It is only a matter of two weeks after US President George W. Bush entertained his Russian counterpart Vladimir V. Putin on his family farm at the Bush estate in Kennebunkport, Maine. With the fall of the curtain for the "Lobster Summit" between the U.S. and Russian leaders, however, the Russian side announced that President Putin had signed a decree to suspend its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed forces in Europe (CFE) in the latest development in a long-simmering dispute with the West. And this move has evoked violent responses in the United States and Europe.
Setting against a background of inclining to head for relaxation between the East and West in the late 80s of the 20th century, two major military blocs then, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact (or Treaty) Organization, held about two years of heated, arduous negotiations on how to reduce conventional weapons in the European region, and finally reached CFE. It is the first ever post-war conventional arms reduction treaty reached between the East and the West, and so it has been regarded for years as an important outcome for international disarmament and arms control.
On 11 November 1999, the parties of the CFE Treaty met in Istanbul to finalize the Adaptation Agreement, and they signed the Agreement on Adaptation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty on 19 November 1999. Afterwards, Russia's legislative body, or the State Duma, ratified the treaty in 2004. But, as a matter of fact, not a single NATO nation has so far ratified it.
For Russia, the decision on suspension of its participation in CFE should be ascribed to the outcome of contradictions and struggles between the U.S. and the European Union on one hand and Russia on the other for so many years. In April this year, Putin had made it clear in his annual address to the nation that Russia would prepare to suspend the implementation of the AFE till all NATO nations ratified the treaty. At the spur of the Russian side, an emergency meeting of the concerned parties of CFE was convened in Vienna, Austria in mid June this year and, what is regrettable is that the stance and concerns of Russia failed to draw due attention from the meeting participants, and the meeting ended without any substantial outcome.
On the eve of his US trip, Russian President Putin remained hopeful for some comprise to be made on the issue concerning the US deployment of anti-nuclear missile system in the Eastern Europe during his talks with President Bush, but no breakthrough was scored, as had been expected. It is due to such circumstances that Russia categorically announced its suspension of its obligation to the CFE. This decision of Russia's constitutes not only a response to the failure of the related parties of CFE to ratify the treaty after so much delay but an counter-sanction to the U.S.' adherence to the deployment of its anti-missile system in Eastern Europe.
This move of Russia's indicates firstly its reluctance to make any additional unilateral comprises on the major issue of national security in the wake of the increase of its overall national strength, and secondly its unwillingness to sit idle and remain indifferent as the U.S. is attempting to deploy an anti-missile system in the Eastern Europe in a bid to seriously affect the Russia-US strategic balance since the military might represents a core pillar for Russia to prop itself up as a major global power.
The relationships between the U.S. and EU and Russia is a vital, crucial factor that has a bearing on peace and stability in Europe. Russia's suspension of its obligation to the implementation of CFE not only implies that another arms control and disarmament accord has gone astray to a dead end of history and meted out a telling blow to the security of Europe, but also cast a shadow to the suspicious the U.S.-EU-Russian ties. Since Russia is obviously in a weak position strategically, its security concerns will naturally multiply, and this fact should be understood fully. With a grave disequilibrium of its strategic striking contrast of strength with the U.S., which has bent on seizing or using Europe to beef up its strategic superiority over Russia. Hence, it stands to reason that Russia has responded excessively.
Russia suspends its obligation under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and this act has posed a thorny issue for the international community, namely, on how to ensure or guarantee the global strategic stability and regional security. Although all the existing international arms control and disarmament treaties were concluded in the cold war era, most of them still have a positive role to play in safeguarding international security. Therefore, to imbue these international treaties with vitality, the fundamental way out is to increase the strategic mutual trust between nations, completely renounce the cold-war thinking and accomplish common security.
By People Daily Online and its author is Wang Baofu, deputy director of the Instittue of Strategic Studies affiliated to the elite Chinese National Defense University