The original CFE Treaty imposes equal numerical limits on NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries (later joined by seven former Soviet republics) in five categories of heavy weapons—battle tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters—deployed and stored between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. CFE parties have agreed to replace the bloc-to-bloc structure with a system of national and territorial ceilings. The concentric zones established by the treaty, which place sub-limits on the amount of ground-based treaty-limited equipment (TLE) in the center of Europe, will be eliminated and replaced by territorial limits, (comprising the sum of national and foreign stationed forces) for each state.
Prior to the opening of the adaptation negotiations, each CFE party will, "in the spirit of restraint," declare a national ceiling for TLE that may equal but not exceed its current entitlements. NATO has already pledged to significantly reduce the level of the aggregate limits on its 16 members. Russia has said it will consider reducing its entitlements to its current holdings—a level approximately 3,000 items less than its entitlements. Because many states are below their entitlements (NATO, for example, currently holds about 20,000 items less than what is permitted by the treaty), moderately lowering the ceilings may not result in actual weapons reductions, but it will diminish the potential for future buildups.
Among the outstanding issues facing negotiators is how to deal with TLE that is currently stored. The original treaty restricts the amount of ground-based TLE that can be deployed with active units and requires the excess TLE to be placed in Designated Permanent Storage Sites. Russia has argued for the elimination of the storage requirement, reflecting the fact that Russia, whose TLE holdings are higher than the allowed active deployment levels, has much more TLE in storage than NATO. Russia proposes transferring all stored equipment to active units and insists the parties committed to this action in the "Final Document" of the May 1996 CFE Treaty Review Conference. NATO has proposed two options: maintain the stored and active categories for ground-based TLE, or eliminate storage allotments by destroying at least 80 percent of stored TLE and moving the remainder to active units.
The adaptation talks will also address the issue of exceptions to the territorial limits. CFE parties have agreed to work on drafting provisions allowing states to temporarily exceed territorial limits (with the express consent of the host) in the case of temporary deployments, notified military exercises and "missions in support of peace," mandated by the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. However, the "definition, modalities, transparency, and verification" for such exceptions must still be negotiated.
In a statement attached to the "basic elements" document, NATO insisted that the territorial ceilings should only apply to ground-based TLE. Though Russia has consistently sought to apply these limits to attack helicopters and combat aircraft, a U.S. official said territorial limits on air power are unlikely because of the precedent set by the existing CFE Treaty, which does not limit air power in the sub-zones.
The CFE parties have also agreed to explore the possible development of regional restraints on ground-based TLE. NATO earlier had proposed setting the new territorial ceilings of Belarus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Russia's Kaliningrad military district, Slovakia, and Ukrainian territory (outside of the "flank" zone) at levels equal to current entitlements. This would require their future national limits to fall below entitlements to accommodate any nonnational forces that might be stationed on their territories. Though the proposal was intended to assuage Russian concerns regarding NATO expansion, Moscow has resisted placing any limitations on Kaliningrad. The parties will discuss this issue and other possible sub-ceilings in the adaptation talks.
Despite their decision to eliminate the treaty's zonal configuration, CFE parties have agreed to retain the "substance" of Article V (as modified by the recent "Flank-Document"), which established specific limitations on ground-based TLE in the northern and southern flanks of Europe. NATO interprets "substance" as the "numerical limitations, geographic scope, scheduled dates, and transparency measures" prescribed in the Flank Document. Russia has said the flank issue will require further work.
Verification and provisions for reallocating or revising national and territorial limits under the adapted treaty were also deferred. Information exchanges, inspection quotas and the transferring of equipment between parties, which are currently based on a bloc structure, must now be adapted to reflect the interests of 30 parties.
Negotiators hope to complete an adaptation agreement by April 1999, when the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are expected to formally join NATO.