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Russia Pledges CFE Compliance; U.S. Stresses Need for Action

December 2000

By Wade Boese

Marking the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty on November 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated a pledge that Russia would adhere to all treaty limits and obligations governing Russian weapons deployments once Moscow ends its military operations in Chechnya. The United States welcomed Putin's statement but pressed Moscow on its compliance. Russia is within its overall weapons limits but is exceeding limits that cap Russian arms levels in its northern and southern regions.

Putin also stated that Russia is preparing to submit a November 1999 agreement revising the CFE Treaty to the State Duma for ratification. NATO members, led by the United States, have indicated they will not ratify the so-called adaptation agreement, which shifts the treaty from bloc and zone limits to national and territorial ceilings, until Russia meets the weapons limits set out in the agreement. Putin, whose statement was published by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass, declared, "There are no reasons to drag out the process of ratification of the adapted CFE accord."

Negotiated as the Cold War wound down, the CFE Treaty limited the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the former Warsaw Pact could deploy and store between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. As part of the accord, the Soviet Union accepted specific ceilings on the tanks, ACVs, and artillery that it could deploy in its northern and southern regions bordering Europe, which were within the treaty's so-called flanks zone. Russia and the other Soviet successor states divided up those limits after the Soviet Union's demise, and, even though all the CFE states-parties renegotiated the limits in 1996 to permit Russia greater holdings than originally allowed, Moscow has consistently exceeded its limits.

Last November, the 30 CFE states-parties, as part of a larger overhaul of the treaty, agreed to allow Russia even more ACVs in the flank-zone area, but Moscow has yet to comply with even this larger limit, in part because of its military activities in Chechnya. Putin, who made a similar statement in March, said Russia will "obligatorily return to [its flank-zone limits] after the end of the anti-terrorist campaign." Putin further declared that the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia and Moldova, as pledged last November, "is being solved."

Echoing comments made by other U.S. officials earlier in the month, in a November 27 speech to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ministerial Council, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called on Russia to "end the stalemate on withdrawal from Moldova," which is to be completed by the end of 2002. Albright said the United States "looks for continued progress" in Russia's withdrawal from Georgia, which started in August, and that it is "imperative" for Moscow to meet its flank limits if "we are to achieve our shared goal of bringing the adapted CFE Treaty into force." (See ACT, September 2000.)