Latvia and Estonia feel threatened by Russia’s announced intent to maintain large combat-ready forces in the Pskov region opposite the two Baltic states, violating the CFE Treaty in that area as a price for promising to observe it on Russia’s redefined northern flank. "Russian official pronouncements about inability to fulfill the CFE Treaty for technical reasons do not withstand scrutiny," Latvia’s Foreign Ministry said. Both countries point out that Russia faces no threat from them and has no justification for concentrating forces near their borders. Estonian president Lennart Meri urged US Defense Secretary William Perry this week in Tallinn, and French president Jacques Chirac last week in Paris, to uphold the terms of the CFE treaty and not to countenance Russian violations. (6)
Belarus, with its massive arsenal inherited from the former USSR, appears far more willing than Russia to fulfill the treaty. Hardware scrapping operations in Belarus are behind schedule after President Aleksandr Lukashenko suspended them from February to October in an attempt to obtain Western financing of the effort. Yet the Belarus Defense Ministry reports have eliminated 1,303 tanks, 1,001 armored vehicles, and 84 combat aircraft, amounting to 69 percent, 68 percent, and 64 percent, respectively, of the quantities it was required to eliminate by the November 17 deadline. Foreign Minister Uladzimir Syanko and presidential aide Syarhei Pasakhou have announced that scrapping operations continue and will place Belarus in full compliance with the CFE treaty by April or May 1996; but the country continues to hope for Western financial support of this effort. Its entitlement under the CFE treaty will still leave Belarus with one of the region’s most powerful armies: 1,800 tanks, 2,600 armored vehicles, 1,615 heavy artillery pieces, 294 tactical aircraft, and 80 combat helicopters. That arsenal, as well as the country’s key location, make Belarus an attractive prize for attempts to reabsorb it into a Russian-led alliance. (7)
The discussion about Russia’s southern flank concerns forces on Russian Federation territory, and doesn’t take into account Georgia and Armenia. Meanwhile Russian forces stationed in those two countries circumvent CFE limits for Russia’s southern flank, alarming neighboring Turkey. According to noted Russian military analyst Pavel Felgengauer, Washington and Moscow are currently working jointly to persuade US ally Turkey to drop its objections to Russian bases in Armenia and Georgia, as a price for Moscow’s agreement to observe flank provisions modified in its favor. (8)
Close to 10,000, mostly outdated former Soviet Army tanks due for scrapping are reportedly located in Siberia and in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. The Russian General Staff’s international cooperation section chief, Col. General Dmitry Kharchenko, claimed yesterday that Russia that the three Central Asian countries lack the means to eliminate these quantities. (9)
Lukashenko Denies Seeking Reunification with Russia.