The Bucharest meeting will be the first time a Russian leader has taken part in a NATO Summit since Rome in 2002. Relations between Russia and the alliance have soured recently with Russia accusing NATO of triggering a new arms race by beefing up its military presence on Russia’s Western borders. Other irritants include Russia’s decision to suspend its compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) arms treaty, and the plans by NATO member the United States for a missile defence shield in eastern Europe. Moscow would like “to seek generally acceptable solutions both in terms of the CFE treaty, in missile defence and in other problems of collective security”, Lavrov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
The issue of CFE Treaty
First news of Russian President Vladimir Putin attending the NATO Summit in Bucharest was brought by the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the 12th of February.
The issue of CFE treaty came forward during US-Russia row over the Washington backed plan to build up a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened a “moratorium” on the treaty in his April 26, 2007 address, and then raised most of its demands for rewriting the treaty during the Extraordinary Conference of States Parties to the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, held in Vienna on June 11-15 at Russia’s initiative. As his demands were not met during this conference, Putin issued a decree intended to suspend the observance of its treaty obligations on July 14, 2007, effective 150 days later, stating that it was the result of „extraordinary circumstances (...) which affect the security of the Russian Federation and require immediate measures,” and notified NATO and its members. The suspension applies to the original CFE treaty, as well as to the follow-up agreements. An explanatory document from Russia’s presidential administration mentions several reasons for its intention to suspend compliance. First of all, Russia considers the linkage between the adapted treaty ratification and the withdrawal of troops from Georgia and Moldova as “illegitimate” and “invented”. Russia also considers the troop-withdrawal issue a bilateral Russia-Georgia and Russia-Moldova issue, not a NATO-Russia issue. Also Russia mentioned that the planned basing of U.S. military units in Romania and Bulgaria “negatively affects” those countries’ compliance with the CFE Treaty’s force ceilings.
Russian troops in Transnistria
Following the collapse of the former Soviet Union the Russian 14th Army left in Transnistria 40.000 tonnes of weapony and ammunition. In the subsequent years there were concerns that the Transnistrian authorities may try to sell these stocks, internationally and intense pressure was applied to have these removed by the Russian Federation. Following the Istanbul agreements from 1999, in 2000 and 2001, the Russian Federation withdrew by rail 141 self-propelled artillery and other armoured vehicles and destroyed locally 108 T-64 tanks and 139 other pieces of military equipment limited by the CFE treaty.
Lack of progress in negotiations for the settlement of Transnistria conflict led to an unprecedented escalation of Moldovan diplomacy in search for a solution. At the beginning of 2008 media reports revealed a supposedly “secret plan” agreed by Moldova’s and Russia’s Presidents - Vladimir Voronin and Vladimir Putin - for the settlement of Transnistrian conflict. This plan comprised a participation of Transnistrian separatist authorities at national level government (eluding the term “federation” that sparked public protests in 2003) and a signed agreement for maintaining Russian troops for 20 years. Moldovan authorities denied the very existence of such a plan.
On 12 March 2008 in an interview with Russian daily Kommersant, President Vladimir Voronin said a deal might be reached with Russia under which the Transdnestr region remains part of Moldova in return for Moldova’s promise never to join NATO. „Soon we will have a final solution to the Transdnestr conflict,” Voronin was quoted as saying. The deal with Russia, Voronin said, would include guarantees that Transdnestr would retain broad autonomy within Moldova. Such remarks from Vladimir Voronin underline the fear of Moldovan authorities that under Russian CFE treaty moratorium the Russian troops might never leave Transnistria and the conflict might not be solved any time soon.