The West Still Needs Arms Control

The Christian Science Monitor, July 19, 2007 | Go to article overview

The West Still Needs Arms Control


The West and Russia are back to the days of arms-control alphabet soup. Cold-war treaties with awkward acronyms are again in the news - but this time it's because Russia threatens to ditch two major ones. That raises the question, are these treaties still relevant?

With Soviet-style belligerence, the Russian bear of today is using its powerful paw to swipe at conventional- and nuclear-arms pacts.

On July 14, the Kremlin announced it will suspend participation in the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, or CFE for short. The 1990 treaty mandated equal ceilings on key equipment such as tanks and aircraft for the now-defunct Warsaw Pact and NATO. It covered all of Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals.

Russia is also threatening to break out of the 1987 Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF. That was the first treaty to ban an entire class of nuclear weapons. Recently, Russia has talked cavalierly about installing such missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave bordering Poland and Lithuania.

Russia's motivations are as varied as the country is vast. On a large scale, Moscow is reasserting itself in a world dominated by the US.

It also has security concerns. A key one is NATO creep on its western border, especially in the form of a planned US antimissile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic (which prompted the Kaliningrad response). But it's anxious about other flanks - in the south, a perceived Islamist terrorist threat, and to its east, China's nuclear arsenal.

Then there's the bluster factor. President Putin is looking out for No. 1 at home. Standing up to the "big bad West" makes him and Russia look good as elections near. …

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