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U.S. Department of State

November 7, 1995


Origin and Purpose of Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe:

The CFE Treaty was signed in November 1990 by 22 states, divided into two groups: the group of 16 (NATO) and the group of six (the USSR and the five remaining former Warsaw Pact states). It has since been adapted to accommodate the break-up of the USSR and Czechoslovakia, augmenting the membership to 30 states parties. The Treaty formally entered into force in November 1992; it is of unlimited duration.

The CFE Treaty's purpose is threefold:

    -- to promote security and stability in Europe through verifiable lower levels of conventional armed forces;

    -- to eliminate disparities prejudicial to this objective; and

    -- to reduce the capability for launching surprise attack initiating large-scale offensives.

There are four core components of the Treaty:

    -- Phased national reductions of treaty-limited equipment (TLE) over three years (1992-1995);

    -- Limits on specified military equipment in the Atlantic-to-the-Urals Zone (ATTU) and in the geographic sub-zones, in full effect by November 1995;

    -- Detailed national data exchanges and notifications on force structure, and equipment holdings; and

    -- On-site inspections. These four core elements are accompanied by a complex set of rules, procedures, rights, and obligations -- including the right to intrusive, short-notice on-site inspection, and detailed procedures covering destruction of TLE, to be completed by November 1995.

Treaty Limits

The CFE Treaty sets equal ceilings from the Atlantic to the Urals on key armaments essential for conducting surprise attack and initiating large-scale offensive operations. Collectively, the treaty participants have agreed that neither group of states in Europe may have more than:

  • 20,000 tanks
  • 20,000 artillery pieces
  • 30,000 armored combat vehicles (ACVs)
  • 6,800 combat aircraft
  • 2,000 attack helicopters

To further limit the surprise attack potential of armed forces, the treaty sets equal ceilings on equipment that may be held in active units. Other ground equipment must be in designated permanent storage sites. The limits for equipment each group may have in active units are:

  • 16,500 tanks
  • 17,000 artillery pieces
  • 27,300 armored combat vehicles (ACVs)

The treaty limits the proportion of armaments that can be held by any one country in Europe to about one third of the total for all countries in Europe -- the "sufficiency" rule. These limits are:

  • 13,300 tanks
  • 13,700 artillery pieces
  • 20,000 armored combat vehicles (ACVs)
  • 5,150 combat aircraft
  • 1,500 attack helicopters

Regional Arrangements

The Treaty also divides the ATTU (with the cumulative group totals) into four nested zones with group limits on TLE in each zone, beginning with the Central European states; separate sublimits for equipment are assigned in the outer northern and southern zone known as the "flanks".

Limits are imposed concentrically to avoid concentration of armed forces. This configuration has the effect of permitting free movement of forces centrifugally from, but not centripetally toward, Central Europe, thus inhibiting a surprise attack in this critical region.

Following the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, its eight successor states signed the "Tashkent Agreement" in 1992, in which they divided the equipment entitlements of the USSR among themselves, thus permitting implementation of the Treaty.


Equipment reduced to meet the ceilings was destroyed, or, in a limited number of cases, converted to non-military purposes. The difference between a State Party's entitlement in a given equipment category and the higher of its holding at Treaty signature and entry into force (EIF) nominally constituted its reduction liability.

The prescribed reduction process followed a graduated schedule, requiring 25 percent completion by November 1993, 60 percent by November 1994, and 100 percent by November 1995, after which the CFE limits are fully in force.

During the reduction period, well over 48,000 pieces of equipment have been destroyed, including tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters. More than 2,500 on-site inspections have been undertaken, including inspections of declared sites, specified sites, and reduction sites.

Specifically, at the end of the reduction period, the parties to the Treaty have destroyed more than:

  • 18,000 battle tanks
  • 8,900 artillery
  • 17,500 armored combat vehicles
  • 280 combat aircraft
  • 2,100 attack helicopters


The treaty includes unprecedented provisions for detailed information exchanges, on-site inspections, challenge inspections, and on-site monitoring of destruction. NATO has established a system to cooperate in monitoring the treaty. Parties have rights to monitor the process of destruction without quota limits.

A Protocol on Notification and Exchange of Information stipulates an annual exchange of mandated data that helps ensure verification of compliance with the Treaty.

A Protocol on Inspection details procedures for verification. Inspections are conducted routinely during the (indefinite) duration of the Treaty; they focus on "objects of verification" (e.g., military organizations), and are conducted at "declared sites" (e.g., military facilities). These OOVs and sites are listed in each information exchange.

The CFE Treaty enjoined States Parties to seek additional measures to limit conventional military manpower within the ATTU. Consequently, the Parties signed a political agreement in July 1992 -- The Concluding Act of the Negotiation on Personnel Strength of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe outlined below.


The CFE Treaty remains the cornerstone of European security and stability. Its continuing operation remains a fundamental U.S. objective as it has improved transparency and predictability and paves the way for further progress in European arms control.


Article XVIII of the CFE Treaty called for follow-up negotiations with the objective of concluding agreement on additional measures to strengthen security and stability in Europe, including limitations on military manpower. These negotiations, known as the CFE-1A talks, involved the same participants and used the same mandate as the negotiations on the CFE Treaty. They were concluded on July 6, 1992. CFE-1A was implemented beginning July 17, 1992.

CFE-1A constitutes a political commitment by its signatories to limit (and, where applicable, reduce) the personnel strength of their conventional armed forces. In contrast to the CFE Treaty, CFE-1A is not a legally binding agreement, and thus not subject to ratification by parliaments.

The heart of the CFE-1A agreement is a "ceiling" on the military personnel of each participating state within the CFE Treaty's area of application. Each participating state determined its own ceiling, taking into consideration its national defense plans and security interests. These numerical ceilings were not subject to negotiation among the participants, although the levels were open to discussion prior to adoption of the agreement. In general terms, the CFE-1A limitation applies to military personnel based on land in the area of application.

The CFE-1A agreement also provides for a broad, detailed exchange of information on the military manpower of the participating states.

In general, information provided for most categories is broken down to show the strength of individual units at the level of brigade/regiment and higher.

To further enhance security and promote transparency among the participating states, the CFE-1A agreement includes three stabilizing measures, requiring notification of significant increases in unit strength, call-up of reserves or resubordination of units.

Continuing Implementation Issues

-- Unfinished equipment reductions by a few parties are prompting consideration of administrative means to continue Treaty reduction procedures and monitoring to conclusion.

-- Some accounting still remains in order for FSU states' reduction liabilities to reach collectively the obligation formerly attributable to the Soviet Union, a commitment made at the 1992 Oslo Conference implementing their succession.

-- A legally binding agreement bringing Soviet, and consequently Russian and Ukrainian, naval infantry and coastal defense forces within overall CFE limits requires reductions in those categories that remain to be completed.

-- A politically binding agreement on destruction of Russian military equipment redeployed east of the Urals still requires considerable reductions there.

The Joint Consultative Group (JCG) is the multilateral forum, located in Vienna, charged with addressing and, where possible, resolving these issues. This group meets on a regular and continuing basis.

The Treaty further provides in Article XXI that the depositary shall convene a conference of the States Parties 46 months after its entry into force to review the operation of the Treaty. The first such review conference will be held in May 1996 (see separate ACDA Fact Sheet), and may take up any of these and similar issues still needing attention then.