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US Atlantic Council: The Indivisibility of Arms Control

Miscellaneous Directory

From: Chris Scheurweghs <scheurwe@stc.nato.int>

The Atlantic Council of the United States

Bulletin Vol. VI, No. 9 - September 14, 1995

The Indivisibility of Arms Control: Saving the CFE Treaty

The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty provides an important foundation for European security, but the Treaty is in jeopardy as the November 16 implementation deadline approaches. Failure to devote persistent and careful attention to the Treaty will undermine the hard-won consensus on the conventional balance and could unravel the East-West strategic balance as well as the whole premise of arms control. Leaders in Russia and the West must show flexibility and understanding to reexamine the treaty's fundamentals and implications in a new context.

On November 19, 1990 the CFE Treaty was signed following twenty months of negotiations between the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact Treaty Organization (WTO). At its completion President Bush hailed the agreement as ending the " . . .military confrontation that has cursed Europe for decades." The agreement limits five categories of weapons on the European continent between NATO and the former Warsaw Pact from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains. The CFE Treaty has endured, despite the dramatic changes in Europe, while compliance has pro- ceeded with little controversy in the last three and a half years.

Despite the success to date, final implementation of CFE is jeopardized by a disagreement between the Russian Federation and the West over the "flank zone." Article V of the Treaty placed restrictions on forces located in the Leningrad (now Northern) Military District in northwestern Russia and the Northern Caucasus Military District in southwestern Russia. In April 1995 General Pavel Grachev, the Russian Minister of Defense, said that Russia could not comply with these restrictions because of unrest in the new Caucasus states and Chechnya.

Implications of Non-Compliance

Arms control agreements do not exist in isolation, and success or failure affects other areas of policy. Consequently, the CFE s demise would have a wide- ranging impact on efforts to normalize Russian-American relations. It would adversely affect ratification of the START II arms control agreement by the Russian State Duma and U.S. Senate while delaying economic assistance to the Russian Federation, including Nunn-Lugar funding. Russian non-compliance might also bring into question among critics the reliability of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and a Biological Weapons Convention, as well as Russian ratification of the Open Skies Treaty. Such a chilling of Russian-American relations would obviously make American public and Congressional support for further arms control unlikely in the near future. Coupled with the obvious deterioration of Russian conventional forces, the failure of CFE could force Russian leaders to place greater reliance on their nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, some disagreement exists between the United States and several of its NATO allies over how to react to possible Russian non-compliance. Consequently, a confrontation over CFE would generate additional stress while the alliance is already dealing with difficult issues such as NATO expansion and Bosnia.

The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty

The CFE Treaty established overall limits for NATO and the former Warsaw Pact as follows:

Original Revised Type of Equipment NATO WTO NATO Russia Others Tanks 20,000 20,000 20,000 6,400 13,600 Armored Combat Vehicles (ACV's) 30,000 30,000 30,000 11,480 18,520 Artillery 20,000 20,000 20,000 6,415 13,585 Combat Aircraft 6,800 6,800 6,800 3,450 3,350 Attack Helicopters 2,000 2,000 2,000 890 1,110

Each alliance subsequently negotiated entitlements for their members consistent with these ceilings. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the successor states negotiated respective limitations at Tashkent in early 1992. The area of the agreement was sub-divided into geographic sub-zones intended to cause the relocation of Soviet forces eastward from the inter-German border and prevent their concentration within the Soviet Union. By the end of 1994 over 18,000 items of Treaty-limited equipment had been destroyed, including 6,000 by the Russian Federation. When implementation is completed, over 40,000 items will have been destroyed.

The multilateral nature of the agreement ensures that the failure of CFE would also affect other nations and efforts to establish a stable, cooperative security environment throughout Europe. The most serious result would be an end, at least temporarily, to conventional arms control there. There would be no possibility of building on this accord in conjunction with other arrangements by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Many North and South-Central European states and the Baltics would consider their security more at risk. Consequently, they would feel pressure to devote scarce resources to expanding military strength and might bolster their demands for immediate admission to NATO to deter a hypothetical Russian threat.

The "Flank" Problem

The "flank zone" was included in the treaty at the behest of Turkey and Norway, which did not want to see Soviet forces removed from the Central Region only to reappear on their borders. The collapse of the USSR altered the numerical balance of this zone. The south- ern part of the flank zone includes not only the Northern Caucasus Military District of the Russian Federation and a portion of Ukraine, but also encompasses all the territory of Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Russian forces in the region are limited by the Treaty to 700 tanks, 1,280 artillery pieces, and 580 ACV's in active units. The problem arises from a new situation: the balance of conventional forces in the flank zone is entirely different from the balance when the Treaty was negotiated, and these forces are now deployed in sensitive border areas.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin initially protested these limita- tions in a letter to President Clinton and other Western leaders in September 1993. Senior Russian officials argued even before the invasion of Chechnya that they would need substantially larger forces than the Treaty allowed to confront growing tensions in the North Caucasus. They further claimed that the changed geostrategic situation invalidated the flank requirement and its maintenance imposed an unfair burden on Russia. This conviction is widely shared throughout the Russian military as well as by many State Duma members.

Russian objections reflect domestic as well as foreign policy problems. Domestically, the various "players" in the Russian national security process (Security Council, Ministry of Defense, General Staff, President, Foreign Ministry, and Interior Ministry) have openly disagreed about how to resolve the issue with the West. The aftermath of the Chechnya intervention suggests, however, that the "hardliners" led by General Grachev are in the ascendancy. Consequently, CFE could fall victim to the ongoing struggle between Russian democratic and nationalistic forces. The critical question may be: can President Yeltsin appear to be making a concession to the West that might be widely perceived as inimical to Russian national security interests shortly before the December parliamentary elections?

The Russians proposed various solutions to this problem over the last two years. Most require changes to the Treaty so significant that they could force it to be resubmitted to national assembliesDa prospect the West very much wishes to avoid. Furthermore, several NATO countries fear that any adjustment to the Treaty before the Review Conference in May 1996 might result in a "flood" of proposed changes that could undermine it completely.

Consequently, Russia has found little support for its suggestions among any of the signatories to the agreement despite repeatedly raising the issue in the Joint Consultative Group where Treaty implementation is discussed. NATO has opposed these proposed "solutions" and steadfastly insists that Russia must live within the "flexibility of the Treaty." Turkey and Norway (the NATO countries most directly affected) have led the opposition to any concession. Ankara even suggested that it might withdraw from the CFE if Russian demands are met.

The Way Ahead

Still, several possible solutions exist that, in some combination, may assuage Russian and NATO concerns while not forcing the Treaty to be resubmitted to parliaments:

- Postpone final implementation until the Review Conference in 1996 and begin to redraw the Treaty map that defines the geogra- phical flank limits.

- Suspend the reduction of naval infantry and coastal defense forces jointly claimed by Russia and Ukraine until these two countries have resolved their differences over ownership of the Black Sea fleet.

- Accept a portion of Russian forces in the flank area as "temporary deployments."

- Encourage Russia to negotiate larger entitlements with the other former members of the USSR (Moldova, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia) or Warsaw Pact (Bulgaria and Romania) that are in the southern flank zone.

- Transfer roughly 400 Russian ACV's to the Internal Security Forces in the region.

- Encourage Russia to deploy in the North Caucasus area "lighter" forces that do not have large numbers of Treaty-limited equipment.

In the meantime, it is important for Western leaders to persuade their publics of the value of CFE. While the amount of equipment and geographic limitations are important, they are still only a technical reflection of the strategic goals of the two sides when negotiations began. These objectives included improved stability and security in Europe through balanced conventional forces; lower levels for conventional armaments; and precluding the capability for launching surprise attacks or large-scale offensive operations.

Despite tremendous political change, the Treaty continues to contribute to these objectives and remains in the best interests of the United States and European security for several reasons. First, the numerical limits and associated verification regime reduce the possibility of an arms race throughout the continent. Second, the strict inspection/verification regime ensures compliance and enhances conventional deterrence. Coupled with information exchanges, this provides all members significant pre- dictability in forecasting the military forces of their neighbors. As a result this arms control regime offers the opportunity to submit any violation of the Treaty to international scrutiny. Lastly, the Treaty establishes a clear momentum that may bear fruit in other areas. Consequently, this agreement has fostered increas- ing confidence not only in Washington and Moscow but also throughout Europe.

As the deadline looms, any resolution will require flexibility by Russian leaders as well as understanding on the part of the West. In this regard, Russia's attitude and the willingness of Western leaders to respond reasonably may be of crucial importance. Do Russian leaders present themselves as supporters of the Treaty but suffering practical difficulties in implementation? Or do they take a more confrontational approach? The Clinton Administration indicated its desire for compromise during the May Summit. The President reiterated the need for Russia to comply with the flank limit by the November deadline but stated an American willingness to discuss the issue at the CFE Review Conference in the Spring of 1996. There can be no doubt that resolution requires a determined effort on all sides. Negotiations to circumvent this impasse must subordinate lesser objectives to the overall goal of establishing a lasting, stable security environment in Europe. Above all, success demands American leadership, allied cooperation, and a sense of urgency.

Colonel Jeffrey D. McCausland Department of National Security and Strategy U.S. Army War College

The thoughts contained in this article are solely those of the author and are not intended to reflect the opinion or policy of the U.S. Army, the Army War College, any agency of the U.S. government or the Atlantic Council.

This Bulletin is made possible by support from the Defense Nuclear Agency and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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