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Putin says Russia will not tolerate NATO military build up - 2

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia would not ignore NATO's military build up near its borders and would provide an adequate response to any "muscle-flexing."
(Adds Putin's comments, details in paras 4-6, 11-15)

MOSCOW, November 20 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia would not ignore NATO's military build up near its borders and would provide an adequate response to any "muscle-flexing."

"In violation of previous agreements, NATO members' military resources are being built up next to our borders," Putin said at a Defense Ministry meeting with senior military staff. "Certainly, we cannot allow ourselves to remain indifferent to this obvious muscle-flexing."

He said Russia had been forced to impose a moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty as the majority of other signatories had failed to ratify an adapted version of the cold war-era agreement.

The modified version of the 1990 CFE treaty, which Western countries consider a cornerstone of European security, was signed on November 19, 1999 by all NATO countries except Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia.

Only Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan have ratified the adapted version of the document, while NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Moldova and Georgia as a condition for their ratification of the modified CFE Treaty.

Russia is particularly concerned about the so called flank limitations under the CFE treaty, which essentially prohibit Moscow from reinforcing its military contingents in the North Caucasus military district and in Russia's northwest Leningrad military district.

In a widely anticipated move, both houses of the Russian parliament have unanimously supported Putin's initiative to suspend Russia's participation in the CFE treaty, which the Kremlin calls discriminatory. The measure becomes effective on December 12.

"I would like to emphasize that it is a forced, but necessary measure," the Russian president said. "We will not observe anything unilaterally."

At the same time, Putin said Russia would consider resuming its participation in the CFE treaty if other signatories fulfilled their obligations under the arms control accord.

"Russia will consider renewing its commitments after our partners join an adapted version of the treaty and, most importantly, observe it," Putin said.

The Russian president also reiterated the need to continue the development of Russia's Strategic Nuclear Forces and said they should be able to respond promptly and effectively to any aggression.

"One of the most important tasks today is to enhance the combat readiness of the Strategic Nuclear Forces. They should be in a position to deliver a prompt and effective strike against any aggressor," Putin said.

Russia has recently resumed patrol flights of strategic bombers and continues building advanced nuclear submarines. It has also successfully tested a number of new and existing ballistic missiles.

According to the federal budget, Russia's defense spending in 2008 will grow another 16.3% from 2007 to 956 billion rubles ($36.8 billion), and is set to total 1.184 trillion rubles ($45.5 billion) by 2010.

Although Russia cut its Armed Forces to about 1.1 million personnel, Moscow unveiled plans to make it a strong professional force, capable of ensuring national security and protecting the country's interests anywhere in the world.

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