The Cable

Cracks in the reset? U.S. stops honoring arms treaty with Russia

The State Department announced today that it would stop fulfilling its obligations under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty with respect to Russia, in retaliation for Russia’s 2007 decision to stop honoring that treaty altogether. "This announcement in the CFE Treaty’s implementation group comes after the United States and NATO allies have tried ...

The State Department announced today that it would stop fulfilling its obligations under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty with respect to Russia, in retaliation for Russia’s 2007 decision to stop honoring that treaty altogether.

"This announcement in the CFE Treaty’s implementation group comes after the United States and NATO allies have tried over the past four years to find a diplomatic solution following Russia’s decision in 2007 to cease implementation with respect to all other 29 CFE States," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "Since then, Russia has refused to accept inspections and ceased to provide information to other CFE Treaty parties on its military forces, as required by the treaty."

The treaty, which was signed at the very end of the Cold War in 1990, was meant to impose limits on key categories of conventional weapons placed in Europe by NATO and Russia.

Russia suspended its observance of the CFE treaty in 2007: It claimed that NATO enlargement had resulted in the organization breaching treaty limits, objected to NATO member states’ efforts to link the treaty to a Russian troop presence in Georgia and Moldova, and argued that U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe constituted a violation of the treaty.

Nuland was actually the administration’s lead official on negotiating with the Russians regarding the CFE before she was named the new State Department spokeswoman. A year of U.S.-Russian negotiations on the treaty broke down last May, a month before Nuland returned to Washington. She said that the United States will continue to honor the treaty with all states, except Russia.

"We will resume full treaty implementation regarding Russia, if Russia resumes implementation of its treaty obligations," she said. "The United States remains firmly committed to revitalizing conventional arms control in Europe."

But critics on Capitol Hill said that the State Department’s move is not likely to convince Russia to come back to the negotiating table or resume fulfilling its treaty obligations.

"The Obama administration has adopted a limited countermeasure that is too late and too weak…. Since Russia refuses to end its occupation of Georgia, there is little point in attempting to bring it back into compliance with its obligations under the CFE Treaty," a senior GOP Senate aide told The Cable

"Moreover, the Obama decision to continue to provide U.S. data to all other CFE Parties does not mirror Russian data denial to all parties, nor will it be effective, since Moscow will likely obtain data from several CFE parties provided by the United States. Such a move undermines effective efforts to answer noncompliance of the CFE Treaty particularly, and shows the extent to which the Obama administration lacks a credible policy in Europe."

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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