Russia’s Withdrawal from CFE Treaty; a Sign of Resumption of Cold War with the West

Strategic Council Online - Interview: An expert on international affairs stated that by withdrawing from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and other military pacts, Russia is creating a kind of ambiguity in the scope of its military power, adding: Ambiguity in military power also occurred in the Cold War, and we are now witnessing a new Cold War between Russia and the West.

In an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Mehdi Shapouri considered Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe within the framework of the escalation of tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine and clarified: The two parties not only since the beginning of the war but since the crisis in 2014, entered into disputes that over time destroyed many of the international institutions and regimes they were members of and reduced or stopped the cooperation they had within that framework. Also, many treaties that controlled or limited military competition were affected by that war.

He stated that Russia thinks that the West has not considered Russia’s interests in Ukraine and intends to threaten its national security, especially by trying to expand NATO to the East and noted: With the start of the Ukraine crisis and the outbreak of war and the extensive relations that were established between Ukraine and NATO, the security barrier that Russia expected to exist between that country and NATO was destroyed. Today, the Ukrainian army is, more than ever, an army with Western and NATO infrastructure. As in the past, the Russian style or infrastructure is not dominant over it.

The Institute of Strategic Studies faculty member said the treaty was signed in Paris in 1990. Its updated version was signed in 1999 at the meeting of the heads of the member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Istanbul. He added: A revised version of the treaty was ratified by four countries, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, but in 2007, Russia announced that it would suspend its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Arms Forces in Europe until NATO countries ratified the compatibility agreement and began implementing it in good faith and now it is entirely out of it.

Shapouri pointed to the remarks of the Kremlin spokesperson that termination of the agreement will not have direct consequences, and regarding the possibility of the war in Ukraine entering into a new phase, according to the statements of Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, that the phase of sharp confrontation between Russia and NATO and the United States has begun, said: This measure has been carried out in the continuation of the escalation of tension between the two parties, and the promises made by Western countries to provide new weapons to Ukraine have also been very effective.

According to the expert on international affairs, the security ties between Russia and the West, whatever they were, have been broken over time due to the Ukraine crisis and the war. All the regimes and institutions that could control the military competition between the two sides and establish security cooperation have been damaged. Even though after Biden came to power in the United States, the two sides extended the New START Treaty for five years, Russia withdrew from it.

Saying that a new cold war is being witnessed between Russia and the West, Shapouri explained: Although Russia is not in the position of the Soviet Union against the West; because the Soviet Union was much more powerful than Russia, this situation is happening, and the most important aspect of it is in the arms race and creating ambiguity in the field of conventional nuclear weapons. By withdrawing from the New START Treaty and the Treaty on Conventional Arms Forces in Europe, Russia is creating a kind of ambiguity in the scope of its military power. This ambiguity is an important issue in strategic studies and deterrence. It gives the message to the other party that it does not allow them to know the size and type of each other’s weapons.

He added: Such ambiguity was also created in the Cold War, which was greatly reduced from the 1960s onwards with the signing of arms control agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union. The two sides established a limit on strategic weapons and signed treaties with transparency. This transparency could make the security perspective a bit clearer for the parties. But with the demise of arms control regimes, ambiguities are returning.

The faculty member of the Strategic Studies Research Center noted: While many of such actions are symbolic and may not have serious strategic consequences in the relations between the two sides that will appear very soon and can be understood objectively, this is a part of the deterrence equation that again casts a shadow on the relations between Russia and the West in the form of the Cold War. With this symbolic action, Russia is somehow trying to respond to the other party’s decision to arm Ukraine with new weapons. By creating ambiguity, it emphasizes that it is not committed to ensuring the security of Europe and that anything may happen in bilateral relations.

At the same time, Shapouri emphasized that the outbreak of war between the two sides was far from expected. Still, the consequence of such actions is the escalation of tension between the two sides, and said: Russia may move towards new military equations concerning the West. It may increase its nuclear or conventional weapons or deploy more in some areas. It is not clear how such developments will affect Russia’s interests. Still, it seems that it will use all its tools in relation to the West in the current situation.

He called this severity of disconnection of security, political, economic, and even cultural ties unprecedented in the history of relations between Russia and the West and added: Until the fate of the war is not clarified, which of course seems to be intensified and continued, this atmosphere will continue to become deteriorated. Almost now, no treaty or regime is left in which the two sides can compete to control and limit themselves, especially in the military and nuclear fields. Due to the reduction of information and cooperation between the two parties, the competition may get out of control and escalate tension and, even less likely, conflict.

He added: The West is sending very important weapons to Ukraine, and Russia is using all its facilities. Moscow is in a strategic predicament that can only be resolved through diplomacy. Still, now it is unwilling to enter this way because it thinks it is a great power. Still, it did not achieve what it desired in Ukraine, so it continues on the path of the past. Understanding Moscow officials of Russia’s position makes it difficult for them to engage in diplomacy.

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