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Friday, July 27, 2007

Crazed Russia, Again, Walks Alone into the Inferno

Writing in the Moscow Times, Alexander Golts exposes isolated Russia, once again on a crazed path of self-destruction:

I recently saw on the streets of Moscow a billboard with the following text: "Army and Navy -- Russia's allies." The author of this propagandistic text probably thought he or she was quoting Tsar Alexander III, who purportedly said something of the kind. In fact, the sovereign actually declared that Russia had no allies except the King of Chernogoriya. The version referring to the army and navy was created by a "patriot" in the early 1990s. The quote was intended to relay the idea that in a world hostile to Russia, it can only rely on its military strength to survive.

Now we have billboards in Moscow that fully reflect the Kremlin's world view. Putin has pulled Russia out of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, or CFE Treaty, alluding to "exceptional circumstances affecting Russia's security."

Recall that the main idea of this treaty is to limit the likelihood of military aggression by setting limits on the signatories' armaments. The first version of the treaty established limits for the NATO and Warsaw Pact blocs. Both the Warsaw Pact and the U.S.S.R. collapsed months after the document was signed in 1990, however. It was then necessary to adapt the CFE Treaty to the new reality. The revised version of the treaty was adopted in 1999 and included limits on armaments for each country separately, and not for the two East-West blocs. The NATO countries, however, never ratified it, demanding that Russia fulfill its agreement to withdraw its forces from Transdnester and Georgia.

In reality, even though Russia continues to demand that NATO fulfills the CFE Treaty, NATO countries maintain fewer armaments than are permitted by the modified version of the treaty.

Moscow considers Washington's plans to position troops at military bases in Bulgaria and Romania a violation of the CFE Treaty. But the Kremlin prefers to remain silent on the fact that the troops in question will number just 2,000 to 3,000. Moreover, the 1st Armored and 1st Infantry Divisions in Germany were once the United States' primary military force in Europe. If Washington had plans to achieve a decisive military superiority over Russia, it would not have recalled those troops from Europe.

Moscow's main complaint is that NATO, following two waves of expansion, now exceeds the military might of Russia by three times. But this objection is groundless. In fact, the NATO "newcomers" want to rid themselves as quickly as possible of the weaponry that Moscow believes gives them potential military superiority. The hundreds of Soviet-era T-55 tanks that Romania, Bulgaria, Hungry and other former Warsaw Pact countries inherited do not strengthen NATO, but weaken it. As long as that scrap metal is part of each country's arsenal, those nations' armies cannot meet NATO standards or achieve battle readiness.

The head of the Defense Ministry's international treaty department, Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, declared last week that there was no chance of "adapting a previously-adapted" treaty. Moscow is demanding that NATO sharply reduce its military potential as a form of "compensation."

Moscow has rejected the concept of the adapted version of the CFE Treaty. In essence, Moscow is returning to the original concept of the treaty between NATO and the Warsaw Pact with one exception: Russia apparently wants to play the role of the Warsaw Pact itself and stand alone against the rest of Europe.

Despite any real military threat, the Kremlin presents its dissatisfaction with the West by claiming that the West is intent on achieving military superiority over Russia. For Putin, the scandal with Britain is another example of the West's aggression. London demonstrated that it was not willing come to terms with Moscow's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi. And they are also unwilling to overlook a radioactive poisoning case in their capital in the interests of maintaining good relations with Moscow.

In the eyes of the Kremlin, Britain is preparing some sort of aggression directed at Russia. Therefore, this is a good time to withdraw from the CFE Treaty.

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