Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin yesterday rejected U.S. charges that Russian force levels in Armenia and Moldova transgress the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. The criticism, contained in a report of the U.S. administration to the Congress, reportedly focuses on massive Russian transfers of treaty-limited weaponry to allied Armenia and on the presence of Russian troops in Moldova without Moldova’s consent.
Rakhmanin contended that Russian arms transfers to Armenia were not subject to CFE limits. It also claimed that Russia is implementing “in normal fashion” the 1994 bilateral agreement on the withdrawal of its troops from Moldova, “even though the sides did not ratify that agreement.” This claim is doubly false: Moldova did ratify that agreement, but Russia has not and keeps the troops in place.
Moreover, Rakhmanin clearly implied that NATO’s enlargement on the central front relieves Russia of CFE constraints on the flanks. According to him, that linkage forms the basis of Moscow’s position at the CFE “adaptation talks” underway in Vienna. Chastising “NATO’s attempts to maintain stringent limitations on Russia’s flanks while exercising a free hand in Central Europe,” Rakhmanin warned that “NATO’s enlargement threatens not just the adaptation talks, but even the implementation of the existing CFE treaty.” (Russian agencies, July 7)
By portraying its actions in Armenia, Moldova and other flank areas as a response to NATO’s enlargement, Moscow apparently hopes to bolster the arguments of Westerners who criticize that enlargement. However, Russia made the decisions to station hardware and troops in Armenia and Moldova well before NATO’s enlargement had become topical. Russian transfers of combat hardware to Armenia constitute a form of forward-basing that equipment for possible use in the South Caucasus. That hardware seems to be governed by a Russian-Armenian dual-key system. Russian troops also use eastern Moldova as, in effect, a forward-base area since 1992. Moldova unsuccessfully demands the withdrawal of Russian forces.
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