Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 38

Both Russia and NATO hope to use the ongoing Vienna talks to update the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty in a fashion that would make the Eastward expansion of NATO more palatable to Russia. During her recent visit to Moscow U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright evidently previewed some of the points that are in the NATO proposal. (Western and Russian new agencies, February 21-23) One would freeze the number of army offensive weapons — tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and artillery — in the so-called Visegrad countries of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia as well as in Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are likely to be the first invited to join NATO. This would mean that if Poland, for example, joins NATO, the Poles would have to destroy some of their arms should NATO deploy any foreign weapons on Polish territory. The Russians have already made it known that they would like to see new foreign troop deployments prohibited. To further reduce military tensions in Europe, NATO plans also to propose lower national ceilings for all CFE signatories.

NATO has already stated that it has "no intention, no plan, and no reason" to place nuclear weapons on the territory of new members. As welcome as this pledge might be to the Russians, they realize that intentions, plans, and reasons can change. They also claim that Western leaders quickly broke what the Russians interpreted as a similar informal pledge, made during the 1990 negotiations over the reunification of Germany, that NATO would not expand. During the Primakov-Albright talks in Moscow, Primakov said that NATO’s nuclear pledge must be recorded in any political agreement between the two sides. NATO is likely to find this latest demand hard to swallow, just as the Russians are likely to think that the NATO CFE proposals don’t go far enough. Yet the Vienna talks and the NATO-Russian negotiations are perhaps the best and last opportunity both sides have to forge a cooperative rather than confrontational security relationship.

Chechnya, Russia Talks Get Off to Good Start.