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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 14, April 1997

Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Flank Document:
Congressional Testimony

Statement by Lynn Davis

Statement of Lynn Davis, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Policy, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 29 April 1997


"The CFE treaty has contributed importantly to military stability, predictability and confidence during a period of historic change in Europe, and has enjoyed broad bipartisan support since the Bush administration successfully negotiated it. Since the CFE treaty was signed in November 1990, the Warsaw Pact has disappeared, the Soviet Union has dissolved, and the North Atlantic Alliance has been transformed. The treaty has evolved as well, as its 22 original signatories have become 30 sovereign States. The States Parties to the CFE treaty have eliminated more than 53,000 pieces of heavy military equipment, and have accepted and conducted nearly 3,000 intrusive on-site inspections.

For two treaty partners, however, these dramatic political changes raised difficulties for implementing certain provisions of the treaty, involving the 'flank' limitations of Article V. These limitations were originally designed to prevent destabilizing concentrations of Soviet forces opposite Turkey and Norway, as large numbers of forces and equipment were pulled back from central Europe. From early 1993, Russia argued that these limitations restricted its ability to meet its security requirements in the North Caucasus, where they were restructuring their military forces following the collapse of the USSR. The Russians cited in particular their low armored combat vehicle (ACV) entitlement for the flank region. The Russian portion of the flank zone represents approximately one-third of Russian territory west of the Urals, an area more than five times the size of Germany, in which Russia can hold no more than 580 ACVs with active military units.

Ukraine claimed that the flank limitations were outdated, in that none of its neighbors considered a Ukrainian military presence in the flank threatening. The Ukrainians also complained that the flank restrictions would result in unreasonable implementation costs, as they would require the construction of facilities in northern Ukraine to accommodate units and equipment that would have to be moved out of the flank zone.

By the end of the treaty's reduction period in November 1995, Russia was in substantial compliance with its overall equipment ceilings, but indicated that it would be unable to comply with the Article V flank limitations. Ukraine exceeded both its overall and flank entitlements, but indicated it would come into full compliance as soon as the division of equipment held by the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet between Russia and Ukraine was completed. Although there has been no official notification of a settlement over the division of this equipment, Ukraine has subsequently come into full compliance with all treaty limits.

The Flank Agreement addresses these concerns on the part of Russia and Ukraine in a manner that other CFE parties can accept... At the same time, the Flank Agreement reaffirms Russia's commitment to the basic obligations of the treaty at a time when there have been voices in Moscow arguing that Russia should not be subject to restrictions on where it can locate forces on its own territory.

The flank negotiations were difficult. The Russians initially sought elimination or suspension of the flank limits. They then called for the creation of an 'exclusion zone' in the southern portion of the North Caucasus Military District, where the treaty's provisions would no longer apply. The United States and our NATO Allies firmly rejected all proposals that could have had the effect of calling into question the legitimacy of the treaty's flank regime. We rejected certain claims by Russia concerning its security problems, particularly with regard to the amount of equipment Russia said it needed in the flank zone. The Alliance did appreciate, however, that significant changes to political borders had occurred in the flank region since 1990, and that Russia's low armored combat vehicle (ACV) limit in the flank zone raised legitimate questions that needed to be addressed.

For over two years, CFE States worked to find a way to address these concerns about the flank limitations that would be acceptable to all Parties. The resulting agreement is based on an approach that was initially designed by NATO, and endorsed by all CFE States Parties in November 1995 at the Joint Consultative Group (JCG) in Vienna.

The Flank Agreement has three basic elements:

* a map realignment, which reduces the geographic area covered by the treaty's flank limitations;

* additional constraints on equipment in areas removed from the flank zone through the realignment; and

* additional transparency measures for the revised flank zone and those areas removed from the flank zone.

The map realignment would remove certain areas in Russia and Ukraine from the flank zone.

The Flank Agreement does not authorize an increase in any State's overall permitted holdings of treaty-limited equipment (TLE) in the total area of application of the treaty, nor does it change the equipment limits for the flank zone as specified in the CFE treaty. However, after the Flank Agreement enters into force, the treaty's flank limits will apply to a smaller geographic area than before. ...

The Flank Agreement also contains a unilateral Russian commitment, provisionally applied as of 31 May, 1996, not to increase its equipment holdings in the original flank zone above the levels reported in Russia's 1 January, 1996, CFE data submission. By 31 May, 1999, Russia must be in full compliance with all treaty provisions, including:

* the flank limitations of Article V, which will apply to the revised flank zone;

* overall caps on treaty-limited equipment in the original flank zone, at levels lower than the provisionally-applied interim caps; and

* sub-caps on Russian ACVs in the specific areas removed from the flank.

The Flank Agreement also contains provisions that will provide greater transparency for all CFE States, including additional inspections, and more frequent data submissions by Russia on its flank holdings. ...

Provisional application of certain portions of the agreement until 15 May, 1997, has directly benefited the US and NATO Allies. It made the enhanced transparency provisions of the agreement, including additional on-site inspections, effective immediately and has provided protection against any increase in Russian deployments in the flank zone prior to entry into force of the Flank Agreement. Provisional application was based upon the understanding that Russia was not relieved of its existing CFE obligations, including its obligations with respect to its TLE holdings in the flank zone. The map realignment itself has not been provisionally applied and will not become effective unless and until the agreement enters into force. This will happen when all CFE States Parties have deposited confirmation of their approval of the Document with the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is the depositary of the agreement.

Recognizing that time is short, we urge that the Flank Agreement be approved by 15 May. Otherwise, the agreement becomes subject to review, and there is a great risk that the flank issue would be swept into the negotiations on adaptation of the CFE treaty. Reopening the flank issue would put the entire flank regime at risk. It would almost certainly preclude agreement in the next few weeks on basic elements of CFE adaptation, a central element of our effort to smooth the way for NATO enlargement. ..."

Statement by Walter Slocombe

Statement by Walter B. Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 29 April 1997


"... The CFE Flank Agreement retains the limits on ground treaty-limited equipment (TLE) - tanks, armored combat vehicles, and artillery - in the Russian and Ukrainian flank zone, but applies them to a smaller area. The regions removed from the original flank zone will be subject to new constraints and additional verification and transparency measures. ...

...the CFE treaty must adjust to changes in Europe, particularly to the break-up of the Warsaw Pact and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The CFE treaty Flank Agreement is such an adjustment. It is an important part of the NATO position for adapting the CFE treaty to broader changes in Europe, which include the enlargement of the Alliance. Approval of the Flank Agreement by 15 May is essential to preserve the long-term benefits of the CFE treaty and to keep the adaptation process on track.

...I would like to concentrate particularly on the impact of the CFE Flank Agreement on the military security of the United States, our NATO Allies, and our friends in the flank zone and surrounding regions. It is the firm view of the Department of Defense that the Flank Agreement serves the military security interests of all those countries. Our security and theirs could be adversely affected if the Flank Agreement is not approved.

Genesis of the Flank Issue

The flank region, one of four zones into which the CFE area of application is divided, covers Norway, Iceland, Turkey, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and parts of Ukraine and Russia. The flank limits were established during the CFE treaty negotiations primarily to address Norwegian and Turkish concerns that the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Central and Eastern Europe might result in a significant build-up of Soviet forces on or near their borders. The original flank limits allowed the Soviet Union to hold within the northern and southern parts of the flank zone up to 1850 tanks, 2775 artillery pieces and 1800 armored combat vehicles (ACVs) in active units, and up to 1000 tanks, 900 artillery and 800 ACVs in designated storage sites in specific parts of the flank region.

Approximately one year after the CFE treaty was signed, the Soviet Union dissolved. In May 1992, before the treaty entered into force, the former Soviet States which succeeded to the CFE treaty (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakstan, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) signed the Tashkent Agreement on dividing the equipment entitlements of the Soviet Union. Under that agreement, Russian active units in the flank zone may hold no more than 700 tanks, 580 ACVs and 1280 artillery pieces. Russia was allocated another 600 tanks, 800 ACVs, and 400 artillery pieces in Designated Permanent Storage Sites in a specified part of the northern portion of the flank region. Ukrainian active units in the flank zone are limited to 280 tanks, 350 ACVs and 390 artillery pieces, with another 400 tanks and 500 artillery pieces in Designated Permanent Storage Sites. Russia and Ukraine are the only CFE States whose treaty-limited equipment (TLE) is subject to geographic sub-limits within their national territory.

Thus, Russian and Ukrainian forces were left with far less flexibility in the flank region than had been given to the Soviet Union. Beginning in the fall of 1992, both States asked the other CFE parties for relief from the flank limits, which they felt were too restrictive. Ukraine was particularly concerned about the economic burden of having to move TLE, relocate units from its flank zone, and build new infrastructure in the interior to receive them. Russia shared that concern, but its primary focus was on the need for a larger equipment entitlement in the flank - especially ACVs - given the instabilities in the North Caucasus Military District and Caucasus States.

Key Security Factors in the Flank Issue

As the United States and the other CFE parties considered Russia and Ukraine's calls for relief from the flank limits, two security concerns were paramount in our thinking. First, and most important, was the need to retain the integrity of the CFE treaty. The Russian military felt so strongly the need for additional TLE in the flank zone that at various points their representatives threatened to urge Russian withdrawal from the treaty if their flank demands were not satisfied. An end to the CFE treaty would have greatly affected the United States and our NATO Allies, by undermining a key element of the new European security situation.

The Russian government's official position was that while Russia would implement all of CFE's other provisions in good faith, it would not be able to achieve compliance with the Article V (flank) obligations without jeopardizing its security. Indeed, Russia's overall compliance with its CFE obligations has been good. Russia fulfilled its overall notified CFE reduction obligations on schedule by November 1995. This involved the destruction or conversion to non-military use of over 11,000 pieces of TLE, including tanks, artillery, ACVs, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. This Russian effort represented one-fifth of total CFE equipment destruction - over 53,000 pieces of TLE by the 30 CFE States. Despite that record, Allies believed that continued failure by Russia to meet flank obligations would have the effect of undermining the legitimacy of the flank regime as a whole, and possibly of the treaty itself. This could have very serious security implications for all members of the NATO Alliance, especially our Allies in the flank region.

The second major consideration was that any adjustment to the CFE flank arrangements must not adversely affect the security of any CFE State or of any other State near the Russian flank zone. The Russian flank limits did not affect the immediate military security of the United States or most of our NATO Allies. However, they did have such an immediate effect on Turkey and Norway, and on friends in the region such as the Baltic States, Finland, Ukraine, Moldova and the Caucasus States - and thus an important, if indirect, effect on our security as well.

One Russian proposal during the flank negotiations - to establish a CFE 'exclusion zone' in the south - was completely unacceptable from both perspectives. Suspending important provisions of the treaty in any part of the CFE area of application would be contrary to the need to preserve the integrity of the treaty as a whole. It also could potentially allow Russia to build up forces in the southern part of the flank that could threaten Turkey and the neighboring former Soviet States.

Concern for the military security of neighboring States also led us to reject proposals that could lead to unacceptably large TLE increases in either the southern or northern part of the Russian flank zone. Finally, and very important, it was essential that any solution to the flank problem be consistent with treaty requirements regarding territorial sovereignty and host State consent to stationing of forces.

Negotiation of the Flank Issue

Resolution of the flank issue took over two years and the involvement of all CFE States. The US undertook intense consultations with our NATO Allies (especially Turkey and Norway), Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the other treaty partners to achieve resolution of this difficult issue. In addition, we consulted with interested non-treaty States, including the neutral Nordic and Baltic States. As we did throughout the original CFE negotiations, the NATO Allies adopted common positions in the flank negotiations, which we presented to Russia, Ukraine and the other CFE parties.

Consultations with particularly interested CFE parties took place both multilaterally, within the CFE Joint Consultative Group (JCG) in Vienna, among NATO Allies in NATO's High Level Task Force on Arms Control, and bilaterally in capitals. Because of the specific military concerns involved, the Department of Defense worked actively with Ministry of Defense counterparts, particularly with interested parties such as Turkey, Norway, and Russia.

In September 1995, NATO tabled a proposal at the JCG to resolve the flank issue. The NATO proposal, on which the final Flank Agreement is based, consisted of several specific elements:

* maintenance of the treaty flank limits;

* removal of some defined areas from the Russian and Ukrainian flank zones, so that the treaty flank limits applied to a smaller region, and TLE movement was encouraged toward the interior;

* constraints on TLE in the areas removed from the flank zone; and

* additional transparency and verification measures in the 'old' and 'new' flank zones.

The JCG agreed in November 1995 on the outlines for a Flank Agreement, following those provided in the NATO proposal. Intensive consultations and negotiations followed in Vienna and in capitals, to conclude the details within that general outline. Final agreement was reached at the CFE Review Conference in May 1996.

Elements of the Flank Agreement

Under the Flank Agreement, the following areas will no longer be part of the flank zone:

* Odessa oblast in Ukraine;

* Volgograd and Astrakhan oblasts in southern Russia;

* An eastern part of the Rostov oblast in southern Russia;

* Kushchevskaya repair facility in southern Russia and a narrow corridor in Krasnodar Kray leading to Kushchevskaya; and

* Pskov oblast in northern Russia.

Although those areas will not be subject to the flank limits, they remain constrained by the overall sub-zonal limits of the CFE treaty. In addition, sub-limits on ACVs are provided for Pskov (600), Astrakhan (552); Volgograd (552); and eastern Rostov (310). Finally, the Flank Agreement imposes overall constraints on the Russian 'original flank' zone of 1800 tanks, 3700 ACVs, and 2400 artillery pieces. These overall constraints will limit the flow of equipment from the revised flank area to the 'original flank' zone.

Thus, Russian TLE holdings in the regions near Ukraine, the Caucasus, Turkey, the Baltic and Nordic States will be constrained. Furthermore, the Russian areas bordering the Black Sea (Krasnodar Kray, western Rostov oblast) and the Baltic Sea/Barents Sea (Leningrad Military District) remain part of the flank zone. Both those features of the Flank Agreement meet important security concerns of Turkey, Ukraine, the Baltic States and the Nordic States.

Russia has until 31 May 1999 to bring its accountable holdings in the realigned flank zone into full compliance with the treaty's flank limits. However, the Flank Agreement requires that Russia not increase its TLE holdings in the original flank zone after 31 May 1996, under the provisional application of the agreement. Provisional application has been extended to 15 May 1997. If all CFE parties have not approved the agreement by then, it is subject to review.

The Flank Agreement recognizes that Russia has the right to seek to increase its TLE allowed in the realigned flank zone through one or both of two mechanisms: reallocation of the Tashkent TLE quotas, and use of the limited temporary deployments allowed under the treaty. However, the agreement specifies that either outcome must be achieved by means of free negotiations and with full respect for the sovereignty of the States Parties involved. These provisions in the Flank Agreement reinforce the provision in Article IV(5) of the treaty itself that, within the context of the CFE treaty, a State party cannot station forces on the territory of another State party without its permission. Consequently, if a State party did so, it would be considered a violation of the treaty.

Finally, the Flank Agreement provides for additional transparency measures in the original flank zone, effective with provisional application. Ten supplementary declared site inspections may be conducted in the various areas removed from the flank zone. In addition, data required under the CFE treaty information exchange provisions must be provided every six months for the original flank zone, rather than annually. For Kushchevskaya, periodicity is increased to every quarter.

Flank Agreement and European Security

... When the United States and the other CFE parties entered into the flank negotiations, we had several fundamental aims: retain the integrity and viability of the CFE treaty; preserve the security interests of all States Parties and regional nonparticipating States near Russia's flank region; and accommodate if possible Russia and Ukraine's legitimate TLE needs in the flank zone. The Flank Agreement succeeded in meeting all those objectives. It gives Russia and Ukraine needed flexibility in their TLE deployments, but in a way that is limited in its geographic scope, numerically constrained, transparent, and consistent with their neighbors' security requirements. It ensures the continued viability of the flank regime, which is a matter of critical importance to our flank allies and friends in the region. ..."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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