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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov: CFE Treaty No Longer Relevant

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that a key Soviet-era arms control treaty had become "meaningless" because of NATO's refusal to ratify its amended version, and signaled that Moscow could opt out of it.

Lavrov said NATO's failure to implement a modernized version of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty led to "extreme imbalances" in weapons levels between Russia and NATO, news agencies reported. The entire concept of the treaty has become "meaningless," the agencies quoted him as saying.

The 1990 CFE Treaty regulates the deployment of military aircraft, tanks and other heavy non-nuclear weapons around the continent. Its amended version was signed in 1999 to reflect changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia has ratified the amended version, but the United States and other NATO members have refused to do so until Russia abides by its commitment to withdraw troops from Moldova and Georgia.

Moscow insists there was no such link. It has agreed to pull its troops out of Georgia, but balked at Western demands to withdraw its forces from the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr.

Russian officials have accused NATO of violating some provisions of the CFE Treaty by deploying forces in new member states in central and eastern Europe, and warned that Moscow could consider pulling out of the treaty.

Lavrov also signaled that Moscow could opt out of the treaty because of NATO's refusal to accept its modified version, saying: "Maybe we should stop playing these games. Let each country decide how it uses its own territory for deploying forces."

President Vladimir Putin has voiced particular concern over the planned deployment of U.S. missile-defense components in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying he does not trust U.S. claims that the move was aimed to counter a missile threat from Iran and promising to take countermeasures.

General Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the General Staff, said Thursday that Russia could pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a key 1987 arms control agreement that banned the entire class of medium-range missiles that had been based in Europe. Baluyevsky said the decision would depend on the United States' actions with its proposed missile-defense system.

Lavrov said Friday that Moscow had not yet made up its mind on the subject. "We aren't talking about a decision already made here, we are just registering the situation," he said.

"Naturally, we have to take into account the development of the strategic situation near our borders, and in doing this, we should decide what exact measures we should take to be able to practically maintain strategic stability," Lavrov added.