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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Calls for Talks on CFE Treaty

NATO allies on Monday called for a special conference with Russia to discuss President Vladimir Putin's announcement that Moscow would suspend its participation in a major European arms control treaty.

They also expressed disappointment and concern over the decision.

"The allies are very concerned by this unilateral decision," NATO said in a statement.

The 26 allies said they hoped Moscow would "join us in constructive and creative dialogue" that could include a special conference of signatories to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the conference might be held in Vienna. No date has been fixed.

The European Union issued a statement expressing confidence that a dialogue with Russia and other signatories "will be instrumental in overcoming the present situation."

Putin said Saturday that the Kremlin would follow through on a threat to freeze participation in the 1990 treaty, citing security concerns. Putin and other senior officials have repeatedly expressed dismay that NATO nations have refused to ratify an updated 1999 version of the treaty and have linked their approval of it to demands that Russia pull troops out of Moldova and Georgia. The treaty limits the deployment of armed forces in sensitive areas and allows for exchanges of information and inspections of military sites.

Putin's announcement came just days before U.S. officials were expecting new discussions to resolve what the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush describes as narrow differences over the pact.

Because of that timing, Bush administration officials expressed optimism on Sunday that Putin's announcement that the suspension would take effect in 150 days might energize those negotiations.

A senior administration official said U.S. and Russian experts were expected to meet this month to "find ways to solve these problems, to try to listen to and address Russian concerns" about the treaty, which has resulted in major steps in arms control along the East-West divide in Europe. "It is unfortunate that the Russians have taken this step, especially since we were preparing to engage with them once again," the official said. "And we still plan to. We do not take this as the final word."

The United States and its Western allies remain eager to ratify the adapted treaty once Moscow moves a modest number of forces out of Georgia and Moldova, the official said.

In Tbilisi, former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze warned on Monday that Russia's decision to suspend its participation in the treaty was a first step toward a new Cold War. "This step by Moscow is a response to Washington's decision to deploy elements of its anti-missile shield in Europe," said Shevardnadze, who served as president of Georgia until 2003. He also said he was concerned that Russia might deploy additional armed units along its border with Georgia as "an element of extra pressure."

AP, NYT, Reuters