* Putin suspended participation in treaty in 2007
* Russia's position comes with caveat
* NATO, Russia at odds over forces in Georgia, Moldova
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW, Nov 15 Russia is ready for talks with
NATO on limiting conventional military forces in Europe as long
as the Western alliance does not bring politics into the
picture, Russia's new envoy to NATO was quoted as saying on
Alexander Grushko's remarks indicated Russia is prepared to
return to discussions about limits on non-nuclear forces five
years after President Vladimir Putin suspended compliance with
the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty.
But the envoy's caveat suggested Russia will not accept
questions about the legitimacy of its forces in two breakaway
Georgian regions it recognised as independent states after a
2008 war, or in Moldova's Transdnistria region.
"The main thing is that consultations, if not to say
negotiations, should start without any attempts at linkages with
political issues," Grushko said in Moscow, according to the
Interfax news agency.
"If an interest in arms control, and not some political
issues, is placed at the centre, there is a chance to begin a
very focused conversation about what kind of control is needed
today," state-run RIA quoted him as saying.
"The ball is in Europe's court. We await signals from our
European partners that would bear witness to their interest."
The timing of the announcement, shortly after U.S. President
Barack Obama's re-election, may have been meant to show the
United States and its NATO allies that Russia is open to
constructive talks on arms control but will not give ground
Agreed by members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact in 1990, a
year before the Soviet Union fell apart, the treaty aimed to
establish a balance of conventional armed forces, such as battle
tanks, heavy artillery and combat aircraft, at reduced levels.
The treaty was updated in November 1999 in Istanbul with
leaders of 30 nations setting limits on the forces between the
Atlantic and the Ural Mountains on a national basis instead of
the bloc-to-bloc totals set in the 1990 document.
Russia suspended participation in 2007, protesting at NATO
nations' refusal to ratify the new version and complaining that
the pact was outdated because several former Warsaw Pact states
had since joined NATO.
The NATO nations' refusal to ratify stemmed from earlier
disputes with Russia over deployments in Georgia and Moldova.
The United States said last year it would no longer provide
Russia with annual notifications or military data called for in
the treaty, but that it hoped Moscow would eventually return to