This is not surprising. If everyone knows that the defence system is not a threat to Russia why is Russia reacting so strongly. I think that the opposite is closer to the truth that everyone knows that the system is directed against Russia and not Iran. It seems that the US and NATO are bound to restart the Cold War and there will be a renewed arms race as well. This will do nothing for European security.
'Grave concern' as Putin freezes defence pact
A DISPUTE over US plans to station anti-missile bases in eastern Europe escalated dramatically today following Russia's call for a freeze of a key European defence treaty.
In heated NATO talks in Oslo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Russia was to halt its application of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty and could even pull out if the allies did not endorse it.
"It means that we will halt the compliance of our obligations under the treaty," he told reporters, after launching what was described by a US official as a 20-minute "diatribe" against NATO.
His remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a state of the nation address, called for the freeze in response to the US missile shield plans.
The CFE treaty was signed in 1990 in Paris by the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the former Warsaw Pact to limit troop and hardware deployments in Europe.
It was adapted in Istanbul in 1999 following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, in order to limit deployments on a country-by-country basis.
NATO states have refused to ratify the new pact on the grounds that Moscow has failed to honour commitments made in Istanbul to withdraw Russian forces from the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Russia's involvement in the CFE was a treaty obligation "and everyone is expected to live up to treaty obligations."
She had earlier complained that Russia was applying Cold War logic to the missile defence issue, and said any suggestion the system was directed at Moscow was "ludicrous".
In Washington, a White House official who refused to be named, said: "We regret President Putin's comments today on the CFE Treaty which inaccurately portray US and NATO adherence to the treaty."
Mr Lavrov insisted that "the balance has been impaired for a long time and seriously in favour of NATO. The CFE was a very valuable treaty and that has been made valueless".
He expressed hope that the allies would eventually ratify the adapted pact, but said: "I didn't hear today any kind of desire for the urgency of that.
"All I heard today was the same old tune about the Istanbul commitments, about the situation of Moldova and Georgia."
Mr Lavrov said that Russia, one of only four countries to have ratified the adapted CFE, found itself "in a position where we don't want to be the only actors in a theatre of the absurd."
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who described the two-hour session of the informal NATO Russia Council as lively, said the allies were deeply concerned by Moscow's move to place a "de facto moratorium" on the treaty.
"That message was met by concern, grave concern, disappointment and deep regret because the allies are of the opinion that the CFE treaty is one of the cornerstones of European security," he said.
US officials said Lavrov had railed against NATO over issues ranging from enlargement to the planned missile shield extension, which will see 10 interceptors based in Poland and a radar tracker in the Czech Republic.
"He listed a litany of complaints about NATO," a senior official said, but added that the remarks may have backfired on Russia by consolidating support among the allies for the shield, meant to counter "rogue states" like Iran.
Mr Lavrov noted that the shield left gaps in its coverage of Europe, with Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey undefended.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lavrov tried to use this gap as proof that Washington was not interested in defending Europe, but he was met with "universal" opposition from NATO representatives.
Earlier today, Dr Rice urged Moscow to "be real" about the system and reiterated that it posed no threat to Russia.
"Let's be real about this," she said.
"The idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic return is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it."