EUROPE TORN BETWEEN ABM AND CFE
RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov
Europe will have to make an important decision: to accept Washington's plans of
deploying missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic contrary to
Russia's interests, or to demand that the Untied States discuss the issue with
The decision may be made within days in Brussels, where the NATO-Russia Council is
scheduled to meet on May 10. ABM will most likely stand at the top of the agenda,
and Russia also intends to raise the issue of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in
NATO countries have refused to ratify the CFE treaty, demanding that Russia first
withdraw from Soviet-era bases in Georgia and Moldova as stipulated by the Istanbul
Agreements. Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected the argument as
unsubstantiated, saying that the deployment of conventional forces in Europe is not
legally connected with the Istanbul Agreements.
Russia is complying with the CFE provisions, whereas NATO countries have not even
ratified it, even though they claim the treaty is the cornerstone of European
The planned deployment of elements of the U.S. ballistic missile system in Europe
has poured more fuel onto the flames. Some time before the Council meeting, Putin
proposed that Russia should unilaterally suspend the implementation of the CFE
"I propose to discuss the issue at the Russia-NATO Council, and if progress is not
reached in negotiations, [we may] consider the possibility of terminating our
obligations under the CFE treaty," Putin said.
Washington, Brussels and the whole of Europe apparently considered the statement as
Moscow's reaction to the possible deployment of American ballistic missile defense
systems close to the Russian border.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Batiste Mattei said Paris hoped the CFE and
ABM issues would be discussed at the forthcoming NATO-Russia Council, and called for
Russia to reconsider its decision regarding the CFE treaty.
Other European politicians expressed their views more radically.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the issue of deploying the
American ballistic missile shield in Europe should be decided by Europeans, who must
not give a third party the right to veto actions by a sovereign state. He also
expressed disappointment over Russia's stance on the CFE treaty.
In short, opinions ahead of the NATO-Russia Council meeting vary dramatically, and
the only surprising thing is the absence of statements by European politicians on
the ratification of the CFE treaty, which they view as the cornerstone of European
Their unwillingness to meet Moscow halfway can be explained by the fact that some
European countries are flagrantly violating CFE provisions, whereas Russia has fewer
weapons in its treaty zone than it is allowed to have. It would make sense for
European countries to heed Russia's grievances over the ABM issue.
According to the Kremlin, Washington's arguments that the missile defense system is
a shield from Iran and North Korea only "camouflage the system's real goals," which
are "Russia and a change of the strategic balance in favor of the Untied States."
This is the opinion of General Yury Baluyevsky, Chief of Russia's General Staff, who
will represent Russia at the May 10 NATO-Russia Council meeting.
The situation has become more complicated after the heads of two subcommittees in
U.S. Congress criticized Washington's plans to deploy the ballistic missile defense
system in Europe. Democratic Congressmen asked why the White House had discussed the
issue separately with Poland and the Czech Republic instead of raising the issue in
NATO, if the system was aimed at protecting Europe as a whole.
Congressmen said they respected the concern of many of their European allies over
the planned deployment of the nuclear missile shield contrary to Russia's stance.
So, there are reasonable views on the ABM and CFE issues in the West. But will they
be voiced at the Brussels meeting?
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily
represent those of RIA Novosti.