East-West Arms Control: Challenges for the Western Alliance

By David Dewitt; Hans Rattinger | Go to book overview
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Requirements for successful negotiations on force reductions in Europe

Jonathan Dean

There now appears to be a real opportunity to build down the NATO/Warsaw Pact confrontation in Europe which is no longer functional at its present high level and high costs. Given the unexpected similarity in the starting positions of the NATO and Warsaw Pact negotiators at the new talks on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, or CFE, which opened in March 1989 in Vienna, and given the capacity of both alliances to show flexibility on details, a first complete agreement should be possible within the next 2 or 3 years, a partial agreement even sooner.

Several indications, among them General Secretary Gorbachev’s December 1988 announcement of unilateral reductions, his statements at that time that there would be more Soviet cuts, and the Pact’s proposal in the CFE talks for two phases of reductions in men and major armaments down to a new equal level amounting to 40 per cent of NATO’s current holdings, make it appear plausible that the Soviet leadership has decided to make deep cuts in its forces west of the Urals during the next 5 years or so. 1

Discussion with Soviet officials indicates that the Soviet leadership may also decide to make these reductions whether or not NATO is ready to reduce its forces in the conventional force talks.

Soviet leaders will observe developments at the Vienna CFE talks while they implement the already announced unilateral reductions in 1989 and 1990. Because the motives for these reductions surely include saving money and impressing Western opinion with a conciliatory Soviet attitude, it would be counter-productive for the Soviets to fail to carry them out in full. It is probable that, after the present programme of unilateral reductions has been completed, Warsaw Pact leaders will review progress in the new Vienna talks and decide whether the talks are likely to bring results in a reasonably short time. If the forecast is negative, the Soviet leadership, driven primarily by


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East-West Arms Control: Challenges for the Western Alliance


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