MOSCOW PRESSES FOR CFE TREATY RATIFICATION IN RUN-UP TO NATO AND OSCE SUMMITS
by Vladimir Socor

Eurasia Daily Monitor -- The Jamestown Foundation
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 -- Volume 3, Issue 201

On his October 25-26 official visit to Moscow, NATO Secretary-General
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer successfully resisted demands by Russian
officials for prompt ratification of the adapted Treaty on Conventional
Forces in Europe (CFE) by NATO countries. Russia hopes to induce
some governments in the alliance to proceed with ratification of the
1999-adapted treaty despite Moscow's ongoing breaches of certain treaty
provisions and of the 1999 Istanbul Commitments, which together with
the CFE Treaty form a package approved at that year's OSCE summit.

By calling for ratification during de Hoop Scheffer's visit,
Moscow is signaling that it plans to raise this issue at the OSCE's
upcoming year-end ministerial conference in Brussels on December
3-4, hoping to break the linkage between ratification of the CFE
Treaty and fulfillment of Russia's Istanbul Commitments regarding
the South Caucasus and Moldova. The Kremlin apparently even hopes
to talk the alliance into loosening that linkage in the communique
of NATO's upcoming summit in Riga at the end of November. Russia is
eager for ratification of the adapted treaty in order to extend its
applicability to the territories of the three Baltic states, which
are not covered by the existing treaty's ceilings on force deployments.

Moscow's main argument -- as presented during de Hoop Scheffer's visit
-- claims that Russia has fulfilled all of its 1999 obligations by
signing the agreements with Georgia to close the Batumi and Akhalkalaki
bases and withdraw the Russian troops stationed there by the end
of 2008. During de Hoop Scheffer's visit, President Vladimir Putin
signed into law on October 26 the Russian parliament's ratification
of the March 31 agreement with Georgia on closure and withdrawal from
those two Russian bases (Itar-Tass, October 26).

However, de Hoop Scheffer raised the issue of Russia's noncompliance
with its 1999 commitment to withdraw its forces from Moldova. Russian
media purported to quote him as urging Moscow to withdraw just the
arsenals from Moldova in order to clear the way for ratification of
the CFE Treaty (Interfax, October 26, 27). Such Russian media reports
would seem to be misquoting de Hoop Scheffer. In fact, NATO's official
collective position calls for withdrawal of Russian troops, as well
as the arsenals, from Moldova. This position, with emphasis on troop
withdrawal, is enshrined in NATO's communique at its latest summit
in Istanbul in 2004 and subsequent communiques, as well as documents
endorsed by NATO countries collectively at the OSCE.

During the NATO leader's visit, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
hinted that Moscow might initiate procedures for abandoning the
existing CFE Treaty, which was signed in 1990 and is currently in
force. Notably dropping the standard reference to the treaty as a
"cornerstone of security in Europe," Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr
Grushko described that treaty as "out of touch with reality" and
warranting either revision or an exit from it (Russian MFA press
release, October 25).

For their part, a group of Duma leaders meeting with de Hoop Scheffer
warned that they might delay the ratification of the Status-of-Forces
Agreement -- the legal basis for a host of NATO-Russia common
activities, intended to be held on Russian territory -- if NATO
countries delay ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty. Such insolvent
warnings are political in nature, targeting a few governments in
NATO that might for reasons of their own accommodate Russia in
Europe's East.

Russia takes the position that it has completed the fulfillment of
the 1999 agreements regarding the South Caucasus and Moldova and that
those agreements did not constitute obligations in the first place.

Thus, Moscow describes its agreement with Georgia on troop withdrawal
until 2008 as a purely bilateral matter, the resolution of which
should precipitate the ratification of the CFE Treaty by NATO
countries. Irrespective of such phrasing and despite the delay
during all these years, the agreement with Georgia does constitute
long-awaited progress toward fulfillment of one aspect of the 1999
Istanbul Commitments.

However, Russia remains in breach of the original and adapted treaty
and the Istanbul Commitments on the following counts:

*Retention of the Gudauta base in Georgia, which was to have been
closed down in 2001 under the Istanbul Commitments;

*Troops unlawfully stationed in Moldova despite those same Commitments;

*Treaty-banned weaponry ("unaccounted-for treaty-limited equipment")
handed over by the Russian military to their local allies in
Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Karabakh (including
Armenian-held territory in Azerbaijan beyond Karabakh); and

*Stationing Russian troops including so-called peacekeepers in
conflict areas without the "host-country consent," such consent being
fundamental to both the existing and the adapted CFE Treaty.

Thus, there is no case for NATO countries to take any steps toward
ratifying the adapted CFE Treaty at the NATO summit or the OSCE's
year-end conference, in view of Russia's ongoing breaches on multiple
counts.

(See EDM, May 17, 22, June 12)

--Vladimir Socor

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress