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Russia warns US on military expansion

AFP | December 7 2005

Russia may reconsider whether to abide by a key European arms control agreement if the US military presence continues to creep closer to its borders, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov warned Wednesday.

Speaking a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed an agreement to set up US military bases in ex-Soviet bloc country Romania, Ivanov questioned whether the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty had any meaning any more.

"The expansion of US and NATO infrastructure to Russian borders raises a question about the fate of the CFE," Ivanov said in remarks at a meeting outside Moscow, shown on state television.

"Russia currently fulfills all its obligations under the treaty. But if we see that other countries ignore it, we will draw certain conclusions," Ivanov said.

The landmark treaty was meant to slash deployments of conventional forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its Soviet-era counterpart, the Warsaw Pact. Following the collapse of the latter, the pact was adapted in 1999, with limits placed on specific signatories.

All member countries signed the adapted CFE, but so far only four of them -- ex-Soviet republics Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine -- have ratified the new document, according to Interfax.

"If this agreement is not ratified, the question arises of whether Europe needs such a restraining mechanism at all," Ivanov said.

NATO has charged that Russia has not met some obligations under the pact, including withdrawal of forces from bases in the Cuacasus republic of Georgia. Russia, which began pulling its forces out of Georgia earlier this year, says it has abided by the treaty fully.

Ivanov said Russia's reaction to the agreement on setting up US military bases in Romania would depend on the size and nature of the facilities.

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