Updated at 14:13,22-06-2018

Gazeta Wyborcza: Russia to deploy new missile systems and aircraft in Belarus


Russia's withdrawal from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces is not only symbolic.

The document that was signed on 19 November 1990 marked the military end of the cold war, Polish Gazeta Wyborcza writes (translated into Russian by Inosmi.ru).

Signatures of diplomats from the East and West sent more tanks for scrap than they were destroyed in all conflicts after World War II. It is important that the CFE Treaty created the system of mutual balance and something called the system of trust between the East and West. By recalling its representatives from consultative groups, Russia gave a clear signal: trust between the East and West does not exist any more. NATO and Russia are enemies from now on.

The Treaty has been dead for a long time. In principle, Russia violated it from the very beginning in Transnistria and the Caucasus. Putin suspended Russia's participation in the Treaty after the news in 2007 that a new missile defence system would be placed in Poland. However, the system of exchange of information, inspections (including air inspections within the framework of the Treaty on Open Skies), notifications of military exercises, invitation attaches to exercises, notification of construction of important military facilities continued to work more or less. It was a sort of a European “fuse” to avoid new military conflicts.

Why did Russia choose this moment to withdraw from the Treaty? The direct reason is, undoubtedly, the deployment of an American brigade of 120 Abrams tanks and Bradley armoured vehicles in Latvia, a virtually defenceless NATO member. Formally, the US does not violate the CFE Treaty: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia didn't join the Treaty, explaining that Russia received certain privileges (Kaliningrad and Pskov Oblasts bordering the Baltic State were excluded from the Treaty). What the West regards as countermeasures against Russia's imperialist ambitions is regarded by Putin as throwing down the gauntlet by the Alliance. This challenge must be answered.

What does Moscow's withdrawal from the CFE Treaty mean? Some experts say it means nothing, because the Treaty doesn't work. I wouldn't be so sure. Every escalation has its logic. If Russia wants to show it takes the West's challenge seriously, it can lead the remilitarisation of Kaliningrad Oblast (for example, Iskander medium-range missiles can be deployed there) and strengthening the military capacity of Transnistria on the south-eastern flank. We can expect that more S-300 missile systems and Su-27 aircraft will be sent to Belarus. It means that both sides will move new tanks and planes closer to the border.

By breaking the Treaty Putin probably wants to use pacifist moods and sow discord in NATO. At the same time, he wants to assure Europeans that Americans are dragging them into another military confrontation.

These arguments, however, do not overshadow the fact that battle-ready tanks and aircraft of NATO and the Russian Federation will soon really face each other. Both sides will test each other's “readiness” and the margin of error that could lead to clashes will considerably reduce.

Alexander Mazur, the head of the Russian delegation to the Vienna talks over military security and arms control said at a JCG meeting on March 10 that Russia took a decision to suspend its participation in JCG sessions from March 11, 2015. The suspension of the CFE Treaty announced by Russia in 2007 becomes complete.

Belarus agreed to represent Russia's interests in the Joint Consultative Group of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.