Germany, France warn Russia on arms treaty exit

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BERLIN, Oct 29 (Reuters) Germany and France urged Russia today to reverse its plans to suspend compliance with a 1990 treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe, saying the move risked sparking new arms races.

In a joint article published in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper and France's Le Figaro, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner said all European states would lose out if Russia went ahead with the move.

''The stated plan by Russia to scrap its participation in the CFE treaty is a matter of concern for us,'' the two ministers wrote. ''An erosion of the CFE treaty could spark new arms races and create new conflicts.'' President Vladimir Putin announced in July that Russia would suspend participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, a move which is due to come into effect on December 12.

The pact, signed in November 1990 between the then-22 member states of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, limits the number of tanks, heavy artillery and combat aircraft deployed and stored between the Atlantic and Russia's Ural mountains.

''All states on the continent would be losers,'' Steinmeier and Kouchner wrote. ''Therefore we call on the Russian government not to go ahead with the suspension and to defend its legitimate interests through negotiations.'' They called the pact an ''anchor of stability'' for European security.

Russia has also been pressing for changes to another milestone arms control agreement, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which was signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in 1987.

Russia sees the treaty, which bound Washington and Moscow to eliminate ground-launched short and medium-range nuclear missiles, as a Cold War relic because it did not include countries outside of Europe that have since built up their military arsenals.

Both Russia and the United States called yesterday for other states to be included in the INF missile pact.

Putin has hiked arms spending to restore Russia's military capability after years of neglect during the chaotic 1990s.

Reuters SKB RN1646

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