The Russians have finally announced withdrawal from the key 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty in 150 days, citing non ratification of the amended treaty by NATO nations and U.S. wishes to build an ABM system in Eastern Europe which is simply a precursor to neocon-inspired plans for a full ABM Shield including space-based weapons. The system is thus a very real threat in the making to Russia's nuclear deterrent even if (as the Bush administration claim) it is truly intented as only being aimed at the to-date non-existant threat of a nuke-armed Iran. The trouble is, the neocon think-tankers who conceived this shield quite obviously intend it as being aimed at Russia's deterrent capabilities too and no amount of White House protestation can overcome what the Russians are reading from those think-tanks.
Time magazine has a pretty good analysis of Putins's reasoning.
Putin's "extraordinary circumstances" are clear: first, he says missile shield in Europe will see through entire Russia's defenses all the way to the Urals; Russia seeks to counter that, but the treaty stands very much in the way. Second, NATO countries have failed to ratify the treaty's 1999 amended version — a failure that Putin insists upsets the balance of forces in Europe. For their part, NATO countries hold that the amended version required that Moscow withdraw troops from Moldova and Georgia, which it hasn't completed, and refuse to ratify until Russia fully complies.In other words, Putin sees no conflict on this issue and the populace agreeing with him is just another plus. Russia must protect its national interest against a U.S. administration which it sees, with good reason, as being inimical to a stable balance of power which has lasted decades.
...Vladimir Ryzhkov, a democratic opposition leader and a rare independent member of the Duma, maintains that since the U.S. started this controversy by walking out of the ABM Treaty in 2002, there is a grain of truth in Putin's assertion that Russia was forced to respond. But Ryzhkov sees Putin's saber-rattling as "primarily an election year message to the country: 'Your leader won't budge, no matter who formally becomes next President'." Polls show that this line works, Ryzhkov says: the Russians really buy it.
Time also explains how Russia is likely to counter the threat to it's deterrent power.
There is wide speculation that Putin's idea of "immediate measures" will be to build up its forces in border areas now that it is free of the CFE treaty. Last month, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who increasingly positions himself as Putin's hawkish potential successor, said that Russia would deploy its newly tested Iskander-M cruise missiles in is westernmost Kaliningradsky region, wedged among Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, unless the U.S. scrapes its defense shield bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Ivanov's threats only infuriated Poland and made Lithuania consider asking the U.S. for deploying its ABM on its soil as well. However, cruise and new MIRVED ICBM missiles, promised to be re-targeted on Europe, are not the only ace up Putin's sleeve. Other measures, like troop build-ups along southern borders in the Caucasus, new pressures on Ukraine to maintain the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea beyond the 2017 withdrawal deadline, and a refusal to leave Moldova are all in the offing among other measures.The Bush White House has unilaterally pulled out of several treaties - saying the U.S. would no longer be bound by any treaty when, in the administration's opinion, the national interest was no longer served by compliance. To have officials from that White House criticize Russia for doing the very same thing smacks of more than a little hypocrisy. Thus, by attempting to overturn the most crucial military balance of the last 60 years and by providing precedent aplenty that great powers need not abide by their word except when it suits them to do so, the Bush administration and their neocon WormTongues have yet again helped make the U.S. and the world less secure.