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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
CFE 'Flank' Accord Enters into Force; Senate Warns Russia on Deployments
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Sarah Walkling

THE CONVENTIONAL Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty "Flank Document" entered into force on May 15, one day after the Senate unanimously approved a resolution of advice and consent to ratification of the document. The flank accord brings into effect new, higher limits on Russian battle tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs) and heavy artillery deployed or stored in the now-reconfigured flank zone.

Finalized at the May 1996 CFE Treaty Review Conference, the flank document adjusts the original CFE Treaty flank limits to alleviate Moscow's difficulties absorbing Russian forces formerly stationed in Central and Eastern Europe and responding to internal security threats, especially the Chechnyan uprising. (Russia had met its aggregate but not its flank limits by the November 1995 deadline).

The new document reduces the size of the flank zone, without changing the numerical limits on ground equipment within the zone. Moscow, which agreed in May 1996 to freeze its treaty-limited equipment (TLE) deployments in the original flank zone, must now reduce these levels by May 31, 1999, to meet its new limits. (See box p. 31) Russia is permitted to use "to the maximum extent possible" treaty provisions for temporary deployment outside its territory and TLE reallocation among parties to achieve the reductions. (See ACT, May/June 1996.)

The flank agreement requires Russia and the other flank states on its troubled southern border to work out ways to accommodate Moscow's reductions. The concerns of four former Soviet republics (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) about Russian deployments prompted the Senate to add conditions to its resolution, which make clear that the United States opposes any attempt by Moscow to deploy forces in other former Soviet republics without the consent of those states-parties to the CFE Treaty.

In a "finding" included in the resolution, the Senate said, "armed forces and military equipment under control of the Russian Federation are currently deployed on the territories of States Parties without the full and complete agreement of those States Parties." One condition, therefore, requires presidential certification of NATO affirmation that without the "freely expressed consent," of the parties involved, the flank agreement does not allow any party to station or temporarily deploy TLE on another's territory, or to reallocate weapons quotas between parties. The condition also requires affirmation of all parties' rights, under the document, to their maximum weapons allotments. On May 15, President Clinton notified Congress that NATO had made these affirmations, quelling the fears of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine that Russia could abuse the flank agreement to increase its own weapons entitlements or legitimize deployment of its equipment on their territories.

Another Senate condition requires the secretary of state to open new discussions to secure the immediate withdrawal of all Russian-controlled forces and equipment deployed on the territories of other CFE states-parties without their consent. In the ongoing negotiations between Russia and Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, which began last year, the Senate insists that the United States participate as an intermediary to protect the rights of these states to "reject or accept conditionally" any Russian requests to temporarily deploy weapons on their territories or to reallocate their weapons allotments with other states.

To discourage future Russian attempts to strong-arm its neighbors and exploit the flank agreement, the resolution states that the Senate "expects" the executive branch to brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the speaker of the House at least four times a year on CFE Treaty compliance issues. Also, every January 1, the president must submit three unclassified reports addressing compliance issues, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territories of its neighbors and "uncontrolled" TLE transferred to secessionist or paramilitary groups. Finally, by August 1, 1997, the president must submit an unclassified report on whether Armenia violated the treaty by allowing the transfer of Russian arms through its territory to the separatist movement in Ngorno-Karabakh.

At the April 29 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the flank agreement, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked for assurance that the agreement would not legitimize Russia's military presence outside of its borders. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) said, "one of the unspoken concerns up here is that [the Clinton administration] made a deal to keep Russia in line as it relates to NATO expansion.... We want to know, did you sell out the Caucasus in order to get Poland in?" Clinton administration officials responded that Russia would go totally unchecked without any flank limits and that ratification of the new flank agreement was necessary to sustain the momentum for conventional force reduction in Europe. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Lynn Davis emphasized that the agreement highlighted Russia's right "to take advantage of flexibilities built into the treaty that all parties can take advantage of," but did not give Moscow the right to station armed forces in other CFE parties.

Also attached to the resolution of ratification was a condition requiring the president to submit to the Senate any agreement that would add parties to the 1972 ABM Treaty. (See p.32.)

Russian CFE Flank Limits

The numbers listed below represent aggregates of active and stored equipment, as per 1990 CFE Treaty definitions. The flank agreement also places individual limits on ACVs deployed in the four oblasts (military districts) removed from the original flank zone, effective May 31, 1999.

  Tanks ACVs Artillery
Original Limits 1 (now apply to the redrawn flank zone) 1,300 1,380 1,680
May 1996 Limits (apply to the original flank zone) 1,897 4,397 2,422
May 1999 Limits (apply to the original flank zone) 1,800 3,700 2,400
1 As negotiated by the former Soviet republics at Tashkent, May 1992.