The CFE Treaty Review Conference: Strengthening the 'Cornerstone' of European Security

By Mendelsohn, Jack; Walkling, Sarah | Arms Control Today, April 1996 | Go to article overview

The CFE Treaty Review Conference: Strengthening the 'Cornerstone' of European Security


Mendelsohn, Jack, Walkling, Sarah, Arms Control Today


On May 15, the United States and the other 29 states-parties to the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty will meet in Vienna, Austria, for the accord's first review conference. Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., special representative of the president for arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament since 1993, will lead the U.S. delegation.

Ambassador Graham, who served as the senior Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) representative and legal adviser to the U.S. CFE delegation in 1989 and 1990, has held a number of top positions at ACDA, including general counsel (1983 to 1994), acting director (January 1993 to November 1993) and acting deputy director (November 1993 to August 1994). He has also served as legal adviser to the U.S. SALT II delegation (1974-1979), senior ACDA representative to the U.S. Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces negotiations (1981-1982), legal adviser to the U.S. Nuclear and Space Arms delegation (1989-1990), and legal adviser to the U.S. START I delegation (1991) and START II delegation (1992).

Most recently, Ambassador Graham played a key role in U.S. efforts to secure the indefinite extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the 1995 review and extension conference in New York.

On April 25, Arms Control Association (ACA) Deputy Director Jack Mendelsohn and ACA senior analyst Sarah Walkling interviewed Graham on the impact of the CFE Treaty on European security and the major issues that will be addressed at the May 15-31 review conference. The following is an edited version of his remarks.

Arms Control Today: What role does the CFE Treaty play in the overall security environment in Europe?

Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr.: I often hear spokesmen for our NATO allies say the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe [CFE] Treaty is the cornerstone of European security. In fact, some have said, "Couldn't we find some other word than cornerstone, we use it so often referring to CFE." But that is the best word because that is what it is. The CFE Treaty is the basis on which security measures in Europe are built. It is one of the main pillars of the security structure now and it is likely to be for the indefinite future. The U.S. certainly hopes that will be the case.

The treaty was negotiated right at the end of the Cold War, perhaps the only time it could have been negotiated. Prior to this period, it would have been difficult to negotiate CFE with the Soviet Union. The Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks went nowhere for a long period of time. And it would have been very difficult to negotiate the treaty during the tremendous changes that took place after the Cold War ended. So, we were fortunate to negotiate it when we did.

Although the treaty was built on the then-existing security situation in Europe, it contains fundamental rules, fundamental guidelines and a fundamental structure for European security that, we believe, will be appropriate for the indefinite future. CFE is a fragile instrument in the sense that it requires the continuous support of all 30 parties to be viable. I believe all 30 parties care a great deal about the treaty and want to see it prosper and continue to be the cornerstone of European security.

ACT: What happened to the treaty after it was signed?

Graham: The treaty was signed on November 19,1990, but we had a few hurdles to overcome after signature such as the dispute over the status of Soviet naval infantry, the question of Soviet treaty-limited equipment [TLE] moved behind the Ural Mountains before signature, the breakup of the former Soviet Union, the independence of the Baltic states and several other issues. As a result of some of these changes, even though 22 countries signed the treaty, 29 states eventually had to ratify it-30 are now parties to the treaty-largely because of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union.

We were very anxious to bring the treaty into force at the Helsinki meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in July 1992, in part because we thought it was high time that it be done, in part because this meeting was a very good time to do it, and lastly because it appeared at that time that there was going to be a further breakup of parties; that is, the breakup of Czechoslovakia into two states. …

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