Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 97

In 1990, all member countries of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) , including the Soviet Union, signed the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE), which mandates compliance by November 1995 with significantly lowered conventional force ceilings. In 1992, after the Soviet Union had broken up, the CIS member countries apportioned its quotas among themselves, and the new ceilings for Russia and the other states were incorporated in the CFE treaty. Since then, Russia has markedly slowed down the scrapping of that part of its vast arsenal which exceeds CFE limits. Moreover it has openly broken the flank limits by massing armor and artillery in and around Chechnya. But even before the outbreak of the war in that republic, Moscow had demanded exemption from flank limits in the Caucasus because of conflicts there, some of which it had fanned itself. Even where there were no conflicts, as for example in the in the Leningrad military district, Russia complained about the treaty’s restrictions.

Now there are indications that Russia may openly denounce the treaty’s flank limits. The Russian defense and foreign ministries are reportedly preparing recommendations for the approval of the Security Council to unilaterally repudiate the limits on conventional combat hardware which Russian forces may deploy on its flanks under the treaty. Russian military officials characterize the breakout as merely "suspension of the implementation" of treaty limits, and portray its unilateral character as merely a proposal to renegotiate those treaty articles. What is new in this is the rationale. Now, in addition to using the conflicts in the Caucasus as an excuse for violating the treaty, Russian officials have now added the conflict in former Yugoslavia to the justifications for increasing, instead of reducing, Russia’s armored forces on its flanks. (2) (In Washington, unnamed officials are quoted as being inclined to accept Moscow’s arguments, in the hope that if the U.S. accommodates Russia on this issue, it may buy Russian cooperation on Bosnia and on NATO enlargement. The US administration wants to avoid casting Moscow as "clearly in noncompliance with the treaty" and will seek a compromise somewhere between CFE flank quotas and current Russian deployments, the officials said. (3)

Bringing Yugoslavia into the argument over flank quotas raises the possibility that Moscow may insist on keeping troops in Moldova, where the Russian forces have in any event unilaterally appropriated Moldova’s armor entitlement under CFE. Moscow’s decision to openly break out of CFE will alarm in the first place Turkey and Norway, NATO’s flank countries fronting on Russia’s flank regions. But the wider implications of a treaty breakout also affect the security of the Baltic area if Russia retains disproportionate armor and artillery quotas in the Leningrad region. In the Caucasus, a massive deployment of Russian combat hardware under a renegotiated agreement with the West may be viewed as Western acquiescence in Russian punitive expeditions (as in Chechnya) or reimposition of military control (as in Georgia); would license Moscow to augment its forces at bases recently regained in Armenia and Georgia, facing Turkey; would threaten oil-rich Azerbaijan, the sole CIS member country free from Russian troops; and would place regional countries under pressure to cooperate in routing Caspian oil toward Russia, instead of international markets via Turkey.

Russian Military Aid to Bosnian Serbs?