Putin Signs CFE Moratorium Drawing U.S., OSCE Protests

President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a law suspending Russia's participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the Kremlin announced.

The move, although expected, was bemoaned by the United States and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe.

Suspension of the treaty, which limits the deployment of tanks, aircraft and other heavy weapons across the continent and was revised in 1999, takes effect Dec. 12. Under the moratorium, Russia will halt NATO countries' inspections and verifications of its military sites and will no longer be obligated to limit the number of conventional weapons deployed west of the Urals.

Russia ratified the updated treaty in 2004, but the United States and other NATO members have refused to follow suit, saying Moscow must first fulfill obligations to withdraw forces from Georgia and from Moldova's breakaway republic of Transdnestr.

Under the treaty, "we cannot move an extra tank in our territory," Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said, Itar-Tass reported. "In this sense, we've ceased to be masters in our own territory."

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "Even after Dec. 12, we will continue the work and seek agreements that would help attain a balance," Interfax reported.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Washington was disappointed that Putin signed the law.

"This is a mistake. It is Russia unilaterally walking out of one of the most important arms control regimes of the last 20 years," Burns said at an OSCE conference in Madrid.

A unilateral Russian pullout from the CFE Treaty "would only increase the uncertainty that hangs over the European security system," the Spanish presidency of the OSCE said at the end of the meeting.