Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 6

In Moscow, meanwhile, Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov said yesterday that the up-coming Vienna conference to update the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty would set the tone for Russia’s future relationship with NATO. Should the outcome of these talks prove that NATO is willing to take Russia’s security concerns into account, then — and only then — would Russia be willing to sign an accord with NATO. (RFE/RL, January 8) Primakov’s remarks, and a recent article by the first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, Col. Gen. Nikolai Pishchev, indicate that Russia will be making proposals in Vienna that go far beyond any attempt merely to further modify the so-called "flanks" limits in its favor.

The CFE treaty was crafted to provide a series of concentric zones built around a Central Zone astride what was once the inner-German border separating NATO from the Warsaw Pact. This zone was made up on the NATO side of West Germany and the Benelux countries, and, on the Warsaw Pact side, of East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland. The objective of this zonal approach was to encourage the deployment of the most offensive types of arms away from this line of confrontation. However, by the time the treaty entered into force Soviet/Russian troops were already in full retreat from both the Central Zone and the next larger zone also. Pishchev observes that the admittance of the Central European countries into NATO would completely do away with the sort of buffer zone envisioned in the treaty. He warns that in this event the declared aim of the treaty "to establish a stable and safe balance of armed forces and to liquidate the surprise attack potential, will be undermined." (Krasnaya zvezda, January 5)

Primakov’s and Pishchev’s remarks suggest that the Russians will be proposing severe limits on any NATO military forces in Central Europe–limits that would probably rule out any foreign forces in the region. A pledge to keep NATO nuclear weapons out of the region will also undoubtedly be part of the package.

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