THE CFE TREATY: NOT FOR EVERYONE

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Russia wants NATO countries to ratify the CFE Treaty as well

The Duma voted yesterday to pass the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty moratorium bill submitted by President Vladimir Putin. Everything went according to plan. The moratorium was implemented by presidential decree on July 14, and now this decision has taken the form of law.


The Duma voted yesterday to pass the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty moratorium bill submitted by President Vladimir Putin. Everything went according to plan. The moratorium was implemented by presidential decree on July 14, and now this decision has taken the form of law.

The CFE Treaty, signed in 1990, established parity between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in numbers of tanks, armored vehicles, aircraft, and artillery systems. After the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the CFE Treaty became meaningless and had to be adapted to new realities. In 1999, 28 European countries plus the USA and Canada signed the adapted CFE Treaty, setting quotas for individual nations rather than military blocs.

But the Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia – were left out of the new agreement’s framework; and some time later, they joined NATO. Thus, the Baltic states became a “gray area” where any number of military forces can be deployed without breaking any treaty commitments, de jure. And this is gradually happening already. Radars for monitoring Russian and Belarusian airspace have been installed in the Baltic states. A squad of NATO fighter jets is stationed at the Zoknyai airbase in Lithuania.

In terms of arms ceilings, under the adapted CFE Treaty the ratio of forces in Europe is 2.7:1 in favor of NATO for aviation, 3:1 for heavy weaponry, and 2:1 for troop strength. But even that is only half the problem. Only four countries have ratified the adapted CFE Treaty: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. NATO countries are still refusing to do so – claiming that Russia should first complete implementation of the Istanbul accords signed in 1999, withdrawing military bases from Georgia and Pridnestrovie (Trans-Dniester). As Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained yesterday, “in terms of international law, no such linkage exists.” Besides, practically all Russian bases have been withdrawn from Georgia already; and the only remaining Russian facility in Pridnestrovie is the arms and ammunition storehouse in Kolbasnoe, with 1,500 Russian troops (at most) guarding it. If those troops are withdrawn, the storehouse’s contents would be “privatized” immediately by the unrecognized republic’s government.

What are we seeking to achieve by suspending compliance with the CFE Treaty? Only this: we want NATO countries to ratify the CFE Treaty as well. In Lavrov’s view, once the NATO countries have ratified it, the CFE Treaty can be maintained and updated normally, taking current realities into account. Unless this is done, why should we comply with restrictions that only restrict Russia? Meanwhile, the United States is calmly building up its military presence along Russia’s European borders.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee:

The decision on suspending the CFE Treaty only means that we’ll stop presenting information and exchanging inspection visits. There won’t be any arms race or new confrontation in the wake of our decision.

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