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– Lisa Beyer
Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
Parties Complete Weapons Reductions Under Balkan Arms Control Accord
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THE FORMER warring parties in the Balkans conflict have eliminated nearly 6,600 heavy weapons from their active forces to meet final reduction requirements under the June 1996 Agreement on Sub Regional Arms Control. Although an official assessment of the 16 month reduction period, which ended October 31, will not be announced until November 21, the State Department has called the process a "near total success."

Modeled after the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the agreement, a key goal of the 1995 Dayton peace accord, establishes numerical ceilings on tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), combat aircraft, attack helicopters and artillery that the parties could possess. Unlike the CFE Treaty, which imposed equal limits on two blocs of states, the sub regional agreement allocated ceilings according to each party's population on a ratio of 5:2:2 among Serbia (which forms the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia along with Montenegro), Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia's limits were further divided on a ratio of 2:1 between two entities—the Muslim Croat federation and the Bosnian Serbs. (Because the actual weapons holdings for the parties were never officially released, estimated reduction requirements are derived from non governmental estimates.) (See table below)

Balkan Arms Ceilings (1995 Estimates1/Agreement Ceiling)
Country or Entity Combat
Aircraft
Attack
Helicopters
Battle
Tanks
ACVs Artillery2
Serbia 280/155 110/53 1,300/1,025 1,000/850 4,000/3,750
Croatia 20/62 30/21 400/410 300/340 1,700/1500
Bosnia and Herzegovina --- /62 --- /21 --- /410 --- /340 --- /1,500
  • Muslim-Croat
0/41 12/14 135/273 80/227 1,500/1,000
  • Bosnian Serbs
40/21 30/7 330/137 400/113 1,600/500

SOURCES: Agreement on sub-Regional Arms Control; International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1995/96; and other sources.
NOTES: 1. Declared holdings were not made public. 2. Artillery pieces are all those with diameters of 75 millimeters or greater, including mortars.


While the ceilings for Serbia and Croatia corresponded closely with their actual holdings, thereby obligating them to make minimal reductions, the Bosnian Serbs have reduced their holdings in all five categories of "agreement limited armaments" (ALA) by more than half and in the case of artillery by two thirds, from 1,600 pieces to 500. Because the Muslim Croat federation's holdings were substantially less than its ceilings (except in artillery, which had to be reduced by 500 pieces), the federation will be able to more than double its numbers of tanks, ACVs and combat aircraft. The reductions comprised over 700 tanks, 80 ACVs, 60 combat aircraft and more than 5,700 pieces of artillery. According to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and State Department officials, the parties destroyed an overwhelming portion of their items; some weapons were exported, converted to non military purposes or placed on static display.

Originally, allegations of under reporting, particularly by the Bosnian Serbs, threatened to undermine the agreement, but throughout the implementation period all parties voluntarily increased their reduction responsibilities. The parties, which completed 185 inspections during the reduction process, are expected to conduct more than 50 inspections between November 1 and March 1 to verify compliance with the new ceilings. After this validation period, the parties will be obligated to accept an annual quota of inspections equaling 15 percent of their "objects of inspection" (any formation, unit, storage and reduction site with ALA) for the unlimited duration of the agreement.

 

'Train and Equip'

Occurring simultaneously with the arms reduction process, the controversial U.S. led "train and equip" program provided the Bosnian federation with $250 million worth of armaments ($100 million from the United States), including 45 M 60A3 tanks, 15 utility helicopters and 80 M 113 armored personnel carriers. Brunei, Egypt, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates also contributed equipment, funding or training.

The Clinton administration initiated "train and equip" to provide the Muslim Croat federation with a defensive capability to ensure a stable military balance within Bosnia. Critics of the program, which include most U.S. European allies, assert that the program is creating a qualitatively superior federation force that will seek to redress its grievances through force if the international presence is withdrawn.

Ambassador James Pardew, the U.S. special representative for military stabilization in the Balkans, disputes such allegations, claiming that the Bosnian Serbs still hold the advantage because of their continued close relationship with Serbia and that, despite the federation's newer equipment, its forces lack sufficient training to constitute an effective counter against the Serbs. "Equipment is important, but it is only so much metal if you don't know how to use it effectively," Pardew said. He further stressed that "train and equip" reinforces the arms control agreement since continuation of the program is dependent upon the federation's compliance with the agreement.

However, critics argue that the program reflects the fundamental shortcoming of the sub regional agreement: any party may import new equipment or improve its force's skills as long as numerical ceilings are not exceeded. Other critics point out that the war was primarily one of small arms and small artillery—equipment not included or deliberately exempted from the agreement—and the agreement therefore does little to control the weapons that would be used if hostilities resume.

Michael O'Hanlon, a military and arms control analyst at the Brookings Institution, believes that taken independently, the arms control aspect of Dayton and "train and equip" were a success, but when factored in with lingering tensions and the lack of any real political settlement, notably the agreement over how much refugee resettlement to allow, aspects of both could be "incendiary."

With the arms control provisions of the Dayton accords now completed, attention may turn toward the accord's call for the negotiation, under OSCE auspices, of a larger regional arms control agreement encompassing more of the states in and around the former Yugoslavia. An OSCE official said that the current parties are "anxious" to start such negotiations, but other states in the region have refused to commit to the talks, and ambiguity surrounding the Dayton accord's provisions could stall the process.