US to stop providing Russia data on Europe forces

AP News
Posted: Nov 22, 2011 1:35 PM
US to stop providing Russia data on Europe forces

The United States said Tuesday it will stop providing data to Russia on non-nuclear military forces in Europe, a sign the Obama administration is growing frustrated at the pace of arms control negotiations with Moscow.

The move follows failed talks aimed at reviving a treaty that governs the number and position of troops and conventional weapons that are stationed in Europe.

In 2007, Russia suspended its observance of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. But the United States and allies had continued to meet the treaty's obligations by providing Russia with data on their forces.

The United States decided to halt that cooperation because the talks with Russia had dragged on too long. European allies, who are also signatories to the CFE treaty, were also expected to stop sharing data with Russia.

In a statement, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States is prepared to resume data exchange with Russia, if Moscow meets its treaty obligations.

Nuland later said that she hoped the move would spur Russia, four years after suspension of the pact.

"We think it's important to take some countermeasures vis-a-vis Russia and maybe this will crystalize the mind in terms of our ability to get back to the table," she said.

The Obama administration has made improving relations with Russia a priority and has seen some success, including the ratification of a major new nuclear arms control treaty that came into force this year.

The administration had hoped that treaty, known as New Start, would stimulate progress on a more ambitious arms control agenda with Russia. But talks have stalled amid tensions over U.S. missile defense plans in Europe.

The suspension of data exchange is mostly symbolic because the United States and its allies will continue to provide the same information to other signatories of the treaty, including Russia's allies, like Belarus, which could pass it back to Russia.

The treaty, which was signed in 1990, limits the number of tanks, aircraft and other heavy non-nuclear weapons that could be deployed west of the Ural Mountains _ the edge of European Russia. A new revised version was signed in 1999, but NATO countries declined to ratify it.

The West had insisted that Russia must honor a promise to pull out its troops from Georgia and the breakaway region of Trans-Dniester in Moldova before they would ratify the new version.

Russia has said the original treaty became obsolete after several former Soviet republics and satellite nations joined NATO. Former President Vladimir Putin, who now serves as a powerful prime minister, has said that the CFE treaty limited the nation's ability to respond to threats on its own territory