Russia Admits CFE Violation

In connection with its military offensive against Islamic militants in Dagestan, which has now spilled over into neighboring Chechnya, Russian defense officials admitted in early October that their forces in the Caucasus exceed arms limitations set by the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin later explained on October 12, according to Itar-Tass, that Russian deployments were of a "temporary and perforce character" and that Moscow did not want the current Caucasus situation to negatively affect ongoing CFE Treaty negotiations.

Moscow's announcement did not surprise the United States because Russia has been in violation of CFE flank limits, which cap the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs) and artillery pieces in the northern and southern flanks of Europe, since May 31. (See ACT, July/August 1999.) However, State Department spokesman James Rubin noted October 8 that Washington is concerned about the fact that Russian ACV deployments exceed not only the CFE's current limit (1,380), but also the higher limit (2,140) proposed under the yet-to-be-completed adapted treaty. Rubin said Washington plans to "take up" the issue with Moscow.

Negotiations to alter the 1992 treaty from bloc and zone limits to one of national and territorial weapon ceilings have been underway in Vienna since January 1997. Negotiators from the 30 CFE states-parties are aiming to unveil an adapted treaty for signature by heads of state at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's November 18-19 summit in Istanbul, Turkey.