Accessibility links

Analysis From Washington -- CFE Accord and Discord

  • Paul Goble



Washington, June 4 (RFE/RL) -- Both the results of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) review conference which ended last week and the way in which they were achieved are already giving rise to concerns in Eastern Europe and in the Caucasus.

As announced over the weekend, the review conference agreed to three modifications in the original 1990 agreement:

First, it gave Moscow three more years to meet its treaty obligations. Moscow has been in violation of the original accord since November 1995. Now it has until 1999 to meet the goals it had agreed to meet by last year. No other signatory state had its limits changed or its compliance period lengthened.

Second, it gave Moscow the right to station more military equipment on the so-called CFE flank in the North Caucasus and also in Pskov oblast next to Estonia and Latvia than the original accord had permitted.

And third, it gave Moscow additional leverage on Georgia and Armenia by involving the West and especially the U.S. in implementing the 1992 Tashkent modifications to the original CFE accord.

Moscow had demanded these modifications in the 1990 agreement because of the changed geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union following the collapse of communism and then of the U.S.S.R. And the Western governments agreed to these demands in part because they recognized the Russian case and in part because they did not want to do anything that might lead to a breakdown in the CFE regime.

For many, these shifts may seem either trivial or entirely natural. But they are anything but for the countries most immediately involved.

Some of the countries in the region who were not participants in the original accord feel that their interests have been ignored. Others are concerned by the continuing or even enhanced Russian military presence near them.

And at least one -- Azerbaijan -- was sufficiently upset by what it saw as a kind of Western recognition of a Russian right to a military presence in their country that Baku's diplomats held up the agreement until that was explicitly denied.

But if the countries of the region were concerned about what was agreed to, many of them were even more concerned by how the agreement was reached.

Once again, many of the countries in the region from the Baltic states in the north through Ukraine to the Transcaucasus in the south saw their fate being decided by outside powers without those most directly concerned even having a seat at the table.

Moreover, as Russian deputy foreign minister Georgiy Mamedov said on May 31, not even all the countries who were at the meeting initially agreed. Instead, he added, the U.S. and Russia had made a deal and hoped to persuade their "friends and partners to follow suit."

And finally, in addition to the main agreement, there are widespread reports of a confidential side agreement between Moscow and Washington on the implementation of these latest CFE modifications.

In a region where there are vivid memories of serious consequences flowing from "secret protocols," even the suggestion that such accords exist inevitably feeds suspicions in some of the countries involved.

And while such conclusions are almost certainly unwarranted, they nonetheless could entail serious consequences for both these countries and their relations with others.
XS
SM
MD
LG