CFE Treaty Review Completed; Parties Agree on Flank Resolution

By Walkling, Sarah | Arms Control Today, May/June 1996 | Go to article overview

CFE Treaty Review Completed; Parties Agree on Flank Resolution


Walkling, Sarah, Arms Control Today


AT THE FIRST review conference for the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, held May 15-31 in Vienna, the 30 states-parties to the treaty reaffirmed the fundamental role of the agreement as the "cornerstone of European security" and pledged to modernize the treaty to reflect the post-Cold War European security situation. As part of their review of the treaty's operation, CFE parties also resolved two long-standing disputes over the deployment and destruction of Russian weaponry that have overshadowed the treaty's otherwise highly successful implementation.

Signed in 1990 by 22 NATO and Warsaw Pact members, the CFE Treaty places equal numerical limits on the two "groups" of countries for five categories of heavy weapons-battle tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), large-calibre artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters-deployed and stored between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. In addition to the overall limits, the accord imposes sub-limits on the numbers of weapons located in the treaty's concentric geographic zones and in the so-called "flank" zone that covers most of Northern and Southern Europe.

Since signing the treaty, CFE parties have eliminated more than 58,000 pieces of treaty-limited equipment (TLE) from their forces, and, under a related accord signed in July 1992 limiting troop strength (known as the CFE lA agreement), have reduced their armed forces by 1.2 million persons. As a result of the CFE treaty's unprecedented transparency and verification provisions, states-parties have conducted more than 2,500 inspections to ensure treaty compliance.

In the conference's final document, the CFE parties noted that the treaty and the CFE 1A accord "have remained vital stabilizing factors in this [post-Cold War] period of transition and contribute to its peaceful unfolding." As a result of the treaty's implementation, "the capability for launching surprise attack and the danger of largescale offensive action in Europe as a whole have been diminished substantially." The states-parties also "reaffirm[ed] their determination to fulfill in good faith all obligations and commitments under the accord," and pledged "to continue the conventional arms control process" in Europe.

Among the implementation issues reviewed during the conference were the ongoing difficulties of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus in completing their overall reduction obligations; the need to update and correct the list of existing types of conventional arms limited by the treaty; and the long-simmering debate over Russia's call for a revision of the treaty's flank limits and its non-compliance with those limits.

'Flank' Dispute Settled

Since 1993, Russia and, to a lesser degree, Ukraine had argued that the flank limits did not reflect the drastic changes that have taken place in Europe following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. After the breakup, Russia was forced to share the former Soviet Union's flank allocation with five other former Soviet republics, including those in the troubled Caucasus region. (Russia's southern flank zone borders Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan; the northern area of Russia's flank zone largely borders Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Norway.)

Specifically, Moscow argued that the flank limits imposed on Russia (no more than 700 tanks, 580 ACVs and 1,280 artillery pieces deployed with active units, and up to 600 tanks, 800 ACVs and 400 artillery pieces in storage) unfairly restricted Russia's ability to deploy weapons inside its own borders and to absorb forces returning from Central and Eastern Europe. Moscow's dissatisfaction with the flank limits intensified following Russia's military response to the secessionist movement in Chechnya, an autonomous republic in the southern flank area. As a result of Russian military deployments in the area, Moscow, although meeting its overall reduction obligations under the treaty, was not in compliance with the flank limits at the end of final reduction period. …

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CFE Treaty Review Completed; Parties Agree on Flank Resolution
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