Russia on May 23 declared a moratorium on the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. The announcement comes as the United States and Poland begin official talks on installing a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic — and as Russian President Vladimir Putin visits specific European countries to try to create division within Europe over the United States' plans.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov officially declared a moratorium on the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) on May 23, saying Russia could not abide by a treaty that had not been ratified by all its members. Ivanov said Russia will not only cease informing CFE partners about troop movements, it also will stop allowing foreign inspections in Russia. This announcement amounts to the first actual breaking of the treaty, which has been the cornerstone of European-Russian military relations since the end of the Cold War. An official breach of the treaty following Russian President Vladimir Putin's state of the union address does not mean that Russia is preparing to exponentially increase its production of tanks and rush them to the western border. Ivanov's moratorium and Putin's address are meant to give Europe something to chew on as certain EU members officially begin their negotiations for a new defense in Europe. Ivanov's announcement was specifically timed with the start of official talks between the United States and Poland in Warsaw on installing a missile defense base in Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin had warned against those talks in his address, saying that certain European states and the United States were using the CFE's provisions to step up a military presence close to borders with Russia. Putin is traveling to specific European states May 23 and 24 to rally some support against Washington's plans in Central Europe. Putin held talks in Austria, which is in the European Union, but not a member of NATO, and will travel to Luxembourg, which is aligned with a quickly fading "old" Europe that looks on Russia more moderately. Putin is attempting to create a division in Europe against U.S. plans, and Ivanov's statement is meant to show Europe that Russia is serious about breaking its commitments of the past and moving in a new — but darker — direction.