The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) is a complex instrument which established a military balance between the two groups of States by providing equal ceilings for major weapons and equipment systems, namely for each group in the whole area from the Atlantic to the Urals:
- 20,000 tanks;
- 20,000 artillery pieces;
- 30,000 armoured combat vehicles;
- 6,800 combat aircraft
- 2,000 attack helicopters.
The group ceilings were subsequently translated into national limits for each individual State-Party. It also establishes within the Treaty area several sub regions where both groups would be allowed to keep equal numbers of the mentioned weapons systems, with further provisions on how many items could be kept in active units. Furthermore, the Treaty limits the proportion of armaments to be held by a single country to one third of the total numbers, the so-called "sufficiency rule". The Treaty stipulates that arms or equipment beyond the agreed limits have to be destroyed so that within 40 months from entering into force the limits will have been reached. It also includes a thorough notification and verification regime of on-site inspections for the notified holdings, challenge inspections, and the monitoring of destruction of treaty-limited items. Finally, the Treaty established in Vienna a body composed of all Treaty members, the Joint Consultative Group (JCG), as a forum for further consultations.
The Vienna CSCE Follow-up Meeting (1986 - 1989) endorsed, in parallel with the mandate for the Negotiations on Confidence-and Security Building Measures, the mandate to negotiate, within the framework of the CSCE process, measures for military stability of the conventional forces in Europe. The latter negotiations could build upon the experience gained within the former negotiations on Mutual Reductions of Forces and Armaments and Associated Measures in Central Europe (MBFR) which had been held in Vienna from 1973 until 1989. They differed, however, from the earlier negotiations in their scope since they were not limited to Central Europe but covered all of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. They also differed from other CSCE-mandated fora in that participation in them was limited to the then twenty-three Member-States of NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, and in that they were aimed at a legally binding Treaty rather than a politically binding agreement. Their objective was, according to their mandate, the establishing of a military equilibrium on a lower level of armaments between the Eastern and Western alliances. Negotiations conducted within the framework of the CSCE process resulted in the (legally binding) CFE Treaty of 17 November 1990.
After the signing of the Treaty in 1990 negotiations were continued on the basis of the CFE mandate in order to deal with personnel strength. They led to the Concluding Act of the Negotiation on Personnel Strength of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (so-called CFE-1A agreement), establishing limits on the manpower of certain kinds of forces, excluding, however, sea-based naval forces, internal security forces, or forces serving under UN command. Ceilings declared by each State take effect 40 months after entry into force. The agreement, also, contains provisions for information exchange, notification and verification. It was signed in Helsinki on 6 July 1992 on the occasion of the 1992 CSCE Summit. In contrast to the CFE Treaty, it is not legally binding but rather a political commitment.
Both, the CFE Treaty and the CFE-1A agreement came into force on 17 July 1992. For the CFE Treaty as well as the CFE-1A agreement the limits envisaged by them were to be legally reached by 16 November 1995. Due to the disappearance of the GDR and the break-up of the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, there are currently 30 States parties to the CFE Treaty and CFE-1A agreement.
A chronological listing of major events and developoments.
Primary documents, including treaty text and associated memoranda, statements and other related material.
Hearings, reports, floor debates and related materials from the United States Congress.
Chronological archive of news reports, factsheets, announcements, speeches and other related material.
Related Resources and Web Sites
- On-Site Inspections Under the CFE Treaty Joseph Harahan and John Kuhn