Friday

3rd Feb 2023

Russia calls for emergency meeting on arms control in Europe

Moscow has stepped up pressure over the future of conventional arms control in Europe, calling for an emergency conference on a key treaty from which it is threatening to withdraw. The move comes partly in reaction to US plans to build anti-missile bases in central Europe.

In a statement issued on Monday (28 May), the Russian foreign ministry said it had requested a meeting for June 12-15 in Vienna to address "serious problems related to the observance of the treaty by NATO nations as a result of the alliance's expansion and their foot-dragging on the ratification of the 1999 agreement."

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  • Analysts say relations between Russia and the West are under the most pressure since the end of the Cold War (Photo: kremlin.ru)

The 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty - signed just after the end of the Cold War - set limits on conventional equipment such as combat aircraft and tanks in Europe and led to the removal of huge stockpiles of artillery in the 1990s.

The pact was updated in 1999 just before Vladimir Putin took over from the late Boris Yeltsin as the new Russian president.

The US and some European NATO countries - such as Slovenia and the Baltic states - have up until now declined to sign the revised version of the treaty however, asking Moscow to first withdraw its remaining forces from Georgia and Moldova.

Russia argues the two issues are not connected, with Mr Putin suggesting in late April that he would keep a moratorium on Russian fulfilment of the treaty "until all countries of NATO, without exception" ratify it.

He also accused the US of "using the complicated situation to expand military bases near our [Russia's] borders. Moreover they plan to locate elements of a missile defence system in the Czech republic and Poland."

According to observers, Washington's intention to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic have put relations between the two world powers under the biggest strain since the end of the Cold War.

EU-Russia relations have also suffered several other blows, with the ongoing dispute over Moscow's ban on Polish meat now threatening Europe's support for Russian membership of the World Trade Organisation.

Polish president Lech Kaczynski told Swiss paper Neue Zuercher Zeitung am Sonntag that "he doesn't exclude it [an EU blockade on WTO membership], if Russia remains as intractable as up to now," adding "we want real cooperation, not blackmail."

In another setback on Monday, several west European capitals condemned the detention of two MEPs and other gay parade participants in Moscow over the weekend.

The Russian authorities had earlier declined to give the event the green light, saying it would interfere with the rights and routines of ordinary Moscow citizens.

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