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MOSCOW, DECEMBER 13, 2007. PIR PRESS - «The soundness of our actions is evident and any political leader in Europe who aims at stability and transparency of political and military situation on this continent will at the end choose to seek a compromise. There is a range of key issues that NATO members have to be ready to discuss in the most serious way. On some of them, they need to start acting now,» – PIR Center Senior Advisor, Lieutenant-General (ret.) Gennady Evstafiev.

Speaking on April 26, 2007 to the Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a possible moratorium on Russia's compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. On July 14, 2007 Russia took the first steps to start the suspension, and on December 12, 2007, the actual implementation of the decision was set to begin. The months since the initial statement of Putin saw many meetings, discussions, and forums held in many different formats, where representatives from Russia, NATO, and NATO member countries had a chance to discuss the prospects of leading the CFE out of crisis. At an extraordinary meeting of parties to the CFE Treaty, held in Vienna on 12-15 June 2007, the Russian Federation outlined the conditions necessary for restoring the viability of the CFE Treaty. So far, NATO member states have not satisfied any of them.

PIR Center Senior Advisor, Lieutenant-General (ret.) Gennady Evstafiev, who participated in CFE negotiations and was one of initial developers of the Treaty analyzes the events of the past several months and proposes his explanation of Russia and NATO's actions and suggests measures necessary to revive the CFE Treaty.


Gennady Evstafiev

p4084_1.jpgThe event that has now been in the works for quite some time finally took place in the night of December 11 to 12 – Russia went ahead with implementation of the president's decree No. 872 of July 13 2007 suspending the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and related agreements. On November 29, this decree became Federal Law №276-FЗ. Therefore, the only way to reverse it would be through annulling by the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

This is the first time in Russia's recent history that a decision of this type has been taken, which emphasizes the fact that Moscow views the current situation around the CFE Treaty as being adverse to the country's long-term interests.

It seems that the information and concrete numbers of TLE (Treaty-limited Equipment) holdings provided over the past few days both by the MFA and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation clearly demonstrates Russia's specific concerns over political and military consequences of the continued course taken by NATO and the USA towards expanding the alliance as a powerful military block, which today has already reached upon Russia's natural borders. These concerns are very credible and represent more than a mirror image of the situation that existed in Europe in 1987, when following long deliberations the sides began producing a mandate for future negotiations on reduction of armed forces and conventional weapons in Europe.

Yet, along with these considerations, there is a number of more fundamental concerns, notably, whether our NATO partners are ready to cooperate in implementing the principle of equal security for all parties involved in securing and maintaining a stable and predictable situation in Europe. There is an increasingly common opinion that our partners, having drifted away from their previous statements, not only go towards breaking previously negotiated agreements on the balance of power and on cooperation intended to maintain this balance, but also pursue a continuous process of NATO expansion, and are almost reaching a dangerous numeric and geostrategic superiority. Some time ago, at the early stages of CFE development at the time when the Warsaw Pact Organization troops were numerically superior to NATO troops in a range of armament types, whenever we asked them whether they truly think the USSR and other states of the Warsaw Pact would attack them, NATO members usually responded that they were sure that Moscow was not planning it, but the very existence of the potential to do it was unacceptable.

What we have now is quite the opposite, and somehow NATO members do not understand (even after Yugoslavia) the reasons for our deep concern. The most cynical part lies in the fact that NATO's stance on Russia's decision to suspend the Treaty was pronounced on behalf of the 26 member countries of this aggressive block by the Minister of Foreign affairs of Lithuania Petras Vaitekunas – Lithuania being the country that in 17 years of CFE's existence never expressed real desire to join the CFE and which remains a part of a “grey zone” on Russia's frontiers.

There is no doubt that our Western partners would like to “freeze up” their acquired advantages for as long as possible. The key notion here is of course the fully arbitrary and one-sided interpretation of political commitments that Boris Yeltsin made in Istanbul with respect to downsizing and withdrawal of military bases from Georgia and Moldova. And supposedly the slow withdrawal of Russian troops led to the fact that for 7 years our partners are consumed with “burning desire” to ratify the Adapted CFE Treaty, but cannot do so out of legal considerations. In other words, earlier they did not show overwhelming desire to ratify the original CFE Treaty, and now with the new Treaty, adapted in Istanbul, they are even less keen to do it.

In reality, even in informal discussions many decent Western diplomats admit that this “linkage” that American politicians favor so much is artificial and, in our opinion, was used as a comfortable cover for long-developed plans for NATO expansion, which have now almost been finalized, and for the more far-fetching plans, including American plans to establish the “third mission deployment area” of ABM and gradual transfer of more substantial resources and assets closer to Russia's borders. Some may believe that the threat is somewhat exaggerated. I doubt it. NATO is getting ready to fight for Ukraine joining the organization – and many strategists believe that the prime prize in these efforts would be further growth of dominant position of the West in Europe and weakening of Russia as it is just starting to get from its knees.

Without ratification of the Adapted CFE by the West, Russia has long stuck to the conditions of the original Treaty at its own expense, which, apparently, worked for our partners. A number of our young and active political analysts (who matured after the break-up of the USSR), as well as some well-reputed colleagues of theirs, who apparently make their statements with the knowledge of all conjectural details, but are not aware of the realities of a negotiation process, felt like adopting the haughty slogan of “Get rid of CFE”. I feel like asking them a simple question: what's next? Another round of arms race at the expense of the average people?

These people do not know that for many years Russian CFE specialists in the framework of Joint Consultative Group on CFE, permanently working in Vienna, were promoting modernization of the original Treaty. The result of this work (carried out under the direction of the Center, of course) has been a project of a Adapted CFE Treaty which saw many (but not all) of the positions unwanted by Russia taken out.

Yet the fact remains – since the new version of the Treaty has not been ratified due to NATO's fault, we cannot take advantage of this success. Thus, we are talking about suspending the outdated Treaty, defective by today's standards. But what is there so terrible about this? To say that our partners did not expect it would be somewhat deceptive. They have been listening to our concerns for years, but at the end the result is like in Krylov's fable: “Cat Basil sits and continues to eat”.

Therefore, we have been in a quite uncomfortable position for a much longer period of time than it was necessary. At some point, it became obvious that there was no solution other than putting NATO members in an awkward position as well. And that's what was set to happen on December 12. We have to admit that early in our political statements we often used to include some menacing undertones and after that quickly forget about them. Yet the reality of the foreign policy environment today is such that this can no longer be tolerated. Now it has become clear that the CFE is a living proof of this.

Our partners have long observed our statements and actions - with skepticism and without moving a finger – and are only now starting to understand how serious our intentions are. We shouldn't act hastily. The soundness of our actions is evident and any political leader in Europe who aims for stability and transparency of political and military situation on this continent will at the end choose to seek a compromise, especially since Russia is open for such compromise and has come forward with respective constructive suggestions. That is why we are talking only of suspending implementation of a completely outdated agreement, but not of withdrawing from the adapted version of it.

In any case, sovereign actions by President Putin by suspending the CFE Treaty have already had a certain effect. Numerous regrets on the situation have been heard, and the first suggestions on how to resolve the situation came forward. Of course, finding a solution will neither be fast nor easy. Some Western states (Germany and the USA) proposed “parallel action plan”, according to which some NATO members start ratifying Treaty modification (and why not all of them?), while Russia resumes removal of armaments from Transdniestria, resolves with Georgia the issue of former base in Gudauta, and so on.

Quite naturally, they will do all this under the condition that the decree on CFE suspension gets annulled. It is clear that despite a few positive aspects overall, the suggestions of those who support the Western countries are still rather unrealistic. Pro-West activists have still not accepted the fact that Russian protests are well-founded and are trying to get out of this situation with the least damage for themselves.

We believe there is a range of key issues that NATO members have to be ready to discuss in a most serious way. On some of them, they need to start acting now. In particular:

  •   they need to declare decrease of a combined permitted level of the Treaty-limited equipment, that emerges as a result of 2 waves of NATO expansion, especially the second wave, that included the former Warsaw Pact Organization;
  •   at the earliest possible date, the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have to express their desire (in written form) to join CFE (it seems that in this case, it will be the adapted variant of the Treaty) and decide on specificities and practical preparations of such action;
  •   leaders of the block have to formally announce their preparedness to accept cancellation of flanking limits for Russia;
  •   it is necessary to decide on the deadlines for ratification of the Adapted Treaty. It will naturally be a challenging issue, and it is going to take time. That is why it is crucial to adopt intermediary measures – to agree on the early start of temporary application of the provisions of the Treaty.

There are also other ways. But one should not forget that political and military situation in Europe constantly evolves and its safety brings to life evergrowing number of new issues, including those in the context of evolution of threats and emergence both of new threats and new types of arms. This requires further evolution of the CFE regime.