Jim Nichol
Analyst in Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division

Updated September 15, 1995, CRS






















The CFE Treaty was designed at Cold War's ebb to create a lower balance of major conventional arms in Europe between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) (termed the two "groups of states"). A central goal was to eliminate the threat of a Soviet surprise attack. It was signed in November 1990 by most of the European countries and the United States and Canada and entered into provisional force in July 1992. The treaty calls for treaty limited equipment -- combat helicopters, combat aircraft, battle tanks, heavy artillery, and armored combat vehicles -- to be reduced in three phases over a 40-month period, with full implementation by Nov. 16, 1995. The treaty is highly regarded by virtually all signatories as enhancing security and stability in Europe.

Western nations have had three main areas of concern with CFE Treaty compliance by Russia: overall reductions, "collateral" reductions of some arms Russia pledged to include or associate with the treaty, and flank limits. Since the treaty entered into provisional force, Russia has, in the main, satisfactorily implemented reduction targets and is widely expected to be in overall compliance when the treaty comes into full force in November. Discussions continue over Russian compliance with collateral reductions, which involve several technical issues.

Russia's compliance with flank zone limits has been of increasing concern to many observers. Flank limits are ceilings on arms deployed in northern and southern areas "at the edges of Europe." Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, these areas include territory along Russia's northern and southern borders. By mid-1995, several high-level Russian officials had asserted that Russia will not be in compliance with flank limits because of instability along Russia's southern borders. Such a breach of the treaty could harm its stature and perhaps contribute to its unraveling, according to observers.

Congress has become increasingly concerned over Russian arms control compliance generally and has warned that noncompliance will be met by sanctions, including the reduction or cutoff of U.S. aid. Congressional interest in the CFE Treaty has also included concerns over potential Russian and other threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of former Soviet republics, including the Transcaucasus and Baltic states, possibly threatened by a Russian breach of flank limits. Some in Congress and elsewhere call for conditioning aid on full Russian compliance with the CFE Treaty. Others have argued that Russia's noncompliance with flank limits is understandable in the context of its security concerns, and that if the treaty is otherwise adhered to, is of minor U.S. national security interest and should not jeopardize cooperative aspects of U.S.-Russian relations.


According to U.S. officials and others, Russia will likely be in overall compliance with the weapons reduction requirements of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty when it comes into full force on Nov. 16, 1995. However, compliance problems appear over some provisions of the treaty, mainly the "flank limits" on tanks, artillery, and armored combat vehicles Russia has been deploying in its southern regions, including Chechnya, and in the Transcaucasus states. The United States and other NATO states have called for Russia to be in full compliance with the treaty by November, pending possible treaty modifications that might be considered at a CFE Review Conference planned for May 1996.


The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, or CFE Treaty, was designed to create a "secure and stable" and lower balance of major conventional arms in Europe between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) (termed the two "groups of states"). A central goal was to eliminate the threat of a Soviet surprise attack. It was signed in November 1990 by 22 European states (and Canada and the United States) and entered into provisional force in July 1992. The complex treaty calls for treaty-limited equipment (TLES) -- combat helicopters, combat aircraft, battle tanks, heavy artillery, and armored combat vehicles (ACVS) -- to be reduced in three phases over a 40-month period, with full treaty implementation by Nov. 16, 1995 (followed by a 120-day verification period).1

The numbers of tanks, artillery, and ACVs are limited in five concentric groupings of countries, termed zones. The "central" zone embraces Germany, Poland, and other states in the heart of Europe, where major inter-bloc warfare would presumably have taken place. Zone limits were designed to move TLE away from this central zone of possible conflict. A Joint Consultative Group (JCG) composed of signatories has been in nearly permanent weekly session since its first meeting in November 1990. The JCG addresses issues of treaty

For the treaty text and commentary, see Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), Message from The President of the United States, 102nd Congress, lst Session, U.S. Senate, Treaty Document 102-8, July 9, 1991, compliance and the standardization of treaty implementation, and resolves implementation disputes, among other functions. Following the breakup of former Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, several new states emerged in the "Atlantic to the Urals" (ATTU) region the treaty encompasses, boosting the number of CFE Treaty signatories to thirty. The new states emerging from the former Soviet Union agreed in May 1992 on apportioning the Soviet CFE Treaty limits on arms among themselves. Despite the demise of the WTO and other changes in Europe, the treaty is widely viewed as valuable as a legally binding means to reduce arms and enhance confidence-building throughout the ATTU region. (For background, see CRS Issue Briefs 86064, Conventional Arms Control in Europe, archived, and 91009, The CFE Treaty, archived; and CRS Reports 91525, Treaty on CFE: A Primer, and 93263, Arms Control and Disarmament.)


Western nations have had three main areas of concern with CFE Treaty compliance by Russia: overall reductions, "collateral" reductions, and flank limits. Since the treaty entered into provisional force, Russia has, in the main, satisfactorily implemented reduction targets for TLES, according to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), although problems in allowing full access for inspections and other technical compliance issues have been matters of concern in the JCG.2 In its most recent data declaration in December 1994, Russia stated that it had reduced 71% of its excess TLES, or 7,464 weapons, going well beyond the CFE Treaty target of 60% reductions by the end of 1994. Russia has pledged and is widely expected to be in overall compliance when the treaty comes into full force in November 1995.3 (See Table 1) Major Western concerns remain, however, over Russian compliance with "collateral" reductions and flank limits.

Table 1
Russian CFE Treaty
Limits and Excess Weapons*
  Limits Excess
(as of end 1994)
Tanks 6400 3189
Artillery 6415 660
Armored Combat
11480 5516


890 99


3450 1021

*Limits ("entitlements") include both active and stored units. Excess weapons ("reduction liabilities) to be eliminated are based on equipment holdings declared by Russia in December 1994.
Source: ACDA



Just after the treaty was signed, Soviet compliance was called into question by the United States and others after the Soviet military moved 57,300 TLEs east of the Ural Mountains. The Soviet military also transferred 6,289 TLEs to naval infantry, coastal defense, civil defense, and strategic rocket forces, whose arms were not limited by the treaty (reportedly, several army divisions were simply redesignated as naval units).4 As a result of these objections, Russia in June 1991 made a legally nonbinding declaration that it would destroy (or convert some to nonmilitary use) at least 14,500 of the tanks, artillery, and ACVs it had moved east of the Urals and to provide "sufficient visible evidence" of their destruction or conversion. Russia also issued a legally binding pledge that it would destroy or convert 3,650 extra arms to compensate for those transferred to naval, coastal, civil, or rocket forces, to allow inspections of transferred arms within the ATTU, to provide "sufficient visible evidence" of destruction or conversion of weapons moved outside the ATTU, and to provide data on such holdings. Despite these pledges, ACDA reported in January 1995 that "serious concerns persist over the pace and validation of these (collateral] reductions." In July 1995, ACDA criticized Russia's slow pace of destruction or conversion of TLEs moved east of the Urals.5 According to Russia's December 1994 data declaration, only 14.1% of TLEs moved east of the Urals had been destroyed (the target was at least 60 percent). Most such TLE is located in open areas exposed to the environment, so the arms are no longer battle worthy, Russia asserts. Russia has been urged to take measures to allow more effective international verification, by satellite imagery or other means, of reductions outside the ATTU.


CFE Treaty limits imposed on "flank areas" have been a growing issue of contention between Russia and other CFE Treaty members.6 Areas considered by the treaty as at the flanks or edges of Europe include Bulgaria, Greece, Iceland, Norway, Romania, Turkey, and the former Soviet republics of Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of Russia and Ukraine. Russia's flank areas include the area around St. Petersburg in the north (the former Leningrad Military District) and the Caucasus Mountain region in the south (the former North Caucasus and Transcaucasus military districts).

Table 2
CFE Flank Limits in the Former Soviet
Union (Equipment Holdings/Units)*
Country Tanks Artillery Armored
Russia 2308/1300 2201/1680 4271/1380
Armenia 102/220 225/285 285/220
Azerb. 285/220 343/285 835/220
Georgia 39/220 27/285 54/220
Moldova 0/210 129/250 190/210
Ukraine 451/680 812/890 785/350
Total 3185/2850 3737/3675 6420/2600
*Equipment holdings as declared by December 1994; Russian and Ukrainian holdings refer only to their flank areas and include active and stored units
Source: ACDA

During negotiations over the CFE Treaty, Bulgaria, Norway, and Turkey raised concerns that weaponry withdrawn from the center of Europe might be redeployed near their borders, and called for limiting holdings in the flanks. The Soviet Union at first refused to agree to flank limits, but finally consented following high-level U.S.-Soviet diplomacy in October 1990. Following the Soviet breakup, limits on TLEs were reallocated in May 1992 among the new states located in the flanks. According to the CFE Treaty and the May 1992 "Tashkent Agreement," over one-third of TLEs in Russia's flanks must be placed in "permanent" storage, and Russia is permitted to deploy about 18% of its total arms entitlement in its flank areas, which cover one-half of European Russia, limits which many in Russia increasingly view as discriminatory. (See Table 2)

Even before the Russian assault on Chechnya (a breakaway region along Russia's southern border) on Dec. 10, 1994, Russia had been increasing its military personnel and TLEs within its southern flank area because of internal conflict elsewhere in the North Caucasus and the signing of Russian basing agreements with Armenia and Georgia. The Chechnya conflict led to the introduction of much additional TLE. According to media reports, the assault involved over 40,000 Russian military and police troops with associated arms, particularly ACVS, many newly deployed into the area. The State Department noted on Jan. 10, 1995, that a formal CFE Treaty violation had not yet occurred, since flank limits would not be in effect until November 1995, and that "temporary deployments are explicitly permitted under CFE rules," although U.S. officials noted that notification pledges in the 1994 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Vienna document had been breached.7 According to the December 1994 Russian data declaration, there were several thousand excess TLE in the flank zone -- much of it deployed in the southern flank area -- beyond the limits to be met by November. The Russian data also indicated that about 286 Russian tanks, 322 artillery, and 738 ACVs had been based in Armenia and Georgia, which count toward Russia's flank limits. By mid-1995, several high-level Russian officials had asserted that Russia will not be in compliance with flank limits. Although some weapons have reportedly been removed from Chechnya,8 a decree by President Yeltsin and the Russian-Chechen military accord in July provided for a permanent Russian military (and police) presence in Chechnya, part of a new 58th Combined Arms Army based in the North Caucasus, heightening concerns about Russian treaty compliance. (For background, see CPS Report 95-207 F, Russian Conflict in Chechnya.)


The Soviet military appeared widely opposed to flank limits and other provisions of the CFE Treaty and tried unsuccessfully to circumvent them in 1990-1991 by reassigning and redeploying arms, as noted above. As a new Russian military establishment was formed following the breakup of the Soviet Union, flank limits in what were now Russia's border areas became a heightened concern among many high-level officers. According to some observers, Yeltsin's increasingly hostile relations with his legislature in 1992-1993 led him to seek military and other bureaucratic allies by offering to support them on flank limits and other issues. Renewed Russian requests for altering the CFE Treaty began to appear publicly in early 1993. (For background, see CRS Report 94-631 F, Russia's Civil-Military Relations.)

Russia has advanced two main arguments for revising the CFE Treaty: the treaty unfairly infringes on sovereignty since only Russia and Ukraine are subject to limits on where they may deploy their TLEs within their own borders (and Russia is unique in being subject to limits in three zones); and it forces the maintenance of an obsolete, westward-oriented "Cold War" strategy, rather than permitting Russia's military to restructure to address new security threats along its southern borders.9 In June 1993, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev stressed these points in a meeting with Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, arguing that the "geopolitical situation" had changed since the treaty went into effect and that Russian security necessitated a greater amount of armaments in the Caucasus area to combat lawlessness and "Islamic fundamentalism." According to U.S. officials, Aspin told Grachev that the United States did not support treaty alteration, but would cooperate in helping Russia work within the flexibility permitted by the treaty.10 In September, just before he dissolved the Russian legislature, Yeltsin sent letters to President Clinton and other Western heads of state, calling for lifting flank ceilings. The letters complained that Russia was subject to three obsolete zonal limits on its territorial deployments, forcing it to keep large numbers of weapons in the Kaliningrad exclave zone (bordering Lithuania and Poland) and in a zone along its borders with Belarus and north Ukraine, where they are least needed.11 Particularly onerous, Yeltsin argued, were restrictions on added deployments in the North Caucasus area of the flank zone, where "serious out-of-Europe risks," and the "growth of separatism and fundamentalism" necessitated more weaponry. On September 28, Russia formally proposed suspension of flank zone limits at the JCG. The Russian demarche threatened that if the treaty was not altered, "Russia [would] consider the possibility of taking adequate unilateral measures to ensure its security, including those that would not respond fully to the spirit of the treaty." Besides the reasons mentioned in Yeltsin's letter, the demarche noted that Russia wanted to assign troops (and associated arms) returning from the Baltic states to military housing and facilities it claimed was available in flank areas.12

In early 1994, Russian emissaries to the JCG submitted estimates of the numbers of arms they viewed as necessary in their flank areas. They continued to stress that tensions in Chechnya and North Ossetia, civil conflict in Georgia, and the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh necessitated the revisions, and warned again that Russia would be forced to take unilateral action if suitable concessions were not made. In March 1994, Russia asked the JCG to revise Russia's 1991 pledge to include naval infantry and coastal defenses in CFE limits. Russia proposed that by lifting limits on these, it could enhance forces in flank areas. In the JCG, Russia also called for revising equipment storage provisions or, alternatively. redrawing maps to redefine the flank areas. Russia also proposed to the Transcaucasus states that they cede some of their arms ceilings -- as agreed to by these states and Russia in May 1992 -- to Russia, but Azerbaijan refused (Georgia has reportedly offered to cede some tank limits). On May 5, 1994, Army General Mikhail Kolesnikov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, said that treaty limits were "pushing Russia into a corner" and made it difficult for Russia to cooperate with NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP). Other military officials spoke of a quid pro quo: Russia will join PFP if CFE is altered. The NATO ministerial meeting in Istanbul in June 1994 rejected such a linkage.

In Autumn 1994, Grachev called for raising arms limits in the flank area to allow 1,100 tanks, 3,000 ACVS, and 2,100 artillery, including 600 tanks, 2,200 ACVS, and 1,000 artillery in the North Caucasus military district. The Chechnya conflict intensified Russian military calls for lifting flank limits. Deputy Chief of Staff Vladimir Zhurbenko in December 1994 noted the high cost of temporarily moving troops and arms to and from Chechnya and called for revising or temporarily suspending full implementation of the treaty. Other options he noted to bypass treaty restrictions included redesignating the North Caucasus Military District as a rear area or ceasing to apply flank restrictions to naval and coastal forces, options most treaty experts viewed as not allowed without treaty alteration. Secretary of Defense William Perry responded on December 21 that "we are not considering renegotiating the treaty" at that time, since it would be difficult to get all the signatories to agree on treaty changes, and State Department spokesman Michael McCurry on December 28 called for Russia to work within the treaty and refer problems for discussion by the JCG.13

At the May 1995 U.S.-Russian summit press conference, Yeltsin denied that he had linked the issue of NATO enlargement to Russia's compliance with the CFE Treaty. Despite this denial, several high-ranking Russian military officials and others in Russia have threatened that NATO enlargement might create grounds for treaty abrogation or replacement. They argue that NATO enlargement would result in NATO possessing a greater preponderance of armaments in Europe relative to Russia than at present, further violating the principle of balance between the blocs originally envisaged in the treaty. Since Russia cannot veto NATO enlargement, they assert, it should demand the negotiation of a new CFE Treaty reducing NATO's arms by an amount equal to the CFE Treaty arms limits allocated to a former WTO state entering NATO, and should require that no NATO forces or arms be stationed on the soil of new NATO members. Barring such a new treaty, Russia should ensure its own security, necessarily abrogating the CFE Treaty, they state.14

During Secretary Perry's April 1995 visit to Moscow, Grachev warned that if NATO expanded, Russia "would not abide by the CFE Treaty," and would consider creating new armed forces "on the most threatened fronts," and forging closer security ties among the CIS states. More recently, Kolesnikovs) deputy, Col. Gen. Dmitriy Kharchenko, indicated that Russia intended to meet its overall treaty reduction targets by November 1995, but that if NATO were to expand, Russia would have to reconsider the treaty. The Russian military asserted in September 1995 that NATO airstrikes in Bosnia provided added grounds for beefing up Russian military deployments in the North Caucausus region and for "a forced temporary suspension" of some CFE Treaty provisions.15 According to most international law experts, Russia cannot legally withdraw from the treaty for the reasons it has cited (withdrawal is allowed only if "extraordinary events" have Jeopardized a nation's "supreme interests"). Many experts have viewed recent Russian threats to withdraw from the CFE Treaty as attempts to apply pressure not only to slow or prevent NATO enlargement, but also to promote lifting flank limits. (See also CRS Report 95-594S, NATO Enlargement and Russia.)


In his April 1995 meeting with Secretary Perry, Grachev proposed that the CFE Treaty be amended so that "areas of combat operations and of situations of conflict be designated as outside the framework of the treaty." Pointing to Russia's conflict in Chechnya, Grachev urged that "The hardware being used in a region where war is in progress should not be counted under the CFE framework." Perry again called on Russia to comply with the treaty by the deadline of November 1995 and noted that Russia's proposals on altering the treaty could be considered at the May 1996 CFE review conference. Most Western experts have rejected the idea of an "exclusion zone" -- where treaty limits would be suspended because of force majeure -- as outside treaty provisions. Grachev also noted later in April that Russian "military men" were demanding that "politicians" delay the treaty's implementation and review its flank provisions.16 Many legislators in the Russian State Duma also appear to favor altering the treaty. In April 1995, the deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Defense, Air Force Major General Nikolay Bezborodov, supported the declaration of an "exclusion zone" in the North Caucasus, arguing that the Russian military needed to have adequate weaponry to prevent "several local conflicts" from "spilling over" into Russia.17

At the July 19, 1995 meeting of the JCG, the Russian delegation repeated the call for a "limited region" in the North Caucasus area of Russia where flank limits would not apply. The Russian statement noted that "It is clear that the treaty, which was not designed to deal with crisis situations, cannot be applied in this region." The statement notes that, in addition to availing itself of the flexibilities built into the treaty (such as temporary deployments), the designation of a "limited region" is necessary for Russia to be in compliance with the treaty. The statement asserts that Russia requires about 1,950 combat tanks, around 2,700 artillery, and 4,500 ACVs in the flank zone, some of it located in the proposed "limited region" thousands of weapons beyond the treaty limits (see Table 2).


The perspectives of the new independent and Baltic states toward lifting flank limits vary. The Baltic states and Azerbaijan are opposed to allowing more Russian arms to be deployed along their borders. Armenia and Georgia, however, which confront serious threats to their security, both host several Russian military bases, and have been reticent in recent months to criticize most Russian security policies. Ukraine has territory in southern Ukraine bordering the Black Sea that is subject to flank limits, and has called for lifting the flank rule. This would be a mixed blessing for Ukraine, many observers note, since it would allow Russia to deploy added forces along Ukraine's borders.

According to Ukrainian officials who argue for treaty alteration, Ukraine may deploy only 15% of TLEs in its flank area (some in storage) under the CFE treaty, although the area constitutes about 25% of Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainian foreign ministry has argued that this causes "an unjustifiably high concentration of weapons in other regions of our country," and impinges on Ukraine's ability to freely station weaponry in line with security needs. These officials have also stressed the high costs of destroying excess arms. Some foreign ministry officials suggested in April 1995 that Ukraine might ignore the November 1995 compliance deadline to safeguard its security interests in its flank area and save funds.18 The division of treaty limited coastal defense and naval infantry equipment in the Crimea (part of Ukraine's flank area) between Russia and Ukraine has also been a matter of contention. The two sides must agree on dividing this equipment before the treaty deadline of November 1995 so that they may carry out required reductions of excess arms. Continued contention over this equipment resulted in Ukraine not meeting its 60% reduction obligations for this equipment as of December 1994. According to some reports, agreement on dividing this equipment may be near.

Belarussian President Aleksander Lukashenka announced in February 1995 that he was suspending CFE arms reduction efforts because of budget constraints and concerns over NATO enlargement. Nevertheless, Belarus reported at the end of 1994 that it had met its reduction targets as required by the CFE Treaty. The United States provided some aid in FY1994 to assist Belarus in arms destruction. During the visit by U.S. National Security Council official Coit Blacker to Belarus in late June 1995, Belarussian President

Lukashenka reiterated that, because of economic distress, Belarus could not meet its CFE reduction goals, and called for U.S. and Western aid. In September 1995, Belarus announced that Western aid would allow it to renew arms destruction. Some analysts have warned that Armenia and Azerbaijan might not meet their arms reduction targets by November 1995. Armenia has claimed it has no reduction liabilities, and Azerbaijan has criticized efforts to get it to reduce arms in times of conflict and has called for increasing its limits.19 Their 1994 data declarations indicated that they both had reduction liabilities (See Table 2). These analysts note that the CFE Treaty did not foresee that regional conflicts might jeopardize the safety of inspectors and the willingness of combatants to reduce arms, and lead to questions about who is responsible under the treaty for arms located in a breakaway region.20


U.S. policy-makers continue to view the CFE Treaty as serving U.S. interests by greatly easing threats to stability in Europe. The treaty prevents conventional arms races, increases transparency so that the members are familiar with each others' military postures, reduces Russian and former WTO arms more than those of NATO, creating a balance, and ensures compliance through mandated inspections and data exchanges. At the same time, it does not hinder U.S. military involvement in Europe, they argue.21 As noted in the Department of Defense's US Security Strategy for Europe and NATO, June 1995, the United States views the CFE Treaty as "the most comprehensive conventional arms control treaty since World War II" and a prime example of "cooperative security." ACDA's 1994 report to Congress states that the United States regards the CFE Treaty as a key contributor to "enhanced stability, security, accountability, cooperation, and openness" in Europe.22 Some observers argue that Europe might build on the CFE Treaty's important arms control and confidence building measures to increase stability and peace in Europe as part of, or even substitute for, NATO enlargement. In its preamble, the CFE Treaty calls for "a new pattern of security relations based on peaceful cooperation" to be established in Europe. The creation of NATO's North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) and PFP have been part of these efforts.

NATO has conducted seminars on CFE Treaty inspections, held inspection courses, and provided access to NATO's CFE Treaty inspection and data declaration databases to NACC/PFP members.

Most Western officials have generally remained unpersuaded by Russian arguments that immediate treaty revisions are necessary. They note that the Soviet Union and Russia freely signed and ratified the treaty and remains legally bound to uphold it. While acknowledging Russia's security concerns, they urge Russia to meet these needs within the treaty and fully comply by November 1995. Stressing the treaty's flexibility, they note that Russia's ability to send added troops to the North Caucasus is not restricted, and that these troops may be lightly armed; that added equipment to be used by police and other internal "paramilitary" forces and equipment are allowed in the flank and other zones; that aircraft are not restricted in the flank zone and may be moved quickly to meet threats; that limited, rapid, and temporary deployments of some equipment are permitted; that a minor redrawing of the map of the flanks might be allowed; and that country allocations in the flank might be reordered. They also stress that at the upcoming treaty review conference in May 1996, the signatories will discuss possible treaty modifications and follow-on arms control efforts. While it has proposed and followed some of these "remedies," Russia has increasingly insisted on treaty revisions. Some Western observers also argue that, by retaining flank limits, the West retains its main legal means to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the militarily weaker former Soviet Baltic and Transcaucasus states bordering the flank zone from expansive Russian military encroachments.

NATO has not yet agreed on a stance toward altering flank limits at the review conference. France, Turkey, and Norway are against substantive changes, while Germany has been sympathetic on reduction methods and even has proposed that the timetable for reductions might be extended, or that excess equipment be placed temporarily at secure storage sites until destroyed. Norwegian commentators have argued that by easing flank limits, ostensibly to allow Russia to place arms in its southern flank area, Norway and other neighboring states would have no guarantee that Russia might not also move more weapons into its northern flank area.23 Turkey led in vetoing a Russian proposal for talks on the flank issue from being included in the final, communique issued at the June 1994 NACC meeting. The December 1994 NACC communique repeated the call for strict adherence to the treaty. On July 17, 1995, Russia raised the issue of revising flank limits at a NATO ambassadorial meeting, citing its security concerns in the Caucasus, but was reportedly told that NATO would only support "minor amendments" to the treaty.24 In early September, NATO's High Level Task Force debated a possible redrawing of Russia's southern flank area to exclude some arms from treaty limits, though Norwegian and Turkish emissaries reportedly voiced reservations. The flank issue might harm alliance cohesion if a common solution is not found, some observers warn.

At U.S.-Russian summit meetings in September 1994 and May 1995, the flank issue was discussed. At the September summit, President Clinton stressed that the United States opposed reopening negotiations but would help Russia "search for a balanced solution" to the flank issue within the treaty. At the May summit, several Russian arms control compliance issues of growing concern to the United States were discussed.25 Yeltsin reportedly warned that Russia might not be able to meet CFE Treaty reduction goals in the flank area by November 1995, because conflicts and tensions in the North Caucasus required the presence of larger numbers of weapons than allowed by the treaty. President Clinton responded that the two sides had not come to agreement on the flank issue and would "continue working on it." He noted that "we believe some modifications (of the CFE Treaty] are in order. We are supporting the Russian position there. What we want to do is to figure out a way for us to preserve the integrity of the treaty and compliance with it, but, in the end, respond to the legitimate security interests of Russia." The Administration later emphasized that the United States expected Russia to comply with the November deadline, but might support narrowly drawn changes at the May 1996 review conference. (For background, see CRS Report 95-676 F, Moscow Summit).

Some analysts have urged that the West quickly address the flank issue to preclude its becoming a possible treaty breach after November 1995. They argue that Russian objections to flank limits have been insistent since 1993 and that compliance appears increasingly unlikely after events in Chechnya. Russian legislative candidates have begun campaigning in anticipation of elections in December 1995, with the likelihood that ultranationalist rhetoric will contribute to a Russian climate against compliance. Since the West has indicated that it will eventually address the issue, these analysts argue, prompt attention would prevent "six months of political warfare where people will be accusing the Russians of being in noncompliance."26 These experts also point out that a failure to soon address the flank issue, while unlikely to cause Russia to summarily abrogate the treaty, might lead it to submit summary interpretations or unilateral reservations that could be viewed by other signatories as material breaches of the treaty, allowing them to withdraw, perhaps destroying the treaty. Many of these experts also argue that the breakup of the Soviet Union posed a far greater threat to the survival of the CFE Treaty than does the Russian flank and collateral compliance issues. They point to the strenuous diplomatic efforts taken at that time to preserve the treaty, and urge that expeditious cooperative efforts again prevail. Some analysts have argued that in exchange for agreeing to treaty alterations on the flank issue, Russia should acquiesce to NATO enlargement.27


Congress has called on Russia to abide by arms control agreements and has warned that Russian noncompliance will be met by sanctions, including the reduction or cutoff of U.S. aid and nonadmission into the Group of Seven (G-7) and other Western organizations. The Freedom Support Act (P.L.102-511) provides that the President shall not provide aid if he has determined that a state is not taking "constructive actions" to implement arms control obligations, unless he determines that it is in U.S. national interests to do so or if the aid supports democratization, human rights, or disaster relief. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of 1993 (P.L.103-160) states that U.S. funds may not be provided "unless the president certifies to Congress for that year that the proposed recipient state is committed to complying with all relevant arms control agreements." (For details, see CRS Report 95-769 F, Conditions on U.S. Foreign Assistance to Russia).

The 104th Congress has voiced increasing concern over Russian compliance with arms control agreements, including the CFE Treaty, nuclear nonproliferation to Iran, the biological weapons convention and the Wyoming Memorandum of Understanding on chemical weapons, and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. H.R. 1530, authorizing FY1996 funds for the Department of Defense, expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should be vigilant in ensuring compliance by Russia with arms control obligations (Title XII, Sec. 1227). Regarding the CFE Treaty, H.R. 519, the Freedom and Self-Determination for the Former Soviet Union Act, calls for a freeze on aid to Russia until the President can certify that Russia is complying with arms control agreements, and that Russia's troops in Kaliningrad are respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lithuania and other neighbors, and are not offensively postured. In introducing H.R. 519, Representative Gerald Solomon on January 19 warned that Russia was "seeking to wiggle out of the CFE accords." he also said that "Russia routinely violates Lithuanian territory [by] ferrying troops and arms to the Kaliningrad region."28 The provisions on Kaliningrad were also incorporated into H.R. 1923, Restructuring a Limited Government Act, Sec. 2102, introduced by Representative Solomon on June 22. H.Con.Res. 51, introduced March 28, by Representative Christopher Cox, calls for all Russian troops to be removed from the Kaliningrad exclave and for it to be designated a demilitarized zone and transferred to international administration. On July 5, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the resolution, terming it interference in Russia's internal affairs.

Congressional interest in upholding the CFE Treaty is also reflected in concern about possible Russian and other threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other former Soviet republics, including the Transcaucasus and Baltic states possibly threatened by a Russian breach of flank limits. This concern has been reflected in conditions on aid added to the Freedom Support Act and legislative proposals of the 104th Congress. Russian actions in Chechnya also have led to proposed conditions on U.S. aid in H.R. 519 (mentioned above), H.R. 1923,29 and H.R. 1561.30 These acts propose an aid cutoff unless the President can certify that Russia is pursuing a cease-fire (H.R. 1561) or has ended offensive actions (H.R. 519 and H.R. 1923) and is pursuing a negotiated settlement in Chechnya. While some in Congress and elsewhere call for conditioning aid on Russian compliance with the CFE Treaty, others have argued that Russian noncompliance with flank limits in Chechnya or the Transcaucasus, if the treaty is otherwise adhered to, is of minor U.S. national security concern and should not jeopardize U.S. aid or other cooperative aspects of U.S.-Russian relations. Others who support lifting or revising Russia's flank limits argue that Russian military deployments, such as its peacekeeping activities in Georgia, can play a useful role in fostering stability in these troubled regions. They do not believe that Russia has the ability or the desire to engage in massive military deployments or otherwise undermine the sovereignty of states bordering the flank areas. The treaty deadline for compliance will likely come near the end of the current Congressional session, but the issue of Russian compliance and the future of the treaty may be a major topic during the second session.




ACDA Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
ACV Armored Combat Vehicle
ATTU Atlantic to the Urals
CFE Conventional Armed Forces in Europe
G-7 Group of Seven industrial nations
JCG Joint Consultative Group
NACC North Atlantic Cooperation Council
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
OSCE Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
PFP Partnership for Peace
TLE Treaty Limited Equipment
WTO Warsaw Treaty Organization


The Atlantic-to-the Urals Area

(Flank zone outlined in black)


1 For the treaty text and commentary, see Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), Message from The President of the United States, 102nd Congress, 1st Session, U.S. Senate, Treaty Document 102-89, July 9, 1991. [Return]

2 For a report on compliance problems in late 1993, see Conventional Arms Control: Former Warsaw Pact Nations' Treaty Compliance and U.S. Cost Control, U.S. Government Accounting Office, December 1993. [Return]

3 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control Agreements. Washington, D.C.: ACDA, June 23, 1994, pp. 12-13; Threat Control through Arms Control: Report to Congress 1994. Washington, D.C.: ACDA, July 1995. [Return]

4 pal Dunay, The CFE Treaty, Frankfurt, Peace Research Institute, October 1991, p. 3; Pal Dunay, CFE and the CIS, Frankfurt, Peace Research Institute, February 1993, p. 20. [Return]

5 Dorn Crawford, CFE: A Review and Update of Key Treaty Elements, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, January 1995; Threat Control Through Arms Control, Report to Congress 1994, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, July 1995, p. 46. [Return]

6 For discussion of the flank zone issue as potentially a 'serious arms control problem, see Richard A. Falkenrath, International Security, Spring 1995, pp. 118-144; Richard A. Falkenrath, Arms Control Today, May 1995, pp. 15-20. For an overview, see Zdzislaw Lachowski, Conventional Arms Control and Security Dialogue in Europe, SEPRI Yearbook 1995, pp. 769-773. [Return]

7 Sarah Walkling, Arms Control Today, January/February 1995, p. 23. [Return]

8 Article XII of the CFE Treaty allows some armored vehicles to be reassigned to internal security forces. These reassigned vehicles are under more liberal counting rules. According to the December 1994 Russian data declaration, however, it appears that only minimal reassignments may be possible in the southern flank area, to buttress the many vehicles already deployed by the internal security forces. [Return]

9 Jeffrey D. McCausland, The CFE Treaty, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA, Mar. 20,1995, pp. 13-14; Dorn Crawford, CFE: A Review and Update of Key Treaty Elements, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, January 1995, p. 10. [Return]

10 Jane's Defense Weekly, Sept. 18, 1993, p. 7. [Return]

11 Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, its CFE Treaty arms limits in "Zone 4.3" were reallocated among Belarus, Russia, and northern Ukraine (the Baltic states opted not to participate in the treaty). The logic of the reallocation process resulted in high arms limits for Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad, its only territory within "Zone 4.3." [Return]

12 Jane M.O. Sharp, CFE Implementation: Is Russia Opting Out? Brassey's Defense Yearbook 1994, pp. 314-316. The text of the demarche is given in The Arms Control Reporter, November 1993, pp. 407.D.85-86. [Return]

13 Sarah Walkling, Arms Control Today, January/February 1995, p. 23. [Return]

14 FBIS-SOV-95-062, Mar. 31, 1995, p. 6; FBIS-SOV-95-110, June 8, 1995, pp. 3-5; Vladislav Chemov, Comparative Strategy, Jan/March 1995, pp. 87-90. [Return]

15 ITAR-TASS, Sept. 15, 1995, wire service report. [Return]

16 FBIS-SOV-95-076, Apr. 20, 1995, p. 8; ONIFPJ Daily Report, Apr. 18, 1995. [Return]

17 FBIS-SOV-9.5-074, Apr. 18, 1995, pp. 9-10. [Return]

18FBIS-SOV-95-076, Apr. 20, 1995, pp. 46-47. [Return]

19 Interfax, wire service report, July 20, 1994; Asberez-on-Line, wire service report, June 3, 1995. [Return]

20 Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1995), pp. 61-63. On Sept. 12, 1995, the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarussian, and Kazakh delegates to the CIS Joint Consultative Commission on Disarmament, meeting in Minsk, issued a statement that they would be unable to meet all their commitments under the CFE Treaty by November 1995. See Interfax, September 12, 1995, wire service report. [Return]

21 Jeffrey D. McCausland, The CFE Treaty, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA, Mar. 20, 1995, pp. 7-8. [Return]

22 United States Security Strategy for Europe and NATO, U.S. Department of Defense, June 1995, p. 22; Threat Control Through Arms Control, Report to Congress 1994, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, July 1995, p. 46. [Return]

23 FBIS-WEU-95-008, Jan. 10, 1995. [Return]

24 OMRI, Daily Digest, July 18, 1995. [Return]

25 The Washington Post, May 9, 1995, pp. A12-Al3. [Return]

26 Jack Mendelsohn, Arms Control Association, wire service report, May 17, 1995. [Return]

27 Jane M.O. Sharp, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March-April 1995, p. 19. [Return]

28 In its December 1994 CFE Treaty data declaration, Russia reported 2,276 tanks, artillery, and ACVs in the Kaliningrad exclave. Although its deployed arms are well below its treaty limits for this non-flank zone, the neighboring states of Lithuania and Poland have raised concerns about the comparatively large numbers of arms allowed under the treaty. [Return]

29 Restructuring a Limited Government Act, introduced by Representative Gerald Solomon on June 22. [Return]

30 American Overseas Interests Act of 1995, introduced by Representative Benjamin Gilman on May 3, passed House on June 8. [Return]

Next Section

Return to Top
Return to Table of Contents