(Business New Europe – bne.eu – April 3, 2013)
Russia and west continue drift into Cold War stand off after the Russian delegation abstained from voting to renew the International Arms Trade Treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on April 2. The document covers conventional arms of the UN member countries and introduces general standards for deals with conventional weapons.
The refusal comes on a week after Russia launched unprecedented post-Soviet military exercises in the Black Sea that has unsettled all the counties in the regions.
Normally countries inform other countries in the region of military exercises before they start, but Russia took advantage of a rule that says if the exercise involves less than 7,000 people there is no need to inform anyone.
Countries do hold snap exercises from time to time as a way of testing their battle readiness to a crisis and Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered this one while in his plan on the way back from the BRICS summit in South Africa. He went straight on to the Black Sea to observe the exercises.
This was the largest exercise since the fall of the Soviet Union and comes only a month after a smaller exercise, also unannounced, on Russia’s Baltic border that involved moving nuclear weapons about, another post-Soviet first.
In general Russia’s military leaders have been making strong statements in March specifically aimed at NATO and warning that its expansion is unacceptable to Russia. Sergei Ivanov, the head of the presidential chief-of-staff also rebuffed talk of restarting missle reduction talks and the Kremlin dismissed Americas announcement that it would limit its controversial missile defence shield programme in Europe.
The messages are clear: Russia has drawn a line in the sand. It will not tolerate any more NATO expansion in Europe nor will it tolerate any addition to existing forces. It now views the US and its allies as enemies and has launched a 10-year programme to rebuild its conventional forces. At the same time it is developing its long range nuclear missile capacity with the Topol-M mussels to close the gap with the US as this is one area where the America has a clear advantage over Russia.