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Out of the CFE

Today, in a Soviet-era margin of 418-0, the Duma approved a law to end compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. The legislation still has to go to the upper house. If passed there—which is most likely because the Russian political system is becoming more predictable by the day—the legislation will go to the desk of President Vladimir Putin for signature. The suspension is slated to take effect on December 12. In July, Putin gave the formal 150-day notice of the suspension.

The West considers the CFE, as the pact is known, the cornerstone of security on the continent. The 1990 agreement limits the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, attack helicopters, and combat aircraft between the Atlantic and the Urals. No one expects a large set-piece battle on the European plains, so Russia’s suspension is seen as a sign of unhappiness about the treaty and a gambit to gain an edge in negotiations to change its terms.

Each side has numerous complaints about the other’s fulfillment of CFE obligations. The West, for instance, is concerned about Moscow’s failure to withdraw troops from Georgia and Moldova. The Kremlin, for its part, is upset over the temporary basing of American troops in Romania and Bulgaria. In addition, each side has non-CFE complaints against the other involving security in Europe.

So it’s time for us to confront reality. Relations between the Atlantic partners and Russia are now approaching those of a failing marriage. Whether we blame the Russians or the West for the breakdown, we should recognize that broad partnership with Moscow is no longer possible (or at least not possible for the foreseeable future). We cannot continue living the one-world dream. In short, we need to begin building a new security architecture not based on cooperation with the Russians. As a first step, the first seven members of the G-8 should disinvite Moscow. After all, what is an angry mafia state doing in a group of free-market economies? Will Putin be upset? Undoubtedly. But what problems in the world is he helping to solve now?



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