Russia continues to up the ante in its relations with the West. Last week, Moscow announced that it will suspend its obligations under a key arms control treaty in Europe. The move underscores rising tensions with the United States and is another attempt to drive a wedge into the Atlantic Alliance.

The Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) was signed by Russia and NATO in 1990; it puts limits on the number of weapons systems — aircraft, heavy artillery and tanks — countries can deploy in Eastern Europe. The treaty was amended after the Soviet Union broke up; the changes obliged Russia to remove military forces from Georgia and Moldova, two former Soviet republics.

Russia ratified the treaty. NATO did not, claiming that it cannot until Moscow removes troops from those states. Moscow counters that the U.S. has established bases in Eastern European countries in violation of the treaty — NATO claims they are training facilities — among other things. Curiously, Moscow’s expressed displeasure over U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses in Eastern and Central Europe is not among its grievances in this case.

It is unlikely that Moscow will redeploy forces near the border with Europe. There is little threat of attack from the West and such a move would be costly. But Russia can suspend inspections and verification procedures, which will add to insecurity in Europe.

That seems to be the real point of the exercise. Russia knows that there is little to fear on its western borders. But Moscow is troubled by NATO’s lack of respect for its concerns — a list that includes the fate of Kosovo and criticism of Moscow’s increasingly muscular energy policy, in addition to the missile defense deployment and the CFE.

Europe must not be cowed. That does not mean that it, along with the U.S. (or Japan for that matter), should be indifferent to Russian interests. Moscow deserves respect. Failure to provide it will ensure its enmity; that is unnecessary and dangerous.

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