May 8, 1996



Like other arms control treaties, the CFE Treaty provides for periodic review conferences (Article XXI, paragraph 1), to be convened by the Depositary (The Netherlands) -- in this case 46 months after its entry into force -- and at five-year intervals thereafter, to conduct a review of the operation of the Treaty. The first review conference will be convened in Vienna, Austria, May 15 to 31, 1996. The U.S. Delegation will be headed by Ambassador Thomas Graham of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

The principal objective of the 1996 Review Conference is to assess the operation and implementation of the CFE Treaty during its first five years. Specifically, this effort involves: (1) examination of the implementation of the limitation and reduction provisions of the Treaty, and (2) assessment of implementation of the verification and information provisions of the Treaty.

Treaty Implementation

Despite many political developments since the CFE Treaty was signed in 1990 -- such as the dissolution of the Soviet Union -- implementation of most of the provisions of this complex Treaty has generally been smooth. Most aspects of implementation have improved throughout the course of the past three and three-quarters years. The related CFE 1-A agreement, which limits full-time military manpower in the CFE region, has provided an additional increment of stability on the European continent.

By the end of the reduction period prescribed by the Treaty, the thirty CFE States Parties completed and verified by inspection the destruction or conversion to other uses of over 50,000 battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters (more than 18,300 by the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union -- the NIS). In addition, the States Parties conducted and accepted some 2,300 intrusive on-site inspections of military units and installations, and of specified areas.

The most serious implementation issues came to the forefront as the States Parties approached the end of the reduction period and the time when treaty limits would go into effect. As of November 1995, when CFE equipment limits took effect, Russian equipment in the Treaty's flank zone (see below) was significantly in excess of Treaty-permitted levels. Russia and Ukraine both raised concerns about the impact of the flank limits on their security; this issue has been under discussion for many months in the CFE Joint Consultative Group (JCG) in Vienna. Additionally, four of the NIS failed to complete their required reductions by the end of the reduction period. The eight NIS fell almost 2,800 items of equipment short of their collective obligation to reduce at least as many pieces of TLE (Treaty-Limited Equipment) as the former Soviet Union would have to reduce as of treaty signature. Five NIS were in excess of one or more of their overall national TLE limits, while four of them also exceeded their limits for the flank region.

Finally, Russia did not meet an associated commitment to destroy 14,500 pieces of equipment of types limited by the Treaty east of the Urals, as required by a Soviet political agreement of June 1991. Through the end of 1995, the Russians had notified the reduction east of the Urals of only some 6,500 items of equipment, a number more than sufficient to fulfill Russia's legally binding obligation on east of the Urals destruction, but insufficient to meet the separate, politically binding commitment.

The CFE Treaty: Mandate and Achievements

The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe was signed in Paris on November 19, 1990, by heads of state or government of the 22 members of NATO and the former Warsaw Treaty Organization then present for the Paris Summit of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (renamed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, effective January 1995). Following the reunification of Germany, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and the separation of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak Republics in the early 1990s, the total number of States Parties to the CFE Treaty increased to 30 (with the eight successor states of the USSR assuming its treaty obligations on June 5, 1992). The Treaty provisionally entered into force 17 July 1992, and formally entered into force on November 9, 1992. It was complemented by the politically binding CFE-1A Agreement of July 10, 1992, which limits the personnel strength of the conventional armed forces of each State Party in the CFE area of application. Additionally, a political agreement of June 14, 1991 committed the Soviet Union/Russia to the destruction of nearly 16,000 items of military equipment located east of the Urals by the end of 1995.

The Preamble to the Treaty describes its objectives as follows: Strengthening stability and security in Europe through the creation of balanced conventional forces; establishing lower levels for conventional armaments/equipment; eliminating disparities prejudicial to stability and security; and, as a priority, precluding the capability for launching surprise attacks or large-scale offensive operations.

Notwithstanding the historic changes in Europe's geopolitical landscape since 1990, the Treaty continues to foster the goals of its mandate, and remains in the best interest of all States Parties.

The Treaty reduces and limits holdings of major conventional military equipment in Europe -- battle tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. The resulting equipment ceilings -- the core of the Treaty -- came into force on November 16, 1995, after a 40-month period in which reduction of excess equipment took place. This phase was followed by the 120-day residual level validation period (November 17, 1995 to March 15, 1996), which involved random inspections to confirm that military equipment had in fact been reduced to levels specified by the Treaty and associated documents.

The Flank Issue

The CFE Treaty's four subzone ceilings further restrict geographically the distribution of the equipment CFE states or groups can deploy in the CFE zone in order to prevent destabilizing concentrations of forces in any one region of Europe. The flank zone is a subzone of particular political and military importance, as it comprises territory belonging to Russia, Norway, Iceland, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Turkey, Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Since 1994, citing various military, political and economic concerns, Russia and Ukraine have been seeking relief from CFE Treaty equipment limits for the flank zone. The United States and its NATO allies believe that full implementation of CFE's commitments is critical to future European security, and have urged both countries to solve their problems within the Treaty's existing flexibility concerning deployments in the flanks. With growing recognition that this was apparently not possible, and that there were some legitimate aspects to Russian and Ukrainian complaints, all States Parties agreed to work toward a cooperative solution that will not require a formal treaty amendment. These concerns are being discussed at the highest levels bilaterally among the major parties concerned, and in the multilateral forum of the JCG on the basis that any solution must be acceptable to all 30 CFE signatories, and ensure their national security.


For the United States, the CFE Treaty has been part of a continuing effort to achieve stability in Europe. Strict implementation of its provisions continues to serve as the basis for a new security relationship between East and West. The Treaty has proven itself a vital element of the structure for peace in post-Cold War Europe. It has significantly enhanced security, accountability, cooperation, and openness throughout the area of application. In sum, this landmark treaty has been and will remain the cornerstone of European security and stability.