Chapter 3


East German guard on patrol hours before the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.


As Europe entered the 1990s, it was in turmoil. From 1989 to 1992-coinciding with the years of the CFE Treaty's negotiation, ratification, and entry into force-nations on the European continent were experiencing their greatest changes since the end of World War II. There was the unification of Germany; the "velvet" political revolutions casting out Communist systems in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia; the bloody revolution in Romania; the continuous integration of the European Union; the recurrent economic and political crises in the Soviet Union presaging its collapse; the national independence movements in the former Soviet republics; and, running throughout, the large-scale military withdrawals from Central and Western Europe by the Soviet Union and the United States. Politically, diplomatically, and militarily, the European continent was in the midst of revolutionary changes. It was in this context that ratification and implementation of the CFE Treaty proceeded.  


U.S. ratification--December 26, 1991.



In constitutional governments, treaties require two acts for legitimacy: executive signature and legislative ratification. For the United States, President Bush signed the CFE Treaty in Paris on November 19, 1990. That same day, the leaders of 21 other NATO and Warsaw Pact nations signed the treaty. Ratification, however, took nearly two years. On October 30, 1992, just 20 days short of two full years, the final two states, Belarus and Kazakstan, ratified the treaty and deposited their instruments of ratification at The Hague in the Netherlands. Why did it take so long?

One CFE Treaty signatory state, the Soviet Union, was in such turmoil in 1991 and 1992 that its very existence was in question.1 When the USSR collapsed in late December 1991, its successor states had to form new governments, and those governments had to work out military and security relationships with Russia, the largest and most powerful of the former republics.

So great were the repercussions from the Soviet Union's internal difficulties that the CFE Treaty signatory states had to convene four separate extraordinary meetings to approve, authorize, and incorporate new statements, understandings, declarations, and agreements into the treaty regarding entitlements and obligations. In June 1991, the signatory states met at The Hague; in October 1991 they convened in Vienna; in June 1992 they met in Oslo; and, finally, in July 1992, they assembled just before the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) summit in Helsinki. At each of these meetings, the diplomats took up specific treaty issues for the group to resolve before the individual states would proceed with ratification and implementation. Every issue was a consequence of the Soviet Union's collapse as an empire. Throughout these extraordinary meetings across Europe, the commitment of the European and North Atlantic states to the CFE Treaty as the "cornerstone of European security" proved to be remarkably strong and durable.



The first, and most serious, issue arose at the time of the CSCE/CFE Treaty summit in November 1990. On November 18, one day before treaty signing, representatives from each of the signatory states placed stacks of treaty-mandated data books on long rows of tables in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. The books listed detailed information on force structure, force size, military units and organizations, and military weapons in the five treaty categories of armaments: tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, and combat aircraft. Shortly thereafter, state delegates moved from table to table scooping up copies of these invaluable military force data. U.S. CFE Treaty Negotiator Lynn M. Hansen, who was in the Hofburg Palace that morning, characterized the exchange as having the "aura of a bazaar." He remembered military officers and specialists excited and buzzing at the opportunity to compare treaty declarations against current estimates.2 Within days, however, the atmosphere changed for the worse as serious questions arose about the Soviet Union's force data (see table 3-1).3

It appeared to many of the state delegates in Vienna that the Soviet Union had underrepresented its treaty holdings by a significant degree. In July 1988, when all the states had presented their force data to the negotiating teams, the Soviet Union had given out one set of data. Now in November 1990, at treaty signature, it had presented a much different set of data. When compared, there were major discrepancies. U.S. officials reported to President Bush that the Soviet discrepancy was between 20,000 and 40,000 items: 6,000 to 11,000 tanks, 12,000 armored fighting vehicles, 12,000 artillery pieces, and 3,000 combat aircraft.4 This was a serious discrepancy, one that clearly threatened ratification. Was there a Soviet explanation?

In Vienna, Soviet diplomats explained that during the two years of treaty negotiations, 1989-90, the Soviet High Command had conducted a large-scale operation that withdrew thousands of military personnel, weapons, and units from Central and Eastern Europe. It was this military equipment, they asserted, that accounted for the difference.5 They explained that in one category alone, tanks, the Soviet Army had destroyed, exported, or converted more than 4,000 items since 1989. The Soviet military had sent another 8,000 tanks to motor rifle and other divisions stationed in Asia, or to military storage depots located beyond the Ural Mountains. In addition, they pointed out that the Soviet military had sent thousands of items from other treaty-limited equipment (TLE) categories--artillery, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), and helicopters--to military depots and active units stationed beyond the Urals.6 The Ural Mountains were the CFE Treaty's easternmost boundary; military equipment located east of the Urals was not subject to any of the treaty's requirements. There would be no requirement for its inclusion in the initial data, for on-site inspection teams to count it, or for it to be reduced within a set period of time. Finally, the Soviet diplomats explained that since much of this equipment had been transferred from specialized combat support units, those units no longer held any TLE.7 Those units, by the treaty's inspection protocols, would not be objects of verification (OOVs). As a result, the Soviet Union's OOVs dropped from approximately 1,500 to fewer than 1,000.


Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze detailed the movement of TLE east of the Urals.


Table 3-1. Declared National CFE Holdings in November 1990


Nation Tanks Artillery ACVs Combat Aircraft Attack Helicopters

Warsaw Treaty Organization States

USSR 20,694 13,828 29,348 6,445 1,330
Bulgaria 2,416 2,474 2,010 387 44
Czechoslovakia 3,035 3,485 4,359 369 56
Hungary 1,345 1,047 1,720 110 39
Poland 2,850 2,300 2,377 654 128
Romania 2,851 3,819 3,135 407 104
Total WTO 33,191 26,953 42,949 8,372 1,701

NATO States

Belgium 359 376 1,282 191 0
Canada 77 38 277 45 12
Denmark 419 553 316 106 3
France 1,358 1,330 4,125 700 429
Germany 7,133 4,644 9,598 1,064 357
Greece 1,725 1,941 1,639 480 0
Italy 1,912 2,222 3,591 584 169
Netherlands 913 838 1,467 196 91
Norway 205 532 146 90 0
Portugal 146 334 259 96 0
Spain 854 1,373 1,259 252 28
Turkey 2,888 3,202 1,554 589 0
UK 1,198 636 3,193 842 368
USA 5,904 2,601 5,747 704 279
Total NATO 25,091 20,620 34,453 5,939 1,736

Source: Arms Control Reporter 1990, p. 407, E-0.7.


Further, the Soviet diplomats asserted that this information should not have come as a surprise. In early October, Soviet General Mikhail A. Moiseyev, Chief of the Soviet General Staff, had announced the specific details of many of these force movements at a Pentagon press conference in Washington, D.C.8 Just four weeks before the Vienna meeting, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze had sent a detailed letter on October 13, 1990, to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker listing the number and category of equipment removed from Central Europe to the east.9 But some Soviet officials had made statements that indicated a far different situation. In early October, Soviet Ambassador Oleg Grinevsky spoke informally with the other CFE Treaty diplomats in Vienna, stating that the USSR would have 1,600 OOVs at treaty signature, and approximately 1,500 OOVs at the end of the 40-month reduction phase.10 Therefore, when the Soviet Union revealed in Vienna, just one day before the official signing of the treaty in Paris, the scope of its unilateral military equipment relocation and the decrease in its inspectable sites, it surprised and disturbed many diplomats from the other CFE nations. At the very least, it raised serious questions of credibility.

Within a few weeks, diplomats linked these questions to other unilateral treaty-related actions by the Soviet Union. The Soviet High Command, according to the USSR's data books, had resubordinated three motor rifle divisions to naval infantry forces. In terms of CFE Treaty equipment, this meant they had transferred to the naval forces 120 tanks, 753 armored personnel vehicles, and 234 artillery pieces. The Soviet High Command also had established a new kind of naval unit, the coastal defense forces, and assigned to it 813 tanks, 972 ACVs, and 846 artillery pieces. In addition, the Strategic Rocket Forces received 1,791 ACVs.11 During treaty negotiations, delegates considered all this equipment to be a part of the USSR's CFE Treaty TLE ceilings, subject to reduction quotas and inspection protocols. In Vienna, Soviet diplomats argued that since the Soviet High Command had reassigned this equipment to naval units, which they asserted were not included in the treaty, the equipment would not be subject to treaty inspections or ceilings. Further, they asserted that the Strategic Rocket Forces' 1,791 ACVs should be classified as internal security equipment, again outside the treaty's quantitative provisions. Finally, the Soviet data omitted 18 PT-76 armored combat vehicles, which had belonged to the civil defense forces, from the TLE category of heavy armament combat vehicles. Neither in their data submission nor in subsequent discussions did the Soviets give any explanation for this omission.12



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