Felgenhauer says that
Ivanov’s de facto abrogation of the non-strategic arms limitation agreement comes at a time when military-to-military relations with the West are at an all time low. Last week prearranged peacekeeping and anti-terrorist military exercises that were scheduled to take place this month in Nizhny Novgorod oblast (U.S.-Russian) and Pskov oblast (NATO-Russian) were suddenly cancelled. Ivanov’s announcement of the battlefield redeployment of non-strategic nukes was hardly a simple slip of the tongue. As the incumbent regime in Russia is preparing for parliamentary elections next year and presidential ones in 2008, anti-NATO and anti-American rhetoric is being supplemented by official anti-Western military actions.
The collapse of the existing tactical nuclear limitation regime is not in Russia’s national interests, since the United States and Great Britain have the capability to deploy tens of times more naval nuclear long-range cruise missiles and other non-strategic nukes than does Russia. But it would seem that the Kremlin is still ready to risk drastically worsening relations. Increased military tension may facilitate a nationalistic anti-U.S., anti-NATO surge of public opinion in Russia that might help carry someone like Ivanov (or whomever Putin chooses) into the Kremlin as the new president.