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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 11, December 1996

ACDA Fact Sheet on CFE Treaty

'Adaptation of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty,', ACDA Fact Sheet, 2 December 1996

Full text

"On December 1, 1996, in the context of the 2-3 Summit December of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the 30 CFE (Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty) States agreed to launch negotiations, beginning in January 1997, in order to adapt the CFE Treaty to political and military changes that have occurred in Europe since the Treaty was signed. The Treaty as originally negotiated established equal levels of conventional military equipment for the members of two alliances - NATO and the former Warsaw Pact. Since that time one of the alliances has dissolved, and new security challenges have emerged that were not foreseen in 1990. The CFE States have agreed that the Treaty should continue to play a key role in ensuring military stability into the 21st Century, and are committed to adapting it in order to take account of new security challenges.


The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) was signed in 1990 and entered into force in 1992. Despite the many political developments that have occurred since the Treaty was signed - such as the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union - implementation of this complex Treaty has generally been smooth. Most aspects of implementation have improved throughout the course of the past four years. By the end of the 40-month reduction period prescribed by the Treaty, the 30 CFE States Parties completed and verified by inspection the destruction or conversion to other uses of more than 50,000 battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters as required by the Treaty. In addition, the States Parties conducted and accepted some 2,300 intrusive on-site inspections. Notwithstanding the historic changes in Europe's geopolitical landscape since 1990, the Treaty continues to successfully foster the goals of its mandate, and remains in the best interest of all States Parties.

Updating the CFE Treaty

At the first CFE Treaty Review Conference in May 1996, the 30 CFE States Parties agreed to begin the process of adapting the Treaty to the new security situation in Europe by defining the 'scope and parameters' of Treaty adaptation as a matter of priority. The document agreed in the context of the Lisbon OSCE summit sets out the terms of reference for the CFE adaptation negotiations and specifies that the negotiation will begin in January 1997. This decision to initiate the adaptation talks is a vital element of larger diplomatic efforts to develop a cooperative security environment on the continent. The 'scope and parameters' document provides that the negotiators will develop specific measures to improve the operation of the Treaty in a changing political and security environment. The 30 States have agreed that the process should strengthen the Treaty's system of limitations, verification, and information exchange, and enhance its viability and effectiveness as a cornerstone of European security.

The process of adapting the Treaty should further develop and consolidate emerging patterns of cooperation based on mutual confidence, military transparency, stability, and predictability. The States Parties have committed to try in this process to address new security risks and challenges within the CFE area, while taking into account the legitimate security interests of each State Party. Finally, the document identifies specific aspects of the Treaty that will be considered in the course of the negotiation. Our goal is to proceed with the negotiations as expeditiously as possible in order to complete them before the end of the decade. Among the specific topics to be considered for Treaty adaptation are:

* adjustment of the Treaty's group structure, which currently divides the parties into a Western (NATO) group and an Eastern (former Warsaw Pact) group;

* the functioning of the Treaty's zonal provisions to ensure that no destabilizing concentrations of forces can occur; - enhancement of verification provisions; and

* means to assure the full functioning of the Treaty in situations of crisis and conflict.

The scope and parameters document commits the States Parties to exercise restraint during the period of the negotiations, in relation to the current postures and capabilities of their conventional armed forces in the Treaty's area of application.

Until entry into force of any agreed adaptation measures, the current Treaty and its associated documents will remain fully in force."

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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