The news about Russia’s unilateral termination of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe caused confusion among Western nations. This step triggered discontent among not only foreign countries, but also internally among opposition groups. As it has been clarified by a number of articles and news from the mass media, the majority is not aware of the essence of this agreement.
In general, what is the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe?
There are two principal treaties from historical perspective. The first one is the agreement signed in 1990 between the USSR, Warsaw Pact Members and NATO members. The second one is the latest agreement signed between Russia, post-Soviet and NATO states after substantial changes in the political map after 1999. The parties of the agreement pursued the key goal to prevent potential military conflicts and preclude large military deployment in the border area between two blocks. Terms of CEF also included unified quota application for officers serving and military equipment in the area. Transparency was the key slogan of the Treaty. It worth mentioning, by the way, that all countries of former social blocks at the time of the first agreement are now members of NATO.
The CEF signed for the second time applied quota for CEF members in terms of their armed forces personnel and military equipment (aircrafts, helicopters, tanks, artillery, armoured vehicles etc.). NATO assumed responsibility not to deploy armed forces or equipment under any circumstances in the territory of the Treaty members. Official Moscow decreased armed forces in Kaliningrad and Pskov regions, withdrew armed contingent of soldiers in Georgia and Moldova. This was an important political and strategic statement for the West. An interesting point is that within 16 years after the signing of the agreement, none of the countries apart from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus ratified this treaty.
In the course of these years NATO failed to comply with its responsibilities and swiftly expanded further closer to Russian territories which made Vladimir Putin send a proposal to the parliament to announce the moratorium of the Treaty. The Treaty member states proposed to include this item in the agenda but failed to succeed during the meeting in Vienna. The Kremlin unilaterally terminated the Treaty in July, therefore completely closed all communication channels in regards to military personnel and equipment present in the border territories.
What was the reason for Russia’s radical decision at such a tough time? As unexpected as it can sound, the foundation of this tendency was established by a statement of former president George Bush (the father).[i] At first, he openly declared his intentions to terminate ABM treaty and deploy ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe (Poland, Czech Republic).[ii] Finally, Russia officially terminated FCE treaty in March 2015. NATO limited itself to expressing concern over this decision from Moscow.[iii]
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed to press the increase of military personnel from 13,000 to 30,000 soldiers, and establishment of a new command post in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania. This is not concealed from public for some reason. For example, everyone could openly observe via television how a military vessel Liberty Promise approached Lithuanian shores and brought 120 units of M1A2 Abrahams tanks.[iv]
This military equipment was delivered to Riga within Atlantic Resolve mission. This military equipment is to be delivered for use during the largest military trainings in Baltic region in May featuring the participation of Latvian and American military personnel. Moreover, the Minister of Defense of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis reiterated the importance of the U.S. military troops` presence in the territory of the country for the region’s solidarity and security.[v]
Return to CEF for Russia is unthinkable under all mentioned terms. Certain Russian experts justify this decision from official Moscow claiming negligent attitude from European colleagues, but it seems however, neither NATO nor Western block are intending to carry out any measures to overcome this misunderstanding between the parties.
[ii] VEDOMOSTİ: “Russia terminated its membership in CFE” URL: http://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/news/2015/03/17/rossiya-priostanovila-chlenstva-v-dovse-yuridicheski-ostavayas-v-dogovore—minoboroni
[iv] EUCOM: ”3rd Infantry Division arrives to support Operation Atlantic Resolve” URL: http://www.eucom.mil/media-library/article/32983/3rd-infantry-division-arrives-to-support-operation-atlantic-resolve
[v] TV-NET: Вейонис: Россия решила стать врагом, а не партнером URL: http://rus.tvnet.lv/novosti/politika/285058-vjeyonis_rossija_rjeshila_stat_vragom_a_nje_partnjerom