During the OSCE summit in Istanbul on November 19, leaders of 30 countries signed an agreement on amendment of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has signed the agreement on behalf of Russia.
The Treaty was signed in 1990 in Paris, and came into effect two years later. The Treaty embraced the territory of Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Urals, and defined the quotas of the participating nations for armament and combat equipment on principles of parity maintenance. Negotiations about adaptation of the Treaty in which the quotas for five categories of armament were set up proceeding from existence of two blocs (NATO and Warsaw pact) had been going on since 1996. The new document takes into account Russia’s interests.
According to the Treaty, of the total 6,400 tanks, 11,480 combat armored vehicles, and 6,415 artillery systems of 100-mm which Russia was permitted to have in Europe after 1995, in the regular units of the North Caucasus Military District Russia could deploy not more than 350 tanks, 290 combat armored vehicles and 640 artillery systems. According to representatives of the Defense Ministry, this was obviously insufficient. General of the Army Mikhail Kolesnikov, former Chief of the General Staff, says that in Southern Russia at least 600 tanks, 2,200 combat armored vehicles, and 1,000 artillery systems were required.
These figures were evidently approved by the adapted Treaty. After the summit in Istanbul a part of this armament could be deployed on the Russian Transcaucasian bases. Along with this, by December 31, 2000, Russia should reduce its forces in Georgia to 153 tanks, 241 combat infantry vehicles, and 140 artillery systems. According to the joint statement signed on November 17 in Istanbul, Russia undertook withdrawal of its bases from Gudauta and Vaziani (approximately 30 kilometers to the east of Tbilisi) by July 1, 2001. This will be done within the framework of the adapted treaty.
We can have different opinion about the achieved results, but withdrawal of these two bases from Georgia obviously does not meet the long-term interests of Russia. Meanwhile, the Georgian Foreign Ministry has a different standpoint.
Levan Alexidze, advisor to the President of Georgia for international law issues, who took part in the Georgian delegation to the summit in Istanbul says that Russian diplomats and militaries showed “a very constructive approach” at negotiations about the bases. “Russian colleagues agreed with us that functions of logistics of the peacekeepers in Abkhazia which are performed by the base in Gudauta could be performed from the Zugdidi District of Georgia,” added Alexidze. He denied a possibility of enforcement of the peacekeeping contingent in Abkhazia on account of the base in Gudauta withdrawn to Russia. “Control over withdrawal of the base will be conducted by OSCE inspectors in a thorough manner,” noted Alexidze. According to him, UN experts are currently conducting consultations with the Georgian and Abkhaz parties about definition of the political status of Abkhazia within the framework of the integral Georgian state. The advisor says that if Sukhumi refuses the proposed political status, according to Clause Seven of the UN Regulations Georgia will demand this organization to exert the forceful pressure aimed at observance of the resolution of the UN Security Council.
Along with this, Alexidze stressed that Georgia would not follow the example of Russia in restoration of its territorial integrity, and would not send its armed forces to Abkhazia. “We advocate political resolving of the conflict,” added Alexidze.
“After the OSCE summit in Istanbul the Georgian-Russian relations will substantially change for the better,” says Irakly Menagarishvili, the Foreign Minister of Georgia.
In his interview on November 20 he expressed his conviction that after the agreement on withdrawal of two Russian military bases from Georgia until 2001 achieved in Istanbul “it will be much easier to pursue a constructive policy meeting the national interests of both countries.” He added that “the uncertainty in the military sphere” which existed until recently “undoubtedly influenced the other issues” of the Russian-Georgian relations.
Menagarishvili stressed that the achieved agreement on withdrawal of the Russian military bases from Vaziani and Gudauta “is not anybody’s victory or defeat.” “From this decision benefited both countries,” said Menagarishvili. According to him, for Russia it is very expensive “to have military bases in Georgia, because their maintenance costs too much.” He says that Moscow “obviously already understands this.” He added that for Georgia the Russian military bases located in its territory already do not have any importance from the standpoint of external military security provision. The Foreign Minister reported that during the negotiations about withdrawal of the two Russian military bases from Georgia “both parties demonstrated the readiness to compromise.” According to him, this could be seen during discussion of further presence of Russian forces at the bases in Akhalkalaki and Batumi. “We could have proposed a complete withdrawal of all Russian military bases from Georgia, but did not do this and reached a compromise,” said Menagarishvili.
According to him, observance of the agreement on withdrawal of the Russian military bases from Vaziani and Gudauta and the decision about “annulling” of two Russian repair plants in Tbilisi where there are currently over one hundred armored vehicles, means a 50% reduction of Russian armament deployed in Georgia.
In turn, Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze announced that OSCE is the guarantor of observance of the agreement on withdrawal of two bases from Georgia by the Russian party, because this agreement was included into the adapted Treaty.
Tevzadze added that the bases in Vaziani and Akhalkalaki are the largest and most important of four Russian military bases in Georgia. According to him, an airfield which can receive airplanes of any class is located at the Russian military base in Vaziani. Ten combat helicopters and about one hundred armored vehicles are deployed here. According to the Georgian Defense Ministry, at the base in Akhalkalaki up to 60 heavy vehicles and over 60 artillery systems are deployed. Thus, the Georgian party has achieved reduction of the Russian forces in its territory. Russia has already exceeded the quotas for armament expanded according to the agreement with OSCE, which makes ratification of the adapted Treaty by the leading countries of the world doubtful. US President Bill Clinton already announced that he would not submit the agreement on adaptation of the Treaty for ratification of the Senate until Russia reduces its forces in the North Caucasus.
“I will do this only when Russian forces are reduced to the level stipulated by the signed agreement,” says the statement of the US President.
In October the Russian Foreign Ministry informed all participants of the Treaty in complete compliance with the undertaken obligations that proceeding from supreme interests of its security Russia attracted the forces exceeding the limits for flank areas set by the Treaty for the operation against the large-scale terrorist activities in the territory of the North-Caucasus Military District. “Our actions in the region have obviously a temporary and forced character, and meet the general interests of all members of international community which combats this global evil,” stressed in his statement of the official spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Prime Minister Putin announced that Russia “will restore all flank limitations, that is will remove first of all armored vehicles after accomplishment of the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya.” Valery Manilov, the Senior Deputy Chief of the General Staff also stressed that “right after accomplishment of the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya we will remove armament and combat equipment which exceed the limits outlined by the Treaty to the places of their permanent deployment.” Along with this he added that “those units and formations which will protect the interests of Russia in this territory within the framework of the comprehensive system of country’s defense” will be permanently stationed in Chechnya.
Commenting on the decision of US President Bill Clinton not to submit the adapted treaty for ratification of the Senate, Manilov announced, “I think in the US itself there are political forces interested in stopping of confrontation of the current phase of the world development.” He stressed that these forces might propose ratification of the Treaty to the US Senate.
Thus, the summit in Istanbul and the document signed there on limitation of conventional arms in Europe represent a step forward. Meanwhile the internal problems of Russia in the North Caucasus and reduction of Russia’s influence on the situation in the Trans-Caucasus region place Moscow in different historical frameworks, a real meaning of which we will have to learn in new way in the near future.