Chapter 1


President Bush and the leaders of 21 nations sign
the CFE Treaty in Paris, France, on November 19, 1990.

On November 19, 1990, the leaders of Western Europe, the United States, Canada, the Soviet Union, and Central Europe gathered in Paris to sign the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.1 The CFE Treaty came amidst profound historical changes that were sweeping across the European continent at the end of the Cold War.2 During this time of transition, the treaty served as an international structural bridge. The CFE Treaty was both an arms reduction treaty, which mandated the signatory states to collectively reduce more than 38,500 military weapons, and a conflict prevention treaty. To prevent (or, more accurately, reduce the probability of) conflict in Central Europe, the CFE Treaty required the signatory nations to permanently reduce their stationed military forces in designated geographical zones in Central and Western Europe and on the flanks of the Soviet Union. Under the CFE Treaty, verification measures were the most extensive, intrusive, and complex of any modern arms control agreement. The heart of verification was and remains on-site inspections under the CFE Treaty.    


Moscow streets during August 1991 coup attempt; the Soviet Union Collapsed on December 25, 1991.

  The process of implementing this cross-European treaty, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains, began with the signatory nations' exchanging thousands of pages of military force data, establishing verification agencies to conduct thousands of on-site inspections, developing new data systems for monitoring the presence of tens of thousands of military weapons, and traversing millions of miles of territory to inspect declared sites, objects of verification, and specified areas. While the leaders of 22 nations had signed the CFE Treaty in November 1990, there were 29 nations that provisionally implemented the treaty at entry into force in July 1992. The increase in signatory nations was the direct consequence of larger historical forces reshaping the European continent: Eastern Europe's political revolutions, Germany's unification, and the Soviet Union's collapse. As a result, seven new nations, all drawn from the former Soviet Union, became signatory states. In 1993, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia as a nation resulted in two new nations, the Czech and Slovak Republics, becoming signatory states. Thus, 30 nations implemented the CFE Treaty.3

By the fall of 1990, European stability, characterized by the post-World War II division of Eastern and Western Europe and the "German Question," had changed decisively.4 For more than four decades, ever since the Berlin Blockade of 1948, the threat of a continental European war had been present. In 1989-90 that threat was ending. For the new Europe, the CFE Treaty represented a practical measure, especially with its extensive, intrusive verification process, for establishing a new international process that would both reduce and establish lower levels of offensive military forces and their deployment for the 1990s and beyond.


In retrospect, it seemed so straightforward. The Cold War era had ended and the post-Cold War era had begun. Events of historic proportions came so rapidly in 1989-92 that all of Europe seemed, for a few years, to move in one, and only one, direction-toward democratic revolution. But as people swept up in contemporary events know, change is straightforward only in history books. The present rarely is so clear. This realization was particularly true for the men and women entrusted with implementing and monitoring the CFE Treaty "on the ground." As military professionals, they had to build new treaty verification agencies and staffs. As on-site inspectors monitoring a multinational treaty, they had to cross bridges that stretched across Europe's older, west-to-east national boundaries. These new bridges crossed to places, peoples, and military sites not visited, much less inspected, for more than 45 years. Consequently, there were days, even months, when the footing secured by the treaty seemed unsure. At times, the treaty's very foundation-its legal authority sanctioned by national ratification-seemed certain to collapse. At other times, the treaty appeared to be carrying more of Europe's security structure than it was designed to carry. Uncertainty was the rule for months and months. It is this uncertainty that makes this history interesting. A rule of law was replacing a rule of force. No one was certain if the historical circumstances that created the political and military consensus for the signing of the CFE Treaty would continue throughout its implementation.

The CFE Treaty signing in Paris in November 1990 came at the midpoint of a series of political and military changes occurring in Europe, the Soviet Union, and to a far lesser degree, the United States. Arms control treaties and agreements in the late 1980s had legitimized many of these changes and, in a few instances, they set the stage for more revolutionary developments. The Stockholm Agreement of 1986 was the first step. Then, in December 1987, President Ronald W. Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in Washington, D.C. That treaty was a diplomatic and military watershed; its elimination provisions and implementation measures set precedents for all subsequent modern arms control treaties. In the next five years, the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies negotiated and signed two bilateral and five multilateral treaties: Threshold Test Ban Treaty (1990), Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (1990), Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (1991), Vienna Document Agreements (1990, 1992, and 1994), Open Skies Treaty (1992), Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II (1993), and the Chemical Weapons Convention (1993).5

All these treaties incorporated on-site inspection as an important element in monitoring compliance. The first treaty, the INF Treaty, stipulated extensive on-site inspection rights. These rights were so extensive that President Reagan authorized the establishment of a new agency to conduct U.S. inspections of Soviet facilities and to escort Soviet inspection teams at U.S. military facilities. That new agency, established in the U.S. Department of Defense on January 26, 1988, was the On-Site Inspection Agency (OSIA). While the small but growing cadre of OSIA men and women organized, trained, and conducted inspections in the initial phases of the INF Treaty, negotiations continued in Vienna and Geneva on other, more extensive, arms control treaties. One of these, the Treaty Between the Twenty-Two Sovereign Nations on the Reduction of Their Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, became known as the CFE Treaty.6





The Helsinki Process, officially called the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), provided the platform for CFE Treaty negotiations. The Cold War had divided Europe politically, economically, and militarily. On July 3, 1973, more than 25 years into the Cold War, delegates from 35 nations, including neutral and nonaligned European nations, the United States, Canada, and the Soviet Union, met in Helsinki, Finland, to bridge those divisions. This meeting was the first in a continuing series of CSCE conferences and meetings held in national capitals across Europe. At these meetings, delegates from the CSCE nations attempted to define and agree upon a set of legal principles that would apply to all European states and peoples. The first significant phase of this process culminated in August 1975 with the signing of the Helsinki Final Act.7

Through the Helsinki Final Act, the CSCE nations declared that issues concerning the future of Europe should be discussed in terms of three areas, or "baskets." Basket one dealt with security in Europe, including issues such as national self-determination, territorial integrity, and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Basket two covered progress in science, technology, and the environment. Basket three contained human rights and other issues. To enhance military security, the 35 CSCE states agreed to the concept of negotiating "confidence-building measures (CBMs)." The objective of these measures, which were initially quite limited in scope because of the rigidity of the east-west European divisions in the Cold War, was to make each nation's military capabilities and intentions more transparent. The theory was that if nations knew of their neighbors' military capability and intentions, then these nations might develop confidence in their international relations and possibly reallocate their security resources to other national concerns. Collectively, the European continent was the most heavily armed of any continent in the world. National armies and air forces were large, well equipped, and modern. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had stationed large, combat-ready armies and air forces in Central Europe. The first confidence-building measure, signed in 1975, required all 35 CSCE nations to provide every other nation a 21-day advance notice of any military exercises involving more than 21,000 troops. Other provisions stipulated the voluntary notification of smaller exercises as well as large-scale troop movements on an annual calendar.


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