MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin accused NATO of "muscle-flexing" near Russia's frontiers yesterday and promised that Moscow would suspend its obligations under a key European arms treaty.
Putin's angry statement was made amid tensions between Russia and the West, and it reflected the increasingly assertive posture taken by the Kremlin ahead of Dec. 2 parliamentary elections.
"In violation of previous agreements, military resources of NATO members are being built up next to our borders," Putin told a meeting of military officials. "Of course, we cannot allow ourselves to remain indifferent to this obvious muscle-flexing."
Putin also gave senior generals a dressing-down over the military's poor living conditions, remarks apparently aimed at winning the hearts of military voters. Putin's decision to lead the ticket of the pro-Kremlin party United Russia is expected to help the party tighten its control of parliament's lower chamber.
Disputes between Russia and the West have multiplied in recent years, with military disagreements topping the list. US plans to establish missile defense sites in Eastern Europe have provoked a heated reaction from Moscow.
Putin said the suspension of Russia's obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, or CFE, which limits the deployment of tanks, aircraft, and heavy conventional weapons across the continent, was part of Russia's response.
Both houses of parliament have endorsed the suspension, scheduled to take effect Dec. 12. Putin pointed to the failure of NATO nations to ratify an amended version of the treaty. "We won't observe any obligations unilaterally," he said.
James Appathurai, NATO spokesman, dismissed Putin's talk of NATO's muscle-flexing.
"All NATO members continue to abide by the restrictions on the numbers and movements of equipment like tanks and aircraft, which the CFE treaty requires, even if it hasn't entered into force, so there is no need to talk about muscle-flexing," he said.