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CFE Treaty – Play to One Gate

27.07.2007 09:12

А.Novik

The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) was signed in 1990 and actually remains "a cornerstone of European security" (as quoted to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer) because it provided balance of forces in the continent in the conditions of confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Treaty. Russia did all its best to fulfill the Treaty. It has accomplished the withdrawal of its troops from Central and Eastern Europe that was unprecedented in its size and time. Thus the Russian party performed the most significant reduction of conventional armed forces versus all other States Parties of the Treaty.

However, later the geopolitical situation in Europe radically changed. After collapse of the Warsaw Treaty and USSR on the one hand, and admission of certain East European countries to membership in NATO on the other hand, the block-to-clock concept of the CFE Treaty in the revision of 1990 got obsolete, lost relation to the reality and became actually unviable. Based on the changed situation, the States Parties of the CFE Treaty signed an adapted version of the Treaty in Istanbul in 1999. Russia fairly fulfilled this adapted version too, even in the conditions when its "flank restrictions" hampered movements of the Russian troops within the Russian territory in prejudice of the interests associated with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

Meanwhile, our Western partners did not ratify the adapted CFE Treaty signed in 1999, and exploited the situation to gain unilateral military and political advantages. Neither the NATO member-states nor the Alliance itself ratified the adapted CFE Treaty. It failed to become guidelines for them. So, it does not reflect the current balance of forces and interests of the parties, and first of all, those of Russia. The Treaty was fulfilled only in terms of exchange of information and conduct of inspections. In this situation the Treaty was valuable to NATO because it provided the Alliance with the right to inspect Russian Armed Forces and opportunity to enhance its own military potential in prejudice of the Russian security. Most probably, therefore the West called the CFE Treaty at this stage after 1999 "a cornerstone of European security".

During many years Russia tried to convince the NATO countries and repeatedly notified them that they cannot disregard the Treaty Limited Equipment (TLE) levels and delay ratification of the adapted version endlessly, and that such policy will have a negative impact on viablity of the Treaty. Russian President Vladimir Putin reasonably and seriously warned our partners about it at the 43-rd Munich International Conference on Security Policy last February. Last April the President of Russia again raised this issue in his address to the Federal Assembly emphasizing that in the conditions of lacking progress at the negotiation on the CFE Treaty it is practicable to declare a moratorium on fulfillment of the Russian obligations.

Hereafter the Russian party made several efforts to discuss this situation within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council, however, they weren?t appreciated by the United States, NATO countries and Alliance in general. An emergency conference of CFE Treaty parties held in Vienna last June on the initiative of Russia was also unsuccessful. All Russian proposals aimed at releasing the dead-locked situation relating to the CFE Treaty were denied by the Alliance countries and its leaders due to alleged failure of Russia to fulfill "the Istanbul commitments" with respect to Georgia and Moldavia that by the way were fulfilled long ago. The NATO countries evaded serious discussion of the Russian proposals, and didn?t propose anything particular but appeals "to continue the dialogue".

But this "dialogue" cannot continue endlessly. Therefore Russia declared a moratorium on its obligations under the CFE Treaty in response to the default of the Western partners. The RF President degree explains that the decision was made "due to exceptional circumstances" affecting the security of the Russian Federation, and "requiring the immediate measures". What are these "exceptional circumstances"?

The first: Failure of the NATO States Parties to fulfill a political obligation undertaken in Istanbul on accelerated ratification of the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty. It was ratified only by Russia, Belorussia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Final Act of the Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe definitely stipulates an obligation of all States Parties "to facilitate completion of national ratification procedures, so that the Agreement on Adaptation can enter into force as soon as possible." In so doing, the NATO countries insisted that this obligation was preconditioned only with the Russian restraint with regard to the "flank" TLE levels stipulated in the Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty.

It is necessary to emphasize here that by the end of 2001 in spite of the complicated situation in the North Caucasus region Russia maintained "the agreed levels" and fulfilled all obligations with respect to withdrawal of the Treaty Limited Equipment (TLE) from Moldavia and Georgia. But this step did not accelerated ratification of the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty by the NATO countries. It seems that our Western partners forgot about the flank TLE levels and insisted on "complete fulfillment" of the Istanbul agreements on Georgia and Moldavia by Russia, taking into account even those aspects that have nothing in common with the Treaty.

The second: Exceeding of the CFE Treaty "group" limits by the NATO countries after expansion of the Alliance that resulted in the following actual but not formal excess TLEs versus the maximum level allowed for the NATO countries ? 5992 tanks, 9882 APCs, 5111 guns, 1497 fixed-wing aircraft and 531 gunship helicopters. It is a so-called virtual excess because it relates not to actually available equipment but to the rights of the States Parties to have such equipment.

As of January 1, 2007 the real excess TLEs in the "flank zone" of the NATO countries included 1254 tanks, 2691 APCs and 1590 guns.

These violations relate to the basis of the relationships between the State Parties and devaluate the Treaty for the Russian party, they raise reasonable doubts that the Treaty will be duly fulfilled by the NATO countries.

The third: Failure of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, Slovakia and Czech Republic to document the changes in the composition of the groups of the States Parties due to the membership of the aforesaid countries in NATO. In spite of the fact that they are the NATO members, their weapons are not formally included in the TLE specified for NATO as it is interpreted by the Alliance. These countries also failed to ratify the adapted CFE Treaty.

The fourth: Non-participation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in the CFE Treaty, and thus existence of a territory "free" of any limitations on both their own and friendly weapons. After Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia became the NATO members, combat aircraft of the CFE Treaty NATO states are deployed in Latvia. The Baltic countries upgrade their armed forces, airfields, sea ports, etc. and develop other military infrastructure to meet the NATO standards. At the same time, in spite of their declared readiness to enter the CFE Treaty, they fail to become Treaty States Parties until present that enables other countries to deploy any equipment in their territory including the nuclear weapons.

The fifth: Implementation of the US plans with respect to establishment of military bases in Bulgaria and Rumania and deployment of conventional weapons in their territory that will have even more negative impact on compliance with the "group" limits under the Treaty. Meanwhile, in due time the Alliance members signed the NATO-Russia Fundamental Act inter alia to abandon additional deployment of their combat forces on the permanent basis in the territory of new NATO member-states. Besides, under the current Treaty the Temporary Deployment is allowed only within the limits of their "own" group whereas the Alliance newcomers (Bulgaria and Rumania) just fail to document their transition to the Western group and remain within the Eastern group as mentioned above.

The sixth: Unacceptability of the situation when the ability of Russia to place its own weapons in its own territory is limited. In this context the necessity to lift flank restrictions for Russia is evident because their existence today looks like discrimination and absurd anachronism that prevents the Russian Armed Forces from effective fulfillment of a common task of all States Parties: to fight against international terrorism.

As it might be expected, the West was not happy to know about the Russian decision to suspend its participation in the CFE Treaty in spite of the US and NATO appeals to refrain from this step. Everybody expresses "disappointment" with Russia, Western officials claim that "the decision of Russia is a step in a wrong direction", etc. But there are also constructive statements. For instance, OSCE Chairman, Spain Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos urged all Treaty States Parties "to promptly and responsibly renew the efforts to discuss the controversies with respect to the Treaty and start common work to settle them". Having expressed disappointment with the decision of Russia, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe simultaneously claimed that "the USA expects that the talks with Russia on the problems of European security will continue". Surely, Russia will continue such talks.

However, our Western partners should understand at last that Russia cannot and will not further comply with the aforesaid Treaty at the expense of its of security. If the West is really interested in the CFE Treaty as "a cornerstone of European security", and in its revival, the NATO politicians should seriously think about the Russian proposals and decisions made lately in this context. There are opportunities for it because the moratorium will come into effect only 151 days after its declaration.

From the practical point of view, the suspension of Russian obligations under the CFE Treaty discharges our country from compliance with all Treaty provisions and limitations (including TLE levels, limitation on geographical positioning of conventional weapons in its own territory, receipt of NATO inspections and exchange of information). In the opinion of Military Expert Arkady Chikin, withdrawal of Russia from the CFE Treaty could result in reinforcement of the Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet. In view of expected establishment of a US ABM base in Poland, the Baltic Fleet should be reinforced too.

So, the suspension of the Russian participation in the CFE Treaty is a compulsory measure. It is just suspension but not withdrawal. The moratorium will remain effective until all States Parties ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty and strictly comply with it that would actually contribute to reduction of conventional armed forces. Thus, all depends on our partners if they are such.