Conventional Arms Control in Europe: Is There a Last Chance?

By Zellner, Wolfgang | Arms Control Today, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Conventional Arms Control in Europe: Is There a Last Chance?


Zellner, Wolfgang, Arms Control Today


European security policy currently is characterized by a striking contradiction between declarations and deeds. The November 2010 NATO Strategic Concept says the alliance is striving for "true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia";1 in the Astana Commemorative Declaration, the 56 member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) even commit themselves to the "vision of a free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok."2

According to Karl Deutsch, one of the fathers of this concept, a "securitycommunity... is one in which there is real assurance that the members of that community will not fight each other physically, but will settle their disputes in some other way."3 This means nothing less than a community without the threat or use of warfare.

The reality is quite different. The reset of U.S.-Russian security relations so far has produced scarcely any concrete results for Europe. Admittedly, relations with Russia are better than in 2008. There is more discussion, and the whole situation is not as highly charged as it was then. However, none of Europe's security problems have been resolved, be they the protracted conflicts in Moldova (where official negotiations were resumed in November 2011), in Georgia, and between Armenia and Azerbaijan; possible future rounds of NATO enlargement; missile defense; or tactical nuclear weapons. The situation in the field of arms control is characterized at best by stagnation, if not by backward steps.

The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty is almost dead. Russia suspended its implementation of the treaty in December 2007. A CFE Treaty review conference on September 29, 2011, ended without a final declaration. In November 2011, NATO stopped the CFE Treaty-related data exchange with Russia.4

New consultations on a "framework for negotiations to strengthen and to modernize the conventional arms control regime in Europe," which had been started at NATO's initiative in June 2010, were broken offin May 2011 without agreement on a follow-up meeting. These consultations were held in the format "at 36," the 30 CFE Treaty states-parties plus the six new NATO member states that are not parties (Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia). Aimed at a mandate for new negotiations on conventional arms control in Europe, the consultations failed because of disagreement on the interpretation of the principle of host-nation consent, which foresees explicit prior agreement by a host state to the deployment of foreign forces on its territory. Russia agreed with the principle as such, but it disagreed with the addition of the phrase "in its internationally recognized borders"-a reminder about Georgia demanded by the United States and other NATO countries. In addition, Russia was not willing to provide additional transparency measures prior to the opening of negotiations, as requested by NATO. As a result, the consultations have failed for the moment, and many participants have resumed a wait-and-see attitude.

The lack of success in revitalizing the CFE Treaty process already has harmed the efforts to modernize the Vienna Document 1999 of the Negotiations on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures. The proposals of the NATO states sought primarily to lower the thresholds for prior notification of certain military activities and to raise the quota for inspections and evaluation visits. These proposals were rejected by Russia for two major reasons. First, Russia does not want to provide additional transparency as long as its current military reform is under way. Second, Russia perceived additional inspections as a way for the NATO countries to politically circumvent its CFE Treaty suspension. Although a revision of the Vienna Document 1999, known as the Vienna Document 2011, was adopted at the 2011 Vilnius OSCE ministerial council meeting,5 the progress achieved is limited to purely technical and procedural matters. …

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Conventional Arms Control in Europe: Is There a Last Chance?
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