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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Russian Proposal for CFE Adaptation Seeks New Limits on NATO Arms
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Sarah Walkling

IN RESPONSE to NATO's initial proposal for adapting the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, Russia released its own working paper on April 22. While both proposals advocate placing national limits on parties' heavy conventional weapons, the Russian "basic elements" of adaptation goes further than the NATO proposal toward strengthening constraints on NATO, and also gives Moscow more flexibility in stationing conventional weapons.

The 1990 CFE Treaty places equal limits on the number of battle tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters deployed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains by NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries. (The accord now comprises 30 statesparties.) The treaty also draws geographical zones for sublimits on ground equipment, to move concentrations of weapons away from the former Central European front.

The treaty parties have acknowledged a need to alter the basic CFE structure to adjust for the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, tensions in the Caucasus and the impending expansion of NATO. At the December 1996 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Lisbon, Portugal, they adopted a document defining the "scope and parameters" of the process. Adaptation talks have been ongoing since January 1997 in the Joint Consultative Group (JCG) in Vienna, where NATO presented its February 20 proposal for basic elements of an adaptation agreement. (See ACT, March 1997.)

In a measure intended to constrain the NATO alliance as it expands, Moscow's proposal calls for barring the permanent stationing of foreign treatylimited equipment (TLE) "in areas where they do not exist at present," and insists that "we must not increase holdings in areas where they do exist." Moscow is not satisfied with the concept introduced by NATO of "territorial ceilings," which would limit the sum of national and stationed foreign ground equipment on the territory of a stateparty. It also opposes the creation of additional zonal limits, such as NATO's proposed new Central European zone, where territorial ceilings would not exceed the weapons entitlements of each country.

NATO, in its February proposal, offers significant reductions in its ground equipment. Its call for all statesparties to cut their TLE entitlements has led to a counterproposal from Russia to lower the current equipment ceilings only for a group or alliance (currently, only NATO would be subject to this proposed category) without requiring similar reductions for states that do not belong to an alliance. Russian officials argue that, through such asymmetrical reductions, the current 3:1 disparity between NATO and Russian forces could be reduced. Russia dropped this provision when its Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed CFE adaptation at their May 2 meeting in Moscow, but still plans to push for measures that would help correct the NATORussian imbalance in heavy weapons.

While the Russian proposal states that with the combination of national and alliance limits "zonal limitations in the classical sense would be superfluous," Russian officials emphasize that they do not advocate eliminating the current zonal limits on Central Europe and the treaty's "flank" regions.

The Russian proposal also calls for abolishing the permanent storage site limits and for transferring all equipment located in these sites to active units. This measure would allow Russia to transfer approximately 3,700 heavy weapons from stored to active status. The NATO plan, in contrast, proposes transferring 20 percent of stored equipment to active units and destroying the remainder as a means of reducing overall conventional forces in Europe.

The ongoing JCG negotiations in Vienna are attempting to reconcile the positions of the two sides and to conclude an adaptation framework by summer. Intensive negotiations on basic elements of CFE adaptation are expected to begin after the May 27 NATORussian summit in Paris.