Ukraine Criticises Russian Pullout From Europe Force Limit Treaty

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine on Friday criticised Russia's recent rejection of a European force limitation treaty, saying the Kremlin move 'could negatively affect the European security system.'

Russian T-90 tank

Moscow last weekend suspended its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement in seeming retaliation to a Washington plan to locate parts of a missile-defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The CFE agreement - now set to become null and void after a 150 day waiting period - froze the maximum numbers of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, combat helicopters, and artillery cannon on the European continent.

Russia's abandonment of the agreement posed a potential security threat to Ukraine that 'Ukraine reserves the right to takeall necessary and adequate steps to counter,' according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Though couched in diplomatic language, the communique is one of the most direct criticisms by Kiev of Moscow foreign policy in years. Ukraine normally avoids conflict over security issues with its giant northern neighbour, which provides Ukraine practically all its imported energy.

'The entire regime of European security could be destroyed,' the statement warned.

The Foreign Ministry statement was made public one day after an emergency meeting of Ukraine's National Security Council, held in the Black Sea resort Yalta where Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko was on Summer holiday.

Kiev's announcement called on Russia and NATO to return to CFE standards, for the sake of regional security. The present treaty now abandoned by Russia was clearly obsolete, and 'requires further diologue,' the statement said, agreeing with a key Kremlin complaint about CFE.

Ukraine's influential Korrespondent magazine, one of the country's largest news weeklies, called the Russian decision to leave CFE a strategic blunder, 'as it will inevitably drive Ukraine towards NATO.'

Though Ukraine is a regular host to NATO maneuvres, the suggestion of Ukrainian membership in NATO is highly divisive in the former Soviet republic, with between 50 and 60 per cent of Ukrainians firmly opposing the idea according to most polls.

Ukrainian suspicion of NATO is grounded in a long history of being invaded by more technologically-advanced foreign powers, and NATO operations in Serbia and Afghanistan seen by many Ukrainians as unprovoked NATO attacks against weak opponents.

NATO officials have repeatedly taken the boilerplate line that Ukrainians are not much interested in NATO, because they are poorly informed about the Atlantic Alliance.

'But if Russia rebuilds its army, many Ukrainians will see no other choice but NATO,' Korrespondent commented.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur