Questions and Answers About the Treaty
Prepared by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, July 24, 1997
Q. What was the CFE agreement reached on July 23, 1997 in Vienna?[end of document]
A. Since January of this year, the 30 parties to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) have been engaged in negotiations to update or "adapt" the CFE Treaty to Europe's dramatically changed security environment. The July 23 "Decision Concerning Certain Basic Elements for Treaty Adaptation" locks in the significant progress that has been made thus far in the negotiations, while identifying issues where further discussion is needed. This document, agreed to by all 30 CFE states, is indicative of a European security order whose defining characteristic is cooperation, not confrontation. It is a remarkable example of the kind of cooperative effort called for by the President in Madrid. Close consultation between the U.S., NATO allies, Russia, and other CFE states--including the personal engagement of Secretary Albright and Foreign Minister Primakov--helped to make this decision possible.
Q. What was agreed in the decision?
A. The decision records agreement on certain core structural elements of the adapted CFE Treaty that will guide negotiators in their future deliberations. All of these agreed elements were first put forward by NATO in its comprehensive proposal for treaty adaptation on February 20, 1997. They include the following measures:
- The group structure of the treaty, originally established to maintain a balance of forces between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, will be replaced by a system of national ceilings on major military weapons and equipment.
- The zone structure of the treaty, originally established to encourage the movement of troops and equipment away from the potential line of confrontation in central Europe, will be replaced by a series of nationally based territorial ceilings.
- The limitations of the treaty's flank regime, as modified by the Flank Agreement of May 1996, will be maintained.
- The 30 CFE states will aim for a "significant lowering" of the total amount of Treaty-Limited Equipment (TLE) permitted in the CFE area.
- The adapted treaty will be open to accession by states that may request it, on a case-by-case, consensus basis.
Q. Will this agreement be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification?
A. Of course, when final agreement is reached on an adapted treaty, that agreement will be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. The July 23 Basic Elements Decision is an outline to guide negotiators in their further deliberations. It is not a legally binding agreement. Throughout the duration of the adaptation negotiations, the current treaty will remain in force and will be fully implemented.
Q. What are "territorial" limits, and how do they differ from national limits?
A. National ceilings will limit the total amount of Treaty-Limited Equipment (TLE) each CFE state may have in the treaty's area of application. Territorial ceilings are limits on the total amount of TLE that may be permanently located on the territory of each CFE state or other territorial unit. Like the zonal limits of the current treaty, territorial ceilings are geographically defined and will apply to both indigenous and stationed equipment.
Q. What are the details of the planned "significant lowering" of the total amount of equipment permitted in the CFE area?
A. When the CFE Treaty was signed in November 1990, European security was still defined in bipolar, Cold War terms. The transforming political changes of the past six years have altered this landscape dramatically. Throughout this period, implementation of the current CFE Treaty has resulted in significant reductions in the amount of heavy military equipment in Europe. The 30 CFE states believe that the substantial reduction in the overall military threat should result in further reductions in military entitlements across the continent.
The February 20 NATO adaptation proposal called for an overall reduction in aggregate equipment ceilings in the CFE area and pledged that the Alliance would make a meaningful contribution to this process. In the Basic Elements Decision, all 30 CFE states associate themselves with this goal. For many CFE states, this may not necessarily mean a reduction in actual equipment holdings, but in the amount of equipment they are permitted to hold in the CFE area. For our part, the U.S. hopes to be able to reduce its equipment entitlements substantially. While we do not necessarily expect all states to reduce their entitlements, the Basic Elements Decision endorses NATO's call for a "significant lowering" of the total amount of equipment permitted in the CFE area as a major goal of the adaptation process.
Q. What are the issues that need to be discussed further?
A. While this decision represents a significant step forward in our efforts to adapt the CFE Treaty, it does not resolve all outstanding issues. One key issue that remains to be resolved is how best to prevent potentially destabilizing concentrations of forces in geographic regions of concern. Another is the future status of treaty entitlements for stored equipment. Also, while all 30 states have agreed that there should be some provision for temporarily exceeding territorial ceilings for purposes of military exercises, peacekeeping, and temporary deployments, specific modalities and limits still need to be established.
Q. The Basic Elements Decision takes note of NATO's March 14, 1997 statement that the Alliance will not rely on additional stationing of "substantial" combat forces. Will the adapted CFE Treaty result in limitations on NATO stationed forces?
A. One of the most difficult issues under discussion in Vienna is how an adapted CFE Treaty can continue to prevent "destabilizing concentrations of forces" in geographic regions of concern and whether this would involve direct constraints on stationed forces. The Basic Elements Decision identifies this as an area where further work will be needed to achieve consensus of 30. The March 14 statement of the North Atlantic Council, that "in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defense and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces" represents a statement of current Alliance policy, not a legally binding constraint.
NATO's adaptation proposal includes a "stabilizing measure," which would prohibit the upward revision of territorial ceilings for states and territorial units in the geographic center of Europe--Belarus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the portion of Ukraine outside the flank zone, and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast. It would preserve NATO's right to station forces on the territory of any current or future member state (with that state's consent), while ensuring that there would be no increase in overall levels of armor and artillery (including indigenous and potential stationed forces) on the territory of states in this region of special concern. The measure would also have a positive effect on the security of central and east European states, including the three prospective new members of the Alliance, by constraining the amount of CFE Treaty-Limited Equipment permitted on the territory of their immediate neighbors to the east.
Q. Will there be a time limit on temporary deployment of non-national assets into a country, say NATO assets into Hungary responding to a Balkan crisis?
A. The treaty's flank regime currently allows for the limited temporary deployment of Treaty-Limited Equipment in the flank region in excess of the treaty's flank limitations. The current zonal structure outside the flank region provides sufficient flexibility to accommodate a range of temporary contingency operations (such as the current SFOR deployment in Hungary) within geographic limits, without the need for a special temporary deployment provision.
The transition from zones to nationally based territorial ceilings outside the flank region will result in a loss of some of this structural flexibility. In the Basic Elements Decision, the 30 CFE states agreed that the adapted treaty will include provisions for temporarily exceeding territorial ceilings for purposes of military exercises, peacekeeping operations, or temporary deployments. Specific procedures, limitations, and transparency measures will be determined during the course of negotiations. This will preserve the ability of all CFE states to meet their legitimate security requirements under an adapted treaty.
Q. Why do you need to change the treaty? Is it because NATO will be in violation of CFE when NATO expands?
A. No. NATO will not be in violation of CFE when it enlarges. NATO enlargement does not require any changes to the treaty. Both the opening up of NATO to new members and the adaptation of the CFE Treaty are complementary elements in the larger evolution of a European security structure characterized by cooperation and elimination of past divisions. Both will contribute to increased stability and security for all of Europe.
Q. Why does the CFE Treaty matter in a post-Cold War Europe?
A. Despite the many political developments since the treaty was signed in 1990--including the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union--the CFE Treaty remains a cornerstone of European security. Under CFE, conventional force levels in Europe are at their lowest levels in decades. CFE caps the equipment holdings of the major conventional armies in Europe, thus ensuring predictability about these levels for the future. CFE limits help prevent destabilizing concentrations of forces anywhere in the treaty's area of application, from the Atlantic to the Urals. The treaty ensures military stability throughout the CFE area--for those states that are members of an alliance as well as those that are not.
Through regular exchanges of information and on-site inspections, the treaty provides an unprecedented amount of valuable information to its parties about each other's militaries as they undergo massive changes. Thousands of short-notice inspections have been conducted by the parties since the treaty entered into force in 1992. CFE's implementation forum, the Joint Consultative Group, provides a routine meeting venue for countries to raise implementation and compliance concerns, with the objective of resolving those concerns cooperatively. The process of adapting the treaty will ensure that these benefits are preserved--and even enhanced--as the geopolitical landscape in Europe continues to change, so that the treaty's viability will be maintained into the next century. The July 23 Basic Elements decision is an important milestone in this process.
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