Why Did Russia Suspend Instead of Withdraw?
Given the problems and complexities posed by Russia’s CFE Treaty suspension, a final question involves why Russia did not simply withdraw from the CFE Treaty. Certainly, international politics may explain the suspension—i.e., Russia wanted to signal its displeasure with the slow pace of ratification of the Adaptation Agreement and/or object to NATO encroachment into certain areas without destroying the CFE Treaty framework entirely.
TAn alternative explanation for Russia’s suspension though may lie in Russian domestic legal requirements. Russia’s participation in the CFE Treaty is governed by the 1995 Federal Law on International Treaties of the Russian Federation. According to the Kremlin’s press release, Article 37(4) of this law governs Russia’s CFE Treaty suspension. That provision authorizes President Putin to suspend certain treaties “in instances requiring the taking of urgent measures,” but it does not authorize a treaty’s termination. Moreover, it requires the President to inform Russia’s legislature of his action and to submit a draft federal law concerning the suspension to the State Duma (if the Duma rejects that law, the treaty immediately resumes operation). Thus, Russia’s decision to suspend rather than terminate the CFE Treaty may have turned on President Putin’s available options under current Russian law; absent further legislative action by the Duma, he has no domestic legal authority to terminate the CFE Treaty, but can only suspend it.