U.S. Seeks “Creative Compromise” To Keep Russia in Key Pact

By Vince Crawley
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The United States and other European nations want to address “seriously and creatively” Russia’s concerns over the future of the Conventional Forces Europe (CFE) Treaty, one of history’s most successful arms control agreements, a senior U.S. diplomat says.

“There is no point in returning to a rhetorical arms race and every point in maintaining and strengthening this very successful arms control regime,” the State Department’s Daniel Fried told reporters June 12 in Vienna, Austria. Fried is assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

“We’re hopeful that some creative way forward can be found,” Fried said at a news conference. “We’re open to suggestions. … We don’t have a ‘Made in Washington’ formula.”

At the request of Russia, the 30 member nations of the CFE Treaty are meeting June 12-15 in Vienna to convene an extraordinary conference to discuss the treaty.

The CFE Treaty was signed in November 1990 and went into force in 1992. It provides for significant cuts in the military weapons and equipment of NATO and former Warsaw Pact nations. Under CFE, more than 60,000 battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters have been taken out of service, according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his nation is considering suspending its obligations under the treaty. In a statement May 28, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Russia was convening the CFE extraordinary conference because of “serious problems” related to NATO enlargement and “NATO foot-dragging” on ratifying an amended agreement signed in 1999.

The amended treaty, known as the Adapted CFE Treaty, would address many of Russia’s concerns. However, Fried said the United States and other NATO allies have not ratified the Adapted Treaty because Russia has not fulfilled political commitments made in Istanbul, Turkey, in November 1999 as part of the Adapted CFE process. Under the Istanbul commitments, Russia agreed to vacate military bases in Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria and to vacate four military bases in Georgia.

“It is fair to say that the Russians have made considerable progress in pulling their troops out of Georgia; they are almost there,” Fried said. “They made progress until the last few years reducing their forces and the large ammunition depots in Transnistria. But that’s stopped.”

Russia has withdrawn verifiably from three of the four bases in Georgia, but the status of a fourth base in Georgia’s Abkhazia region remains unclear, Fried said. The matter could be resolved with a “neutral, objective fact-finding team,” he said.

Russia says its troops in Transnistria are performing legitimate peacekeeping duties. “If it is a peacekeeping function,” Fried said, “maybe we ought to consider how a modest peacekeeping function could be properly internationalized. Maybe the Russians could be part of it. In other words, there may be a way forward, a creative compromise, that would allow the Istanbul commitments to be met, but would be seen as acceptable to Russia.”

Opening the way to ratify the Adapted CFE Treaty would address Russia’s concerns that the existing treaty restricts its ability to position military forces within Russia’s borders. The 1990 CFE Treaty was negotiated at the end of the Cold War and treats the signatory nations as two separate East-West blocs. The Adapted Treaty establishes national and territorial ceilings on military equipment.

Russia also has expressed concern about agreements reached with Romania and Bulgaria in late 2005 and early 2006 that allow the temporary deployment of U.S. troops to training bases near the Black Sea. (See related articles on the agreements with Romania and Bulgaria.)

Fried said the Romanian and Bulgarian bases would involve relatively small units rotating in and out of the bases for short periods of time. The brigade-sized forces would number only a few thousand troops. Fried said he has explained to the Russians that “those forces would not be stationed permanently in those countries.”

A transcript of Fried’s remarks is available on the State Department Web site.