Chapter 7


Severed Ukrainian fighters on display during a U.S. reduction inspection.


"Committed to the objectives of establishing a secure and stable balance of conventional armed forces in Europe at lower levels than heretofore, of eliminating disparities prejudicial to stability and security and of eliminating, as a matter of high priority, the capability for launching surprise attack and for initiating large scale action in Europe,... the States Parties have agreed as follows:..."

These objectives are found in the CFE Treaty Preamble. To fulfill them, the treaty requires the elimination of specific quantities of conventional armaments located in the treaty's area of application within specific timelines. The elimination-or, in treaty terms, the reduction-of equipment had to be complete, irreversible, and verifiable. The Eastern group of states' agreement to asymmetrical reductions was instrumental in enabling the two groups of states to eliminate the disparities in force strength that were "prejudicial to stability." Collectively, the Eastern states, previously the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) states, would reduce more equipment than the NATO alliance nations because they held a significant numerical superiority in conventional armaments in Europe.





When the 22 nations signed the treaty on November 19, 1990, they exchanged data declaring their national holdings. Based on these declarations, the two groups of states possessed the following:


Table 7-1. National Holdings by Alliance
Equipment On hand1 Treaty limit Reduction liability2
NATO 25,091 20,000 5,949
WTO 33,191 20,000 13,191
Armored Combat Vehicles      
NATO 34,453 30,000 4,631
WTO 42,949 30,000 12,949
NATO 20,620 20,000 2,334
WTO 26,953 20,000 6,953
NATO 5,939 6,800 0
WTO 8,372 6,800 1,572
NATO 1,736 2,000 0
WTO 1,701 2,000 0
1 NATO figures include weapons held by the former German Democratic Republic.
2 NATO states allocated cuts below treaty limits.
Sources: Arms Control Reporter 1990, 407.E-0.7; Jane M.O. Sharp, "Conventional Arms Control in Europe," SIPRI Yearbook 1991, pp. 423-426.


    At treaty signature, the reduction liability of the NATO states stood at 12,914 pieces of equipment, the majority of which was equipment of the former German Democratic Republic. The NATO states placed greater reduction liabilities on themselves than the treaty required by setting their tank, armored combat vehicle (ACV), and artillery ceilings below those outlined in the treaty. In contrast, the Eastern group of states possessed 34,665 pieces of equipment for reduction. Regardless of quantity, the treaty required each group to complete its reductions within 40 months of the treaty's entry into force.1


As discussed in a previous chapter, the Eastern states' figures for treaty-limited equipment (TLE) from data exchanged shortly after treaty signature surprised the United States and the NATO allies. The Soviets had transferred more than 57,000 pieces of equipment out of the treaty's area of application before November 19, 1990. In addition to moving equipment east of the Urals, the Soviets had reassigned portions of its conventional armaments to coastal defense forces, naval infantry units, and the Strategic Rocket Forces. The Soviets claimed that these forces and their conventional equipment were not subject to the treaty. The NATO states countered that TLE within the ATTU (Atlantic to the Urals) was TLE, regardless of the organization that possessed it. It was accountable. The Soviet movement of equipment east of the Urals raised concerns that the Soviets could quickly reintroduce those weapons into the ATTU. Some nations declared that shifting the TLE east of the Urals was a circumvention of the treaty. These Soviet actions brought on political and diplomatic debate that stalled ratification of the treaty. On June 14, 1991, after months of lengthy and heated Joint Consultative Group (JCG) negotiations, Soviet representatives submitted pledges addressing both the equipment east of the Urals and the reassigned TLE within the ATTU. These pledges allowed the ratification process to move forward.

One Soviet pledge provided a legally binding solution to the TLE held by the Strategic Rocket Forces, naval infantry, and coastal defense forces. The Soviets agreed to limit TLE assigned to the naval infantry and coastal defense forces not to exceed a total 933 tanks, 1,080 pieces of artillery, and 972 ACVs. In addition, the Soviets agreed to increase their total treaty reduction liability by the same totals. They would accomplish 50 percent of those reductions within the ATTU and would reduce the other 50 percent in the east after transferring that amount of equipment out of the ATTU. Once the Soviets transferred the equipment, they would reduce that same equipment or an equal number of the same type of equipment. The Soviets would not incur any reduction liabilities associated with the 1,701 armored personnel carriers (APCs) assigned to the Strategic Rocket Forces.


Soviets transferred more than 57,000 pieces of TLE east of the Urals.


Soviet limits on naval TLE:
933 tanks
1,080 artillery
972 ACVs

  The other pledge, politically binding, dealt with the equipment the Soviets had transferred east of the Urals prior to treaty signature. The Soviets pledged to reduce at least 14,500 pieces of that equipment. This broke down to 6,000 tanks, 1,500 ACVs, and 7,000 pieces of artillery. These reductions were in addition to the obligations they had assumed concerning naval infantry and coastal defense forces. The combined reduction obligations for equipment the Soviets had moved or would move east of the Urals, as outlined in the two pledges, totaled 15,993 items, specifically: 6,467 tanks, 7,540 pieces of artillery, and 1,986 ACVs.2 There was, however, one major difference between reductions on the two sides of the Urals. The NATO states could inspect all reductions within the ATTU-the Soviets had no right of refusal. East of the Urals, however, satellite reconnaissance was the only means the NATO states had for monitoring reductions. The Soviets stated in their pledge that all reductions in the East would be readily visible for satellite observation.

The collapse of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day 1991 threw reduction liabilities for the Eastern group of states into a muddle. Out of the former Soviet Union arose eight new treaty states: Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakstan, Ukraine, and Russia. The new nations of the former Soviet Union had no agreement on equipment ownership, much less who would be responsible for reductions. Individual signatory states, not the group, were responsible for treaty implementation, and the NATO nations could not ratify the treaty without the former Soviet states acknowledging their reduction liabilities. As the new states focused on forming new governments, resolving domestic issues, and dealing with armed hostilities, it appeared that they would not soon agree on TLE and reduction allocations. However, on May 15, 1992, at Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the new republics came to a dramatic agreement on the national distribution of the former USSR's military hardware and established ceilings for holdings in the various categories of equipment. This agreement led directly to the Oslo Extraordinary Conference in June 1992, where all signatory nations had sufficient confidence to proceed with ratification based on the understanding that the combined reduction obligations of the newly emerged nations would equal those of the former Soviet Union.3


Months later, after the treaty entered into force, it was clear that the individual nations had not reached agreement on all of their reduction liabilities. The exchange of treaty data on December 15, 1992, indicated that the new nations' liabilities, when totaled, would not equal the original Soviet obligation. The original Soviet reduction liabilities, not including the reductions required under the agreement on coastal defense forces and naval infantry, included 7,575 tanks, 9,890 ACVs, 763 artillery, 1,461 combat aircraft, and no helicopters. The new data showed shortfalls in declared reduction liabilities of 1,789 tanks and 819 ACVs, while producing overages of 68 pieces of artillery, 401 combat aircraft, and 115 attack helicopters.

The disparities stemmed partly from confusion over inventories as new governments continued to be embroiled in domestic issues, and some even in armed conflict. None of the nations had the expertise that the Russian Nuclear Risk Reduction Center (NRRC) had developed through implementation of previous arms control treaties. The armed hostilities in the Transcaucasus nations (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia) and in Moldova were a major reason for the shortfall in reduction liabilities for tanks and ACVs. Nongovernment forces controlled some of the hardware in the region, ongoing battles had destroyed or heavily damaged other pieces, and withdrawing Russian troops had left behind equipment suitable only for scrap. Most important, no one claimed ownership or responsibility for the equipment. In addition, Armenia and Azerbaijan, involved in heavy fighting, wanted recognition for TLE destroyed in combat, but the treaty did not allow for battlefield losses. These new nations reported no reduction liabilities yet they reported possessing equipment in excess of the ceilings agreed to at Tashkent.4 During the two subsequent years, JCG discussions brought some clarification as the shortfall decreased to 539 tanks and 1,394 ACVs by November 1994. Azerbaijan's and Armenia's failure to declare a reduction liability contributed significantly to the 1994 shortfall.


The new nations of the Caucasus were reluctant to declare broken-down equipment left behind by the Russian army.


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