By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — NATO member countries that signed a Cold War-era security treaty limiting key categories of conventional armed forces on November 7 suspended their obligations under the pact just hours after Russia pulled out.
The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), signed in November 1990, placed verifiable limits on categories of conventional military equipment that NATO and the then-Warsaw Pact could deploy. It aimed to prevent Cold War rivals from massing forces at or near their mutual borders.
NATO said that the action to freeze participation by member countries that signed the CFE was required because “a situation whereby Allied State Parties abide by the Treaty, while Russia does not, would be unsustainable.”
Moscow said earlier on November 7 that it had finalized its withdrawal from the treaty, blaming the United States for undermining post-Cold War security with the enlargement of NATO.
The long-expected move came after lawmakers in Moscow approved a bill proposed by President Vladimir Putin denouncing the CFE.
U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the United States “fully joins and supports” the decision of the NATO countries to suspend their obligations, saying this is “consistent with our rights under international law.”
The move is in response to “a fundamental change of circumstances caused by the combination of Russia’s withdrawal from the CFE Treaty and its continuing full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine, another CFE State Party, using the very forces the Treaty aims to constrain,” Miller said in a statement.
Miller added that Russia’s withdrawal from the CFE is not expected to have any practical impact on its force posture given that it has failed to abide by its treaty obligations since 2007.
Both Miller and U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan said Russia’s actions demonstrate Moscow’s continued disregard for arms control.
Sullivan added that suspending CFE obligations will strengthen NATO’s “deterrence and defense capacity by removing restrictions that impact planning, deployments, and exercises.”
The German Foreign Ministry also criticized Moscow’s withdrawal, saying that “Russia is destroying another pillar of our European security and arms control architecture.”
But it underscored in a statement that Berlin and its allies are not pulling out of the treaty and said that in the case of a “fundamental change in Russia’s behavior, a renewed implementation of the CFE remains possible.”
The announcements on the CFE come after actions that weakened other major arms control treaties.
Putin last week signed a bill revoking Russia’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a move that he said was needed to establish parity with the United States. In February, Moscow suspended its participation in the New START Treaty, the last arms control pact that remains between the United States and Russia.
Both countries also pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) treaty in 2019, blaming each other for violations. The INF treaty, signed in 1987, banned the production, testing, and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.