Europe needs a new treaty on conventional arms control

Russia has decided to suspend her participation in the meetings of the Joint Consultative Group (JCG) on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which has limited five categories of conventional arms and equipment: tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery with a caliber of greater than 100 mm, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters. This was part of the March 10 statement by Anton Mazur, the head of the Russian delegation to the talks in Vienna on military security and arms control.

The CFE Treaty was signed on Nov. 19, 1990 in Paris and went into effect in 1992. Initially, it was signed by representatives from 16 NATO states, as well as by six members of the Warsaw Pact. The agreement placed a limit on the size of conventional armed forces and established a maximum for the number of conventional weapons that the parties to the treaty may deploy in Europe. After the demise of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO’s expansion at the expense of the Soviet Union’s former allies has created an imbalance in the categories of weapons listed above. In light of the disbanding of the Warsaw Pact and the expansion of NATO, an Adapted CFE Treaty was drawn up in 1999, which would replace the treaty’s established limits for each bloc with a system based on national and territorial ceilings on arms and equipment for each signatory state. However, this never actually happened.

cfe-flank-region-mapThere are a number of reasons for Russia to look negatively on the CFE Treaty, which include:

– It has been ratified by only Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, but not a single one of the treaty’s NATO signatories.

– It contains various types of artificial restrictions with regard to Russia, such as the limitations set by the Flank Agreement.

– The three Baltic states refused to become parties to the treaty when they joined NATO.

In addition, throughout the duration of the treaty, its Western signatories have been stubbornly opposed to issuing a definition of the term “substantial combat forces” in relation to this covenant, intending to someday move to augment their conventional weapons and armed forces in the zone covered by the treaty. Another disadvantage of this covenant was also that it did not apply to naval forces or their activities, at least in the seas bordering the European continent.

In this context, beginning on Dec. 12, 2007 Russia introduced a moratorium on its participation in the CFE Treaty, meaning that she ceased proving information to her treaty partners regarding the movement of her troops, weapons, and equipment; stopped admitting inspectors or submitting to inspections; and also discontinued the implementation of other control measures stipulated by that document.

After this step was taken, subsequent events served to validate that decision. In particular, the discussions held as part of the dialog on conventional arms control in Europe (CACE) have generally shown that the NATO nations have ignored all of Russia’s proposals to extricate the CFE treaty from this crisis, promising only to discuss those suggestions once the adapted treaty has gone into effect. At a meeting of the JCG on the CFE Treaty in Vienna in November 2011, the NATO nations announced that they would no longer provide Russia with information under the treaty or admit teams of Russian inspectors into their countries, citing “the need to respond to the Russian moratorium that has been in effect since 2007.”

In response, as of December 2011 the Russian Federation has ceased providing composite information on the presence of her arms and military equipment, which she had been providing to the other signatories to the CFE Treaty as an act of goodwill since December 2007.

However, the NATO countries that are signatories to that treaty have adamantly insisted that it be revived, but without making any adjustments that would reflect the new realities of the European military and political situation or that would take into account Russia’s lawful interests in its own national security and defense. Moreover, they have devised various pretexts to expand their conventional ground, air, and naval forces in Europe, and have reinforced them with nuclear and antiballistic systems that are “forward deployed” toward Russia and her allies.

In doing so, the NATO countries that are signatories to the CFE Treaty have twice violated its principles: both in a legal sense (by not ratifying it) as well as in a practical sense (by stepping up their military activities with the use of conventional weapons).

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov

It is therefore entirely logical that Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the full termination of the CFE Treaty in November 2014, adding that Moscow does not intend to return to it. In December Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov called the treaty an obvious “anachronism.” Russia’s current decision to suspend its participation in the meetings of the CFE’s JCG was dictated by all the circumstances noted above.

Naturally, the question arises: what to do next? The answer is simple – a new treaty is needed. And it should be designed starting from an entirely new footing. It must be free of all the inherent disadvantages of the previous agreement in this regard, drawn up on the basis of the principle of equality and of equal and indivisible security for all parts of Europe, eliminating the significant advantages held by NATO members in their conventional armed forces, and extended to cover all naval forces and their activities in the waters bordering Europe.

The new treaty must also stipulate the complete withdrawal of American tactical nuclear weapons and all related infrastructure from Europe and the Asian part of Turkey, as well as the removal of both the US ground-based missile-defense system from the European continent, plus the naval component of her missile shield from the adjoining seas.

NATO should discontinue its 24/7 Baltic Air Patrol over the skies of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which has been flown for ten years and is clearly intended to provoke Russia.

At the same time the new covenant must not be tied to any type of local conflict. And it must prohibit all signatory states from employing their national armed forces against their own citizens.

In other words, the new CFE or CFE-2 Treaty must be an intrinsically innovative covenant that will genuinely contribute to the strengthening of European security, instead of serving to weaken and undermine it.

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