East-West Arms Control: Challenges for the Western Alliance

By David Dewitt; Hans Rattinger | Go to book overview

10

CFE and the future of Europe

Roger Hill and Robin Hay

As the last decade of this century began it looked as though a major agreement on conventional armed forces in Europe would soon be reached with surprising ease. The negotiators in Vienna were scrambling to resolve the remaining hard issues about such points as numbers of combat aircraft and definitions of main battle tanks, but it was expected that these would soon be settled and that during 1990 a great new force reductions agreement would be established that would entail the removal and elimination of tens of thousands of pieces of military equipment from the inventories of NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries. Not only that: the first agreement, CFE I, would pave the way to further rounds of negotiation on the reduction of conventional armed forces in Europe, and a new era of mutual security and positive co-operation would dawn in the old continent.

Six months later, the situation was not quite so bright. There was still the expectation that conventional armed forces in Europe would eventually be reduced, but not the previous near-certainty that this would come about easily and logically as a result of an orderly CFE process. People wondered whether CFE had not been overtaken by events, and worried about a turning back to confrontation. In early July 1990, CFE seemed stuck, even though intensive efforts were continuing in Vienna to clear away remaining conceptual and technical problems.

Yet pessimism seemed premature. The hopes for an agreement on conventional force reductions in Europe have always been heavily dependent on the general political atmosphere between East and West in Europe, and would be bound to rise again once some critical, fundamental problems of European security could be resolved. The most important in the summer of 1990 was the question of German reunification and the related issue of German membership in the Western alliance; if these could be successfully dealt with - and the

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