Russia’s Trick-or-Treaty

gorbyreagan020608.jpgWe’ve heard in the past about Russia’s efforts to re-treaty the past, taking advantage of the new oil-and-gas fed leverage by scrapping previous arms and defense agreements with the West, and seeking to establish a new position in global defense capability. Back on Nov. 7, the Duman voted 418-0 (talk about a rubber stamp parliament!) to suspend the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), which although in practical security terms isn’t of enormous concern, most people point to the extraordinary damage that could be done with the sudden removal of basic confidence building mechanisms and oversight. Other Cold War security pacts are coming up to the chopping block also – including a much more frightening possible revision of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987.

An article in today’s Telegraph reports on the Russian plan to change the INF, along with the announcement of the new “Military Balance 2008” report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Perhaps one of the most surprising points in the new study is the estimation that defense spending by the Russian Federation will reach £35 billion, compared with just £34 billion in the United Kingdom. Also, Russia is planning to increase this figure by 23% before 2010, easily surpassing any European country.As much as some may like to blame Russia’s trick-o-treaty habits on the institutional spy paranoia in the Kremlin, we should remember who really kicked this problem off to begin with. It’s a great pity that amendments and adjustments to these treaties couldn’t be achieved in place of outright suspension. Without these pacts, the rhetoric can only escalate so far.