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Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)

Moscow halted its participation in a consulting group on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), a statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry's site said 10 March 2015. The suspension finalizes Moscow's unilateral moratorium on the implementation of the CFE treaty declared in a decree issued by President Vladimir Putin in 2007.

An “adapted” version of the CFE treaty was signed in 1999, but NATO members refused to ratify it until Russia withdrew troops from Georgia and the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdnestria, a criterion Russia regards as an “artificial linkage.” In December 2007, Russia imposed a unilateral moratorium on the CFE treaty, citing it’s “irrelevance” over NATO's plans to increase its military presence in Eastern Europe and the alliance's refusal to ratify the adapted version.

The arms control process relies on the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures. The Defense Ministry stresses that, unlike previous years, both documents are non-confrontational. All their provisions are being fulfilled meticulously and on time. Under this document, the parties concerned put on display their military equipment, partners are invited to attend military exercises, air force bases and military aircraft are shown, and exchanges of cadets and students of higher educational institutions are arranged. Under the 2011 Vienna Document there would be five inspections a year, compared to 45 under the CFE Treaty. The party which voiced this initiative has the right to choose the locations subject to inspection.

Combat-ready motorized rifle brigades or tank brigades, rather than weapons and military equipment depots, are monitored, so that in effect, inspectors check everything that may threaten the security of any country. However, military equipment depots and their components are still checked in terms of tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery systems with a caliber of over 100 mm, airplanes and helicopters, like they were under the CFE Treaty.

The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) was signed in Paris on 19 November 1990 in order to establish parity, transparency, and stability in the balance of conventional military forces and equipment in an area of Europe stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains. The treaty established equal lower levels for five categories of offensive conventional armaments, including battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. It was originally agreed upon and signed by 22 countries, which largely comprised the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Warsaw Pact.

On 01 November 2007 the State Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, voted 418 to 0 to suspend the country's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. This confirmed the suspension announced by President Vladimir Putin in July 2007 in response to the American plan to build a missile defense facilities in Central Europe.

The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty area of application (AOA) stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains (ATTU). This is further subdivided into geographic subzones to force the relocation of Soviet forces eastward from the inter-German border, prevent their concentration within the Soviet Union, and thus reduce the possibility of a "shortwarning attack." Prior to the 1990 CFE Treaty and the Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs), the withdrawal by the Soviet Union of large amounts of equipment behind the Urals in a short space of time had been witnessed by the West with concern.

During the two years period 1989-90, the Soviet High Command had conducted a large-scale operation that withdrew thousands of military personnel, weapons, and units from Central and Eastern Europe. The Soviet military had sent another 8,000 tanks to motor rifle and other divisions stationed in Asia, or to military storage depots located beyond the Ural Mountains. In addition, they pointed out that the Soviet military had sent thousands of items from other treaty-limited equipment (TLE) categories--artillery, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), and helicopters--to military depots and active units stationed beyond the Urals. The Ural Mountains were the CFE Treaty's easternmost boundary; military equipment located east of the Urals was not subject to any of the treaty's requirements.

In early October 1990, Soviet General Mikhail A. Moiseyev, Chief of the Soviet General Staff, had announced the specific details of many of these force movements at a Pentagon press conference in Washington, D.C. Just four weeks before the Vienna meeting, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze had sent a detailed letter on October 13, 1990, to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker listing the number and category of equipment removed from Central Europe to the east

Most (but not all) of this withdrawal took place before the CFE Treaty was signed, and thus was not a violation of its provisions. But it did not alleviate fears by the other States Parties concerning the more than 70,000 pieces of equipment which were being withdrawn. The Soviets had transferred more than 57,000 pieces of equipment out of the treaty's area of application before November 19, 1990. If withdrawal of equipment otherwise to be destroyed could take place in a relatively short time, skeptics suggested the units could also be quickly returned to east of the Urals if desired. Some nations declared that shifting the TLE east of the Urals was a circumvention of the treaty. These Soviet actions brought on political and diplomatic debate that stalled ratification of the treaty. A statement by the Soviet Union (later adopted by its successor states) enacted on 14 June 1991 acknowledged the requirement of the Soviet Union to destroy roughly 14,500 pieces of treaty-limited equipment that were moved east of the Ural Mountains (i.e., outside the area of the treaty) during the negotiations. This broke down to 6,000 tanks, 1,500 ACVs, and 7,000 pieces of artillery. These reductions were in addition to the obligations they had assumed concerning naval infantry and coastal defense forces. The combined reduction obligations for equipment the Soviets had moved or would move east of the Urals, as outlined in the two pledges, totaled 15,993 items, specifically: 6,467 tanks, 7,540 pieces of artillery, and 1,986 ACVs. The Soviets stated in their pledge that all reductions in the East would be readily visible for satellite observation.

As of the summer of 2007 there were 30 countries that were party to the CFE Treaty, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

On 19 November 1999 the parties of the CFE Treaty signed the "Agreement on Adaptation," at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. The agreement sought to update the treaty by taking into account the changes that had occurred over the previous decade, such as the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the demise of the Warsaw Pact, the expansion of members in NATO, and other changes in the European geopolitical environment. By January 2007, however, only Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan had ratified the adapted version.

At the time of the signing of the Adaptation Agreement, the Russian Federation made a series of pledges, known as the Istanbul Commitments, to withdraw its remaining military forces and equipment from the territories of Georgia and Moldova or to otherwise negotiate consensual agreements on their continued presence. Specifically, the Istanbul Commitments obliged Russia to depart from their Gudauta base no later than July 2001 and required them to begin negotiating for the closure of the Akhalkalaki and Batumi bases. Furthermore, the agreement stipulated Russia had to withdraw its armed forces from Moldova by the end of 2002. Russia had maintained a force of peacekeeping troops in Georgia since civil war engulfed the nation during the early 1990s. Moscow also possessed a formation of troops, which it claimed were important for maintaining peace and order, in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdniester in Moldova. The troops were also responsible for guarding a series of former Soviet weapons and ammunition depots in the region as well.

Russia's failure to comply with the stipulations of withdrawal led to the refusal of the majority of CFE nations to approve and ratify the treaty's adapted version. Russia has argued that these issues should not block the implementation of a critical security and arms control agreement. In addition, many military officials are fearful that a Russian withdrawal will simply open the door for Turkish or American forces to move in. The bases, some have argued, are important economic centers for the local population, and there is an underlying fear that Georgian forces will move in and wage war against the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the Russian withdrawal. Nevertheless, Moscow had taken important steps to fulfill the requirements of the Istanbul Commitments in recent years.

The timeframe for the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia came to a stalemate and increased tensions between the two countries throughout the early 2000s. During negotiations on 30 May 2005, however, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Labrov and Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili agreed that Russia would withdraw its bases from Georgia in 2008. Progress in Moldova has been less effective, and it is estimated that there are still over 1,300 troops and 20,000 metric tons of weapons and ammunition in the Transdniester region.

President Putin announced his country would implement a moratorium on Russian compliance with the CFE Treaty. He cited the reasons for such a decision as the refusal of NATO Members to ratify the Adaptation Agreement, concerns over the proposed United States missiles defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic, and new basing arrangements between the Government of the United States and the Governments of Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania as unacceptable encroachments on the security of Russia.

The Government of the Russian Federation subsequently requested an Extraordinary Conference to discuss its outstanding concerns, which was held from 12 June to 15 June 2007. On 14 July 2007 President Putin issued a formal decree announcing the intention of the Russian Federation to suspend compliance with the CFE Treaty after providing 150 days advance notice to the other CFE Treaty signatories.

State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachyov said on 19 September 2007 that Russia could change its decision on the suspension of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty if its other signatories ratify the adapted version. "If our partners react adequately on the document and ratify its adapted version, the situation could be reinstated at the original level," Kosachyov said opening parliamentary hearings on the issue. "Duma's decision on the bill on the suspension of the CFE treaty that was forwarded to the Duma by the president is reversible and is not confrontational," the MP said.

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Page last modified: 20-03-2015 19:07:15 ZULU