NATO, Germany, and Russia, and the Future, Part 2

Part 2 of this essay covers the past, current, and future state of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, CFE for short.

The Future of the CFE

Russia and the E.U. have held long-standing clashes over the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. The E.U. views it as a necessary move towards greater security, as well as a move away from the traditional U.S. military shield and towards genuine European security. Russia views the CFE as an unbalanced and unfair threat towards its own security, often citing that it is not bound by the treaty terms and that Russia’s own forces would be stripped down to unconscionable levels when compared to the numerically greater combined European forces.

The back and forth between the two sides flares up every few years, with Europe alternating between reconciliation and implementation, and Russia alternating between understanding and boycotting implementation. In fact, in May of 2010, it was reported that “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Germany on Friday. On a visit that will see talks with his German counterpart and participation in a security conference in Munich … The possible lifting of Russia’s moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty … is expected to be discussed. ” The moratorium reflects the European move towards independent security, which troubles Russia.

The CFE treaty was initially enacted in 1990, but was updated in 1999. The original treaty was created with the Soviet Bloc in mind, but its updated version does not consider the dissolution of Soviet space, as argued by Moscow . European leaders are trying to move forward with the implementation of the CFE, as “many diplomats and military leaders still believe the [CFE] treaty is of vital important to European Security. Unfortunately however, the Russian Federation has suspended implementation of the CFE treaty. Moscow too this action due to the fact that 22 NATO members bound by the 1990 agreement have not ratified the 1999 adapted treaty. NATO members have argued that their ratification is contingent upon Russia complying with obligations it freely accepted in the adapted CFE treaty. … Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as publicly argued that ‘there is no legal link’ between the Adapted CFE treaty and these commitments. ”

Vladimir Putin has gone on to say that Europe should meet their treaty obligations through actions, instead of words, and has accused the Europeans of continuing to build up arms despite the CFE treaty working to limit armed forces in the region. Dialogue continues however, with the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), discussed later, providing a useful forum for the exchange of information and the resolution of disputes, as well as both formal and informal discussions and agreements.

Part of Russia’s dispute over the implementation of the CFE treaty is that “ The [CFE] treaty … eliminated the Soviet Union’s overwhelming quantitative advantage in conventional weapons in Europe by setting equal limits … that NATO and the former Warsaw Pact could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. ” However, once the Soviet Union dissolved, the terms of treaty had be assumed under different circumstances. The treaty was finally updated in 1999, “replacing the bloc and zone weapons limits with national and territorial arms ceilings, but the original CFE treaty will remain in force until all states-parties ratify the adaptation agreement ” but NATO member-states held conditional ratification dependent on the actions of Moscow, particularly, withdrawals from Georgia and Moldova. Vladimir Putin has publicly argued, however, that “‘there is no legal link’ between the Adapted CFE treaty and these commitments ”

““Citing a raft of grievances, including the ongoing delay of the Adapted CFE Treaty’s implementation into force, Russia issued a Dec. 12, 2007 statement suspending its implementation of the CFE treaty. … Moscow stated it will not participate in treaty data exchanges and notifications, as well as inspections. NATO members … declared their intention to continue implementing the treaty. ” “As on January 2007, NATO’s current CFE states-parties claimed collective holdings of 61,281 TLE (treaty limited equipment) versus a cumulative limit of 101,697 TLE, while Russia reported holdings of 23,266 TLE against limits of 28,216 TLE. ” Expert have noted that while Moscow has generally remained within its treaty limits, it has repeatedly violated specific terms of the treaty, such as deployment of forces in the so-called ‘flank-zones’.

One of the simple observations and outside observer can make of the history between Russia and CFE states, particularly the German endeavors in the region, is that while the CFE member states have made numerous attempts at reconciliation with Russia, Russia has constantly taken a hostile stance towards European attempts at reconciliation and integration when Moscow feels it is being treated unfairly or does not agree with the European approach to regional security concerns. Germany has sought time and time again to engage Russia, and, on numerous fronts has succeeded. “Since 1990, at the state level, a number of bilateral agreements have been signed including the Agreement on Good Neighbourliness, Partnership, and Cooperation (1990), on Cooperation in Labour and Social Policy (1990), on the environment (1992), on mutual help in times of national emergency (1992), on cooperation in international road and air transport (1993), on creation of the common commission to work on recent history (1997), on facilitating travel (2003), and on cooperation in youth policy (2004). ”

But, in spite of these, “Russia’s image in Germany is mixed. … The cause of this does not lie in direct relations between the two countries but instead in the way the Russian state deals with its own citizens and with states on its borders. ” Germany and Russia still have a long way to go with the CFE treaty, as Russia is reticent to accept the new CFE limits and obstinate in its claims that the terms are outdated and unfair. In order for the CFE treaty to advance in Europe, both Europe and Russia will have to take arms reduction and controlled deployment steps, and quite possibly, do it without expectation of reciprocal actions. An approach of non-reciprocal policy would be the best approach to establishing German goals in the case of Germany, the CFE, and Russia. Germany may have to reduce arms and arms distributions without expectation of Russian action in order to achieve a greater level of cooperation from the Russian government.

The German government has shown exceptional amounts of cooperation with the Russian government however, and that cooperation has been met with obstinate isolationism. Though “polls indicate the Russian elites regard Germany as a true friend and advocate in the West. Moscow does not consider Germany … to be a geopolitical rival. ” Russian government, while ostentatiously working with Germany, has been focusing on developing its own interests, often at the costs of the European desires of continued democratic development. The EU-Russian, and particularly German-Russian relationship is still fighting through a large number of incompatible values including how to manage independence of post-soviet states, values such as human rights and acceptable security measures, and the limits of NATO, the CFE, OSCE, and fighting forces in Europe, placed between the former cold-war boundaries.

While Germany’s Russia policy from “1991 to 2005 was designed to incorporate Russia into the larger European architecture” , it appears to have encouraged Russia to expand its nationalistic foreign policy to former Soviet states, rather than expanding it’s economic might and social progress to former Soviet states.

“Germany has initiated regular French-German-Russian summits since 1997. The troika meetings have aimed to enable strategic partnership with Russia on European economic and security issues at a time when other European states were or are still not ready. They are designed to make Moscow feel that although it is not an EU or NATO members, it is not excluded from the decision-making in Europe.”

Clearly, the CFE treaty poses serious policy issues for Russia, and by extension, Germany. The German leadership seeks to involve Russia intimately in the goings-on of Europe, by is still holding a skeptical view of Russia due to ongoing concerns with CFE treaty implementation. While Germany seeks to engage Russia on a number of other fronts, notably human rights and economic issues, the military and security policies Germany pursues furthers its distance from Moscow. Germany remains a European state in those fields, and shows that characteristic when Russia tries to push the bounds of CFE limits in Europe and influence in the post-Soviet sphere.

Further Reading

RIA Novosti. Russia’s Lavrov to Visit Germany for Security Talks. 5/2/2010. Article

Jeffery D McCausland. After Georgia: Russia, NATO, and the CFE. Carnegie Council. November 3, 2008 Article

The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty at a Glance. Arms Control Association. Article

Roland Götz. Germany and Russia – Strategic Partners?. Geoploitical Affairs 4/2007. Article

Alexander Rahr. Germany and Russia: A Special Relationship. By the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Washington Quarterly. 30:2 pp 137 Spring 2007. © 2007.

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