NATO has announced the formal suspension of its participation in the 30-year-old Cold War-era European Arms Limits Treaty after Russia finally withdrew.

The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty was concluded in the final years of the Cold War.

The aim was to set restrictions on key categories of conventional military equipment owned by all nations in Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals.

It also included an obligation for each state party to identify and destroy surplus weapons.

The treaty was originally signed in 1990 by the then 16 NATO and six Warsaw Pact countries.

The treaty was ratified in 1992 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union by 30 nations at the time – the original signatories and eight former Soviet republics.

In 2007, Russia suspended its participation in the treaty. Then, in March 2015, Russia officially announced that it would end its participation entirely, claiming that NATO was violating the treaty.

In May of this year, President Putin issued a decree that Russia would withdraw from the CFE Treaty because “the United States and its allies are pursuing a military confrontation with Russia.”

At midnight on Monday, the Kremlin finally announced its full withdrawal, saying it was in Russia’s “fundamental security interests.”

In response, NATO’s 31 members issued a joint statement on Tuesday morning saying the alliance had previously suspended its participation in the treaty after consultations: “A situation in which allied parties abide by the treaty while Russia “This doesn’t do it.” will not be sustainable.”

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The NATO statement said the allies condemned Russia’s decision to withdraw. Its war of aggression against Ukraine already contradicted the goals of the treaty, and Russia’s withdrawal is another example of the systematic undermining of Euro-Atlantic security.

It continued: “Russia continues to disregard arms control, including the fundamental principles of reciprocity, transparency, compliance, verification and host country consent, and undermines the rules-based international order.”

What was included in the CFE?

The main features of the original contract were:

Contract Limited Equipment (TLE): NATO and the former Warsaw Pact were each limited to 20,000 tanks, 30,000 armored fighting vehicles (ACV), 20,000 heavy artillery pieces, 6,800 combat aircraft and 2,000 attack helicopters, which were divided among their respective “bloc” members.

transparency: The parties agreed to allow inspections of 20 percent of stocks at regimental level and above – including storage, repair and weapons destruction sites. More than 4,000 such checks were carried out.

TLE zones: Allowable weapon stocks were further refined by dividing Western Europe into four “concentric zones” radiating from the center, each with maximum limits, and two “flank zones” on Europe’s northern and southern flanks to prevent an encirclement attempt on either side . The latter was a concept that Russia constantly resisted and never followed.

Temporary deployments: Each country could temporarily exceed its TLE cap for tanks, ACVs and artillery pieces for military exercises and temporary operational deployments. “Temporary” was not defined, but signatories were required to provide periodic notifications before TLE caps were exceeded.

Erosion of the CFE Treaty

The collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the expansion of NATO necessitated the need to amend the agreement in 1999 to update the structure of the treaty by abandoning the old “bloc” and “zone” rules and replacing them with national and territorial ceilings became.

This was called the “adapted CFE contract”.

The United States and its NATO partners would not ratify the new treaty until Russia demonstrates compliance with its new borders, including Russia’s commitments to withdraw weapons and forces from Georgia and Moldova.

In 2002, Moscow declared that it had complied with these new arms limits, but another problem was the entry of the Baltic states and Slovenia into NATO. They were not a party to the original treaty and could not join the amended treaty until it came into force.

In December 2007, Russia suspended implementation of the CFE Treaty and declared that it would not participate in treaty data exchange, communications or inspections.

Attempts have been made to break the impasse.

In 2010, the Obama administration prepared a draft “framework” for renewing and strengthening the CFE treaty regime, which was abandoned in mid-2011 due to Russia’s unwillingness to agree to either the principle of host country consent or a return to compliance with the original treaty .

In response, Washington said it would no longer fulfill “certain obligations” to Russia under the CFE Treaty and said the U.S. “will not accept Russian inspections of our bases… nor will we provide annual notifications to Russia.” “Military data required in the treaty… [but] will continue to implement the Treaty and honor all obligations to all States Parties except Russia.”

Shortly before Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, NATO and Russia exchanged arms control proposals, in which Russia demanded that NATO not station troops in the territories of NATO members that joined after 1997 and that NATO from another expansion should be envisaged.

Some saw this as an attempt to justify the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

What does this mean for Ukraine?

In absolute terms, both Ukraine and Russia are already violating the TLE values ​​to which they committed themselves in the CFE Agreements while the war continues and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

If the CFE requirements were strictly applied to those Eastern states that had accepted increased deployment of NATO troops on their territory in response to Russian aggression, they would also be in breach of their obligations.

One area that could provide some comfort to Ukraine is long-range conventional missiles and missiles.

The CFE limits the maximum range of such weapons. While compliance with this limitation imposed by the CFE Convention is not the main reason the United States and others have been reticent to supply them to Ukraine, the treaty’s suspension could encourage them to once again consider longer-range weapons like the US ATACMS is considering German Taurus cruise missiles.

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