open to Russia resuming participation, saying Moscow will "re-examine the possibility of renewing its obligations after our partners join the adapted treaty and, more importantly, implement it."

The 1990 CFE treaty places strict limitations on the deployment of tanks and other military hardware across Europe.

Russia says it cannot stick to the CFE rules until members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) ratify an updated version of the accord.

NATO has said it will do so only when Russia pulls its forces out of two ex-Soviet republics -- Georgia and Moldova.

The treaty's demise highlights deteriorating relations between Moscow and countries of the Atlantic alliance as Putin's administration pushes to reassert Russia on the international stage.

Putin ordered the CFE moratorium on July 13 amid a row over US plans to install an anti-missile shield in eastern Europe. Last Friday, the senate voted unanimous approval of the decree.

NATO criticised the decision as "regrettable."

Earlier this month, Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Kolmakov said that plans were being considered for boosting troop deployments on Russia's western flank, something impossible under the CFE.

Russia has also this year renewed long-distance strategic bomber patrols and to withdraw from other bedrock disarmament treaties dating from the Cold War.

Adding to the tension is the growing unease in the West with wide-ranging limitations imposed by Putin on democratic reforms and what critics call Russia's aggressive use of massive energy resources.

Moscow accuses Washington of interfering in Russia's backyard and attempting to rule the world as the sole superpower.

Original article posted here.

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