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December 12, 2007 12:00:00 AM
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Russia has walked out of a key Cold War treaty setting limits on troops and weapons across Europe, but promised there were no immediate plans for a major military build-up.

Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty was suspended from midnight in Moscow (2100 GMT Tuesday), the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Such a step has been caused by the exceptional circumstances connected to the content of the treaty which concern the security of Russia and demand that we take immediate measures," the ministry statement said.

Signed in 1990 and modified in 1999, the CFE places precise limits on the stationing of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to Russia's Ural mountains -- a mammoth agreement that helped resolve the Cold War standoff.

President Vladimir Putin, who has made a priority of restoring Russian military might, signed a decree ordering Moscow's suspension of the treaty last month.

Suspension means troops can now be moved around the country without notifying NATO.
The foreign ministry said that Russia was no longer "constrained by the limitations placed on arms deployments on its flanks."

However, the ministry added a reassuring note, saying: "We have no current plans to accumulate massive armaments on our neighbours' borders."

In theory, Russia can return to the treaty at any time, but analysts say that is unlikely, given mounting East-West tensions.

The demise of the CFE comes on top of Moscow's threat to leave the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty, as well as tensions around US plans to install a missile-defence shield in NATO members Poland and the Czech Republic.

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