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Top diplomats: Russia won’t increase troops on western border if NATO doesn’t do it

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    MOSCOW — Russia will not expand its armed forces on its western border as long as NATO refrains from a military buildup, Russian diplomats and lawmakers said Thursday.
    The statements came after Russia halted its obligations under a key European treaty that limits the deployment of tanks, aircraft and other heavy weapons across the continent.
    Officials said they did so not as a threat, but to persuade NATO nations to ratify a 1999 update of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty that is more acceptable to Moscow.
    ‘‘We are not declaring a moratorium so as to begin building up military forces on the border with NATO,’’ said Anatoly Antonov, head of the Foreign Ministry’s security and arms control department. ‘‘We are saying that in the future, everything will depend on an appropriate reaction from our partners.’’
    Under the moratorium, which takes effect Dec. 12, Russia will stop reporting on its force levels and halt inspection and verification of its military sites by NATO countries. It will also no longer heed limits on the number of conventional weapons deployed west of the Ural Mountains.
    President Vladimir Putin, who on Nov. 30 signed into law legislation suspending Russia’s participation, has indicated Moscow would renew participation if NATO countries ratify the 1999 version. He has also warned it could withdraw altogether if there is no response.
    Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the international affairs committee in the outgoing parliament, said Russia would not initiate a military buildup. However, he said, ‘‘nobody is ruling out that in the future, if events proceed according to a worst-case scenario, there could be a review of weapons levels.’’
    Russia says the 1990 treaty has become hopelessly out of date as Europe’s geopolitical boundaries have shifted following the collapse of communism. What were once Eastern bloc quotas have transferred NATO as former members of the Warsaw Pact join the Western alliance, Russian officials argue, unfairly restricting deployments in western Russia.
    Moscow ratified the updated version in 2004, but the United States and other NATO members have refused, saying Russia is obligated to withdraw forces from Georgia and from a separatist region in Moldova. Russia says the issues are not linked.
    Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern over NATO’s eastward expansion and deployments close to Russia, including U.S. plans for missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.
    While NATO nations are well within quotas under the CFE treaty, Antonov said, he said the situation could change quickly and lead to a major buildup near Russia’s borders.
    ‘‘There is no threat from the Russian side,’’ Antonov said. ‘‘I don’t think anyone in Berlin would get the idea that, say, Russian tanks would roll toward Germany tomorrow. It’s nonsense.’’
    Alexei Arbatov, head of a Moscow security think tank, said that in terms of conventional weapons, Russia has insufficient economic and military potential to threaten any country.
    He called the suspension a warning to NATO to halt expansion, and not admit ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine or Georgia into the alliance. Both have expressed an interest to join.
    If NATO expands further despite Russia’s opposition, Arbatov predicted Moscow would likely withdraw from the treaty and to build up its military forces as necessary, ‘‘ignoring any restrictions.’’

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