( RIA Novosti ) - The upper house of Russia's parliament unanimously approved on Friday a unilateral moratorium on a major arms control agreement to force the West to change its attitude toward European security.
In a widely anticipated move, the Federation Council supported President Vladimir Putin's initiative to suspend Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which the Kremlin calls discriminatory. The measure becomes effective on December 12.
Speaking at a Federation Council session on Friday, Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the Russian General Staff, said Russia's decision was legitimate and justified, despite strong criticism from the West.
"They [NATO and the U.S.] were hoping up to the last minute that Russia would soften its stance, that it would not adopt the moratorium," Baluyevsky said. "But we must make this step...both from the political and the military points of view."
Russia is particularly concerned about the so-called "flank limitations" under the CFE treaty, which essentially prohibit Moscow from reinforce its military contingents in the North Caucasus military district and in northwest Russia's Leningrad military district.
Baluyevsky said he recently returned from a NATO session in Brussels, where most military commanders from the Euro-Atlantic security alliance recognized Russia's right to impose a unilateral moratorium.
The general reiterated that the upcoming moratorium does not imply a Russian pullout from the CFE Treaty, and said Moscow will resume its implementation of the pact as soon as NATO countries ratify the modified version.
Baluyevsky also said Russia had started work on a new federal program for the development of its Armed Forces, and that the changes brought by the CFE moratorium would be incorporated in the new document.
"We have started work on a new [military development] program until 2020," he told senators, adding that Russian scientists have made a number of breakthroughs in the sphere of military research and development, which will help Russia maintain high defense capability for decades to come.
"All we have to do is to decide how to implement these advanced technologies and streamline their mass production," Baluyevsky said.