TASS FACTBOX, May 29. /TASS/. On May 29, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law denouncing the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty). TASS-FACTBOX editors have summarized the basic facts and figures about the agreement.
Basic CFE Treaty
The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) was signed on November 19, 1990 in Paris by 16 NATO member states (Belgium, Britain, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United States, Turkey and France) and 6 Warsaw Treaty Organization members (Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia).
According to the treaty, in the area of its operation - from the Atlantic Ocean up to Ural Mountains, the Ural River and the Caspian Sea, including insular territories - for each bloc the maximum levels of armaments and military equipment were established: 20 thousand tanks, 30 thousand armored combat vehicles, 20 thousand artillery systems, 6.8 thousand combat aircraft and 2 thousand attack helicopters. Armaments and equipment above these levels were to be reduced within 40 months. In addition, restrictions were imposed in the so-called flank zones (for the Waraw Treaty Organization - Bulgaria, Romania, the Transcaucasian, Leningrad, North Caucasus, and Odessa military districts of the Soviet Union; for NATO - Greece, Iceland, Norway, and Turkey). Each side was allowed to have no more than 4,700 tanks, 5,900 armored vehicles and 6,000 artillery systems on its flanks. To control compliance with the treaty a system of mutual inspections was introduced.
After the breakup of the USSR, disbandment of the Warsaw Treaty, the split-up of Czechoslovakia and the unification of Germany, 30 states became participants of the CFE Treaty. The Soviet Union’s quota was distributed among the newly independent states. An agreement to this effect was signed in Tashkent on May 15, 1992 by Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia stayed out of the treaty). Russia pledged to have no more than 6,400 tanks, 11,480 armored vehicles, 6,415 artillery systems, 3,450 aircraft and 890 helicopters.
All in all, 59,000 weapons were eliminated under the CFE Treaty and about 60,000 inspections were carried out.
Adapted CFE Treaty
By the end of the 1990s, when some former members of the Warsaw Treaty joined NATO, the existing limits on the blocs’ combat equipment became meaningless. Consequently, the parties to the CFE Treaty decided to update the arrangements. As a result, on November 19, 1999, the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty was signed at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul.
This document provided for transition from bloc-based restrictions to national-territorial ones, including the introduction of a limit on the deployment of military equipment of other countries in the territory of sovereign states. The national quota for Russia was slightly reduced to 6,350 tanks, 11,280 armored vehicles, 6,315 artillery systems, 3,416 aircraft and 855 helicopters. At the same time, Russia's flank quota (in northwestern European Russia and the North Caucasus) was increased to 1,300 tanks, 2,140 armored vehicles and 1,680 artillery systems. The total NATO quota at the moment of signing was 19,096 tanks, 31,787 armored vehicles, 19,529 artillery systems, 7,273 aircraft, and 2,282 helicopters.
Final Act of the Adaptation Treaty negotiations
Simultaneously with the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty, the Final Act of the negotiations on adaptation of the treaty, which stipulated political obligations of the states, was adopted in Istanbul on November 19, 1999. The NATO countries pledged not to permanently deploy substantial combat forces, including aircraft, on the territories of the new members; territorial weapon levels were lowered for Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Russia pledged restraint in deploying forces in the Kaliningrad and Pskov regions, and the withdrawal of excessive weapons from Georgia and from Moldova. These commitments were political and not subject to ratification.
CFE Treaty in crisis
The adapted CFE Treaty was to be ratified by all parties to the basic treaty. However, only four countries, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Russia, completed the ratification process.
In 2007, there was an imbalance of conventional arms - 22 North Atlantic Alliance countries participating in the CFE Treaty had 22,424 tanks, 36,570 armored vehicles, 23,137 artillery systems, 8,038 aircraft and 2,509 helicopters, which exceeded the threshold levels established in 1990. Meanwhile, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, formerly members of the CFE Treaty, shied away from formalizing their weapons as part of the Western group of CFE participants after joining NATO. In addition, the admission to NATO of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Slovenia, which were not CFE Treaty members, created gray zones beyond the treaty’s control.
On June 12-15, 2007, an early conference of the CFE Treaty member states was held in Vienna. It was convened at Russia's request in connection with Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal for declaring a moratorium on the treaty's implementation. The Russian delegation submitted a package of proposals to the conference for restoring obligations under the CFE Treaty. A final document failed to be agreed on.
Moratorium on Russia's compliance, pullout from CFE Treaty
On July 13, 2007 Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending Russia's compliance with the 1990 Treaty and related documents. The document was suspended "until NATO countries ratify the Agreement on Adaptation and begin implementing this document in good faith." The State Duma approved the presidential decree on November 7, and the Federation Council did so on November 16.
The moratorium was introduced on December 12, 2007, 150 days after its receipt by the depositary (the Netherlands). At the same time, Russia stopped sharing with its partners under the treaty information about the movement of troops, armaments and equipment. Also, it stopped hosting and sending inspections. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in November 2014: "None of the NATO members abides by this Treaty, and we do not want to create an impression we are participating in a theater of the absurd."
On May 10, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted to the State Duma a bill to denounce the CFE Treaty and related international treaties. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, appointed as an official representative in the process of the Russian parliament's consideration of denunciation of the CFE Treaty, stated that after Finland's admission to the alliance, the Treaty "has finally become a relic of the past." According to Konstantin Gavrilov, Russia’s chief delegate at the Vienna talks on military security and arms control, "the treaty has finally outlived its usefulness, and further participation in it would not correspond to the national interests of our country." On May 16, the State Duma passed a law to denounce the CFE treaty and on May 24, the Federation Council approved this legal act.
Armed forces situation in Europe
Already by 2015 the number of tactical fighters involved in patrolling the airspace of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia increased 3.5 times under the pretext of ensuring the security of the Baltic states. Since March 2014, 12 additional NATO tactical fighters have been based at air bases in Poland and Romania.
In 2016, NATO leaders decided to deploy four multinational battlegroups of "NATO forward presence" in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. In 2022, four more battle groups were deployed to Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
After the start of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine in February 2022, the alliance adopted a new strategic concept that radically revised its foreign policy threats and priorities. The document called Russia the most significant and direct threat to the security of the alliance, and the bloc's members decided to increase the total strength of rapid reaction forces from 40,000 to 300,000 by the end of 2023. On November 2, 2022, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, speaking at a joint Russia-Belarus military board meeting, pointed to an unprecedented increase of NATO forces near the borders of Russia - in the six months following the start of the special operation the Alliance’s group grew by 2.5 times to more than 30 thousand soldiers (according to the bloc’s own statements; at that time in the whole of Europe more than 100 thousand US troops were stationed on the permanent basis). At the same time, in May 2023 a number of Western media reported that NATO at the upcoming summit in July would approve a large-scale defense plan in case of a conflict with Russia - the first since the end of the Cold War - and intended to subsequently focus on modernizing its forces and logistics.