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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

General Dismisses NATO Call for Talks

The Defense Ministry on Wednesday rejected an offer from NATO to hold a conference about Russia's decision to suspend its participation in a key arms control treaty and called for a new treaty to be drafted.

Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, head of the ministry's international treaty department, reiterated the Kremlin's position that the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe was outdated, and he said it should be replaced by a new accord.

He said a Moscow-initiated conference to discuss the treaty with NATO in Vienna in June had brought no results, so NATO's call this week for another one was pointless.

"I do not see why this would make much sense," he said, Interfax reported.

The Kremlin said Saturday that President Vladimir Putin had signed a decree to suspend Russia's participation in the CFE Treaty in 150 days. The treaty -- seen as a vital element to European security by effectively limiting conventional forces -- was signed in 1990, and an amended post-Cold War version was reached in 1999. Russia has ratified the amended version, but no NATO country has followed suit amid a squabble over the presence of Russian peacekeepers in Georgia and Moldova.

Buzhinsky said the 150-day waiting period would give NATO until Dec. 13 to change its stance. "We reckon that NATO, if it is prepared to do so, will review its position and express its readiness to take a new look at certain elements in the amended treaty," he said.

A NATO spokesman, reached Wednesday by telephone in Brussels, refused to comment on Buzhinsky's remarks and referred to an earlier statement posted on the alliance's web site that Putin's decision was "deeply disappointing."

But both Western and Russian analysts expressed understanding for Moscow's position.

"It is rational for Russia to demand renegotiations because the treaty is quite disadvantageous to Russia with respect to troop limitations on its Western flanks," said Otfried Nassauer of the Berlin Information Center of Trans-Atlantic Security.

Ivan Safranchuk, a Moscow-based analyst at the World Security Institute, said NATO members should both ratify the amended treaty and agree to lift troop limits on Russia's southern flank, as was demanded by Moscow at the talks in Vienna last month. "This should not really be a problem for the West," he said.

Nassauer said the modified treaty no longer reflected Russia's security interests after Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO in 2004. The treaty looks even more outdated with the possibility of Georgia and Ukraine also becoming NATO members, he said.

Buzhinsky said he did not believe that Russia's withdrawal from the treaty would necessarily entail a buildup of forces on its western borders.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained Putin's decision in a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. He said Russia was willing to discuss the issue with the United States.

The United States is planning bilateral talks with Russia on the treaty this month, The New York Times reported earlier this week.