Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 15

The first session of the 30-nation negotiations on revising the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty was held yesterday in Vienna. This first meeting was strictly a procedural one, and the talks could last for 18 months or more. It is largely due to Russia’s insistence that they are being held at all, and Moscow has warned that it will regard the talks as a litmus test of NATO’s willingness to take Russia’s security concerns seriously.

Although there has been some loose talk in Moscow that Russia might jettison the treaty entirely should NATO expand, this now seems unlikely. Instead, the Russians will probably seek to turn some of the CFE’s original concepts to their advantage–concepts that were drafted by NATO to constrain the Soviet Union. The treaty established equal ceilings for the armies of the Warsaw Pact and NATO. In these new talks the Russians could well suggest that an expanded NATO must still adhere to the original limits, i.e., that the present members of NATO must destroy weapons to compensate for those belonging to any new members. The Russians have also indicated that they will propose revisions that would effectively bar the permanent deployment of foreign troops in Eastern and Central Europe.

A revised CFE treaty could well be the face-saving vehicle that makes NATO expansion more palatable to Russia. However, there are many hurdles remaining. Timing is one: the talks will probably still be at a very early stage this summer when NATO announces its first new candidates for membership. And since any agreement must be by consensus, the security concerns of 28 other states must be satisfied–not just those of the U.S. and Russia. (Itar-Tass, RFE/RL, January 21)

Maneuvering Continues in NATO-Russia Talks.