"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
European Security

Russia Has Mixed Success With CFE Implementation

Wade Boese

Russia showed mixed success in July toward meeting commitments under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and related agreements, missing a July 1 deadline to vacate a military base in Georgia but reducing the number of weapons located in Moldova.

In November 1999, Russia committed to closing two of its four military bases in Georgia by July 1, 2001, and to withdraw all its CFE-limited weaponry from Moldova by the end of 2001. The CFE Treaty caps the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that its 30 states-parties can deploy and store between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains.

Although it officially handed over control of a Russian military base in Vaziani, Georgia, to Tbilisi on June 29, Russia failed to vacate a base at Gudauta by the July 1 deadline. Moscow claimed the local population had blocked Russian efforts to leave the base and that Georgia had failed to take necessary steps to ensure a safe withdrawal of Russian forces from the region.

Georgia dismissed Russia’s claims, contending that it had proposed alternative ways for Moscow to complete its withdrawal, including destruction of weaponry located at the base, but that Russia had rejected these suggestions. In a July 2 statement released by its Foreign Ministry, Georgia called on Russia to “take immediate and exhaustive measures for timely and complete fulfillment” of its withdrawal obligations.

The two governments are now holding talks to find a compromise, including the possibility of allowing a few hundred Russian troops to remain at the base. They are also trying to negotiate terms for Russia’s withdrawal from two other Georgian bases, which Tbilisi wants done within a three-year period, while Moscow is seeking a time frame of up to 14 years.

In Moldova, Russia is facing a more immediate deadline for complete withdrawal of all of its weapons and forces by the end of 2002. Although Moscow is generally perceived to be dragging its feet on meeting this overall commitment, it made substantial progress in July and August on its obligation to reduce its CFE-limited weaponry by the end of this year. Of the108 T-64 battle tanks and 131 ACVs Russia had in Moldova, just 25 tanks and 57 ACVs remain as of August 28, according to a spokesperson of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is monitoring Russia’s reduction activities in Moldova. Moscow is scheduled to start eliminating 125 heavy artillery pieces in October.

Within its borders, Russia is abiding by its overall CFE Treaty limits but it continues to deploy tanks and ACVs above sub-limits that cap its weapons deployments in its northern and southern regions, according to data from a recent treaty information exchange. The Kremlin claims its non-compliance is necessary to combat “terrorism” in Chechnya.

Russia’s excess is relatively small, numbering not more than 20 tanks and some 130 ACVs above the sublimits, which were outlined in a November 1999 overhaul of the treaty that has yet to enter into force. The United States and its fellow NATO members have conditioned their ratification of the agreement on all states-parties being in compliance with its provisions.

There is speculation that, even though Russia is close to compliance, it is unlikely to reduce its weapons holdings below the sublimits for some time because it may want to send additional forces into Chechnya. The Kremlin may be calculating that it would face less international condemnation and scrutiny by further exceeding the limits than by coming into compliance and then exceeding the limits again.

Europe and Missile Defense:Tactical Considerations, Fundamental Concerns

Andrew J. Pierre

In the few months since President George W. Bush's inauguration, administration officials and U.S. press reports have given the impression that European leaders have abandoned their oft-stated reservations about and objections to the U.S. development of missile defenses. The Europeans, it is claimed by administration spokesmen, are for the first time coming to understand the validity of the global missile threat and the fact that it affects Europe's soil as much, if not more, than America's. Moreover, it is suggested, President Bush's strong and clear commitment to missile defense—in contrast to President Bill Clinton's wishy-washy approach—has served as a "wake-up call" to Europe's leaders. According to the administration, not only have the Europeans become persuaded of the inevitability of an American deployment, but having now focused more seriously upon its benefits, they have also dropped most of their objections.

Some support for this claim of a turn-around in European thought can be found in the guarded statements some European leaders made during their first visits to President Bush. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at the close of a two-day meeting at Camp David in late February, said he would "welcome a dialogue" on missile defense, and the accompanying joint U.S.-British communiqué noted the need to deter "new threats with a strategy that encompasses both offensive and defensive systems." When German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited the White House at the end of March, he chose to focus most of his discussion with the president on the Middle East, while indicating that he was reassured by Bush's promise of full consultations on missile defense. French President Jacques Chirac, an early and vocal skeptic of missile defense who consistently drew attention to the risk that abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty would spur an arms race, has toned down his rhetoric in recent months.

At the same time, in his meeting with Bush, Blair was careful to avoid a direct endorsement of missile defense. During a brief press conference in the Oval Office with Bush, Schroeder indicated that he still had a number of concerns regarding missile defense: What is the nature of the ballistic missile threat? Is a defense technologically feasible? Which nations would be covered by the shield? And although the French may have moderated their public opposition, Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine has stressed the American commitment to consult fully with the allies before moving ahead with missile defense.

The key question now is, are the European nations having an important change of heart, significantly reducing their past reservations about missile defense, or are they pulling their punches, having decided not to press their continued opposition at this time? The answer is complex and has a number of salient elements.

What European leaders have come to accept is that the new American president, being personally committed to missile defense and having placed it at the top of his defense policy platform during his election campaign, is now certain to proceed vigorously—for the Bush administration, the question is not "if" but "how and when." There is every expectation that the administration will propose the architecture of a missile defense plan before the end of the year, probably giving an early indication of its approach within the next months. In addition, many of the European allies have come to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a growing danger from missile proliferation and therefore from weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, given Europe's geographic proximity to a number of "rogue" states, its vulnerability cannot be denied, even though until now European governments have been averse to talking about it too openly because of their reluctance to undertake their own missile defense programs. Finally, all European officials understand that ultimately the decision of the United States cannot but be a sovereign and national one, even though they would hope that considerations involving the Atlantic alliance as a whole be fully taken into account.

But the European leaders' recent desire to avoid confrontation with the Bush administration over missile defense is based primarily on tactical considerations and not on a significant shift in the fundamental concerns that they have about a shield. What the Europeans are saying now should not be taken as their final word on the issue.


Tactical Considerations

For the Europeans to respond to the Bush administration's plan for missile defense, there must first, of course, be the presentation of a plan that can be subjected to full and careful analysis in terms of their own interests. Therefore, any pronouncements emanating at this time from Europe are premature. Furthermore, the Europeans know well that the actual deployment of an American missile defense is still years away, probably a decade or more. In other words, it would certainly follow a first Bush administration. Since missile defense in one form or another has been the subject of controversy in the United States for more than 35 years, there is no telling what the policy of a future administration will be. Nor is it possible to foretell future technological developments, which will determine possible missile defense architectures.

In addition to these longer-term considerations, the present reluctance of the Europeans to avoid a confrontation with the new Bush administration is rooted in a number of more immediate, tactical concerns. Prime Minister Blair is facing an election, recently postponed from May to June because of the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. He does not want missile defense to become an election issue, nor does he want to open his government to domestic criticism for allowing a deterioration of the Anglo-American "special relationship," which is somewhat of a myth today but one that is still widely accepted in Britain. Conservative opposition leader William Hague has lambasted the Blair government for failing to wholeheartedly endorse the Bush missile defense approach. While British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has pointed out that there is no perception of danger in the United Kingdom that would warrant a missile defense and has spoken of the need to respect the ABM Treaty and not increase tensions with Russia through the deployment of missile defense, the Tory "shadow" defense minister, Iain Duncan Smith, has strongly criticized the Blair government for "mindlessly" opposing the idea from the sidelines rather than supporting the United States fully. In Whitehall, the Foreign Office is deeply skeptical of missile defense, but the Ministry of Defense wants to do what is necessary to avoid a row with the Americans.

Domestic political considerations have also played a role in Germany. Volker Ruehe, former Conservative Democratic Union (CDU) minister of defense, and Friedbert Pflueger, chair of the CDU National Committee for Foreign and Security Policies, have criticized the government for not understanding America's need for missile defense and have called for a supportive European policy. However, the dominant view among political elites, including Karl Lamers, foreign policy leader of the CDU Parliamentary Group, is still one of widespread skepticism. Schroeder clearly wishes to avoid opening a debate on nuclear weapons, given the searing and destructive nature of past German nuclear controversies over such issues as intermediate-range nuclear forces, which led to the collapse of Helmut Schmidt's coalition government in 1982 and 16 years out of power for the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Such a debate, close to the 2002 national election, could tear apart both the SPD-Green coalition and the SPD itself. Accordingly, Schroeder has tempered his past criticisms and recently spoken of the need for a NATO-wide approach to missile defense, noting that Germany has an economic interest in not being excluded from European participation in such an endeavor.

With neither London nor Berlin ready to go to battle with Washington at this time, French leaders are momentarily lying low, observing that they are waiting for the explication of the American plan and the promised intensive consultations.

Beyond domestic political considerations, there are a number of other issues at stake in the transatlantic relationship that are of more immediate concern for the Europeans. During his meeting with Bush, Blair extracted a statement of support for a European rapid reaction force under the auspices of the European Union (EU), while muting his criticism of missile defense. Having been one of the two founders of this new military force, Blair was pleased that the many reservations of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and to a lesser extent Secretary of State Colin Powell, which were based on the fear of its duplicating NATO without adding new capabilities, had been overcome. As the Europeans seek to make progress toward a new European Security and Defense Identity, they must overcome the innate reservations that exist in Washington over a venture that many American officials fear would dilute the American influence in Europe. It is already clear that in the run-up to next year's Prague NATO summit, which will take up the further enlargement of NATO, there could well be strong differences between most European nations and the Bush administration over which countries to admit next into NATO and when. There is, for example, much less support in Europe for bringing one or more of the Baltic nations into NATO at this time than there appears to be within the Bush administration.

The U.S. troop level in Kosovo and Bosnia could also clearly become a major bone of contention, should the United States make unilateral withdrawals, as some Bush appointees proposed during the election campaign. And there are significant divergences between the majority of European governments and the Bush administration on other critical issues such as policy toward Russia, policy toward rogue states, the Kyoto convention, and trade matters. Given that the transatlantic highway will need to support an unusually large number of policy discussions and likely controversies over the next years, most of which have a far shorter time fuse than missile defense and are far more relevant to immediate European interests, there is currently little incentive for an early confrontation over missile defense.

The Europeans are clearly pulling their punches for a number of tactical reasons. But the fundamental divergences over missile defense have not disappeared. The Bush administration should take heed not to engage in the self-delusion that it has succeeded in persuading its allies to the cause of missile defense. Public debate in Europe on missile defense has not been widespread, and the issue is only now being given greater attention by the media and the political elite. Most of the discussion has taken place in the three states that have a community of commentators and experts on strategic affairs: Britain, France, and Germany. In these nations, the political elite and media are now giving missile defense more and more attention and, as noted previously, in two of these, there are the stirrings of partisan political debate over the issue.

The Europeans are interested in discussions with Washington aimed toward exploring the content of an allied missile defense, including the nature and level of direct European participation. They acknowledge the long-term dangers of missile proliferation. But there are a host of questions that remain to be answered and issues to be resolved. From the European perspective, the United States has yet to make a convincing, much less compelling, case for a missile defense that is technologically feasible and politically viable in the international context.


Fundamental Concerns

Even as European leaders have sought to avoid a confrontation with the United States, their questions and anxieties have increased since the election of President Bush and the certitude that missile defense will be vigorously pursued. This reflects major divergences on a number of critical dimensions of the issue.

Threat Assessments and Strategic Cultures

Most Europeans who examine the issue question the core of the American rationale for missile defense, which is based on the assessment that there is a serious danger from a small number of rogue states that are developing, or could in time acquire, ballistic missiles and that these states are not susceptible to the deterrence which has worked effectively for the past decades. North Korea, Iran, and Iraq are commonly cited, although Libya could be added. Europeans argue that North Korea's motivations for devoting scarce resources to ballistic missiles are explainable to a significant extent as an attempt to gain bargaining leverage in its search for economic assistance and international legitimacy. Missile defense is seen as a disproportionate response to a "famine-ridden Asian backwater with a yearly GDP representing one month's worth of WalMart sales," in the opinion of French strategist Francois Heisbourg.1 When President Bush recently put the missile talks with Pyongyang on hold, ostensibly because of verification concerns, the alarmed European Union immediately filled the breach by announcing that it would send a high-level delegation to the Korean Peninsula for talks to include the missile issue. The right approach toward Iran, it is argued, is to encourage the reformist forces led by President Mohammad Khatami that are now striving to democratize the nation, rather than to treat it as an international pariah. And the best way to limit the missile program in Iraq is to keep Saddam Hussein's regime constrained through sanctions focused on his military programs.

Publics in Europe have yet to follow the missile defense issue very closely, with less than half in Britain, France, Germany, and Italy even having heard of it as of 2000, although this could change as the transatlantic debate proceeds.2 There is hardly any public sense of a ballistic missile threat either from North Korea or from Middle Eastern rogues—even though, as measured by trajectory distances, a threat from Iran or Iraq is more immediately relevant to Europe than to the United States. Indeed, polls indicate that the French public sees the two overriding foreign threats as Islamic fundamentalism and international terrorism. Sir Timothy Garden, former British assistant chief of air staff, notes, "In Europe we don't feel this sense of foreboding and threat which seems to underlie all discussions of NMD in the United States. We feel we are now safer than we can remember in anybody's lifetime. Having lived with the imminent possibility of ballistic missile attack for some 40 years, we now find it refreshing that we have to cast around on the off chance that we might find some small state somewhere that sometime might, for reasons that we can't understand, send missiles toward us."3

Governments, however, have begun listening more seriously to Washington's arguments. In late 1999, the United States briefed European governments about its estimate of the coming ballistic missile threat, and this form of consultation is certain to be renewed and deepened as the Bush plan for missile defense is unveiled. European defense ministries, in particular, acknowledge a theoretical threat, although their timeline for its possible appearance is longer than that of the American intelligence community. But there remains the critical question of whether the planned American response to the threat will not be disproportionate to the threat itself. And what if, Europeans ask, North Korea is persuaded to end its program in return for economic benefits, Iran becomes a democratic and benign nation, and Saddam Hussein's regime comes to an end?

Underlying the varying American and European perspectives are differing strategic cultures. The dominant American way of making threat assessments is to focus on actual or prospective military capabilities, while the Europeans are far more likely to value the estimate of political intentions. Americans look for the military means that a rogue state might use in a crisis or in a situation ripe for blackmail, while Europeans pay more attention to the overall political context. Thus, in fashioning a response, Americans are more prone to use hardware and technological solutions, such as missile defense, while Europeans are more attracted to intellectual software to guide them toward a political solution. A report by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons noted its concern that the "USA over-emphasizes the capability component of the threat equation, when it comes to assessing the extent of the threat it faces, and attaches too little importance to intention."4

Another difference in strategic culture is due to contrasting acceptances of vulnerability. Europeans have had centuries of armed conflicts with their neighbors and numerous invasions of their soil. Consequently, their historical experience has taught them to live with vulnerability and uncertainty. Magical solutions, such as the Maginot Line, have been discredited. Historical realism reigns paramount. In contrast, American soil has been inviolate with the exception of the War of 1812. Although the now-popular term "homeland defense" implicitly suggests that absolute security is achievable, many Americans do not fully recognize that the United States has been vulnerable to missile attack for decades. Technological optimism pervades society. A presidential initiative for a defensive shield of 50 states may therefore be politically attractive despite the costs and uncertainties involved.

Arms Control and the ABM Treaty

The Europeans fear that, should missile defense lead the United States to withdraw unilaterally from the ABM Treaty, the result would be a major breakdown in the structure of strategic arms control, which has been painstakingly built over almost four decades. Although not a party to the treaty themselves, the Europeans remain firmly of the view that it is the dominance of offensive weapons and the resulting deterrence that has kept the peace. They do not agree with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's characterization of the ABM Treaty as "ancient history." Rather, they see it as being the bedrock of the overall arms control regime for dealing with nuclear weapons, as much now as in past decades. President Bush's reported instruction to his principal aides to think beyond the constraints of the treaty in coming up with a missile defense plan and to design the system they think the United States needs regardless of the treaty's provisions is worrisome to those Europeans who are aware of it. And the movement of the United States away from supporting arms control agreements, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or the Ottawa treaty on landmines, is viewed as a troubling departure from multilateral cooperation for international security.

An American agreement with Russia to modify the treaty so as to permit a limited missile defense would alleviate many of Europe's concerns. The Europeans would welcome a parallel understanding that led to deep reductions in Russian and American offensive forces—preferably even below proposed START III levels—through either a negotiated agreement or mutually agreed upon unilateral steps similar to the Bush-Gorbachev reciprocal declarations of 1991 concerning tactical nuclear weapons. This could lead to a new mix of offensive and defensive strategic capabilities that still preserved deterrence. But such measures, in the Europeans' view, should be in place before the United States proceeds with missile defense. One concern is that, in a rush to begin building an X-band radar in Alaska this year or next (in order to have a system completed by 2005 or 2006, when intelligence estimates say North Korea might have an ICBM), the United States may violate the treaty or, worse still, that the Bush administration might withdraw from it.

Should the United States move ahead unilaterally with missile defense without an agreement with Russia on revising the ABM Treaty, the Europeans fear that Moscow could respond by withdrawing from START II and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This, some European experts believe, would reverse the trend of past decades and could lead to a renewal of the arms race. Europeans have also expressed concern about China, which has indicated that it would respond by greatly accelerating its strategic nuclear modernization program with the purpose of overcoming a limited American missile defense.

Ultimately, however, Europeans must focus primarily upon their continent and its security link to the United States. Many European strategists see the dangers of a strategic "decoupling" of the United States from Europe, should there ever come a time when the United States is "protected" from even a limited missile attack and Europe is left "naked." This could undermine the implicit nuclear guarantee and the broader security relationship that has been the keystone of the Atlantic alliance for the past half-century. Were circumstances to arise whereby, in a crisis with a power thought to have a missile capability, there was a need for joint action, the vulnerability of Europe compared to a secure United States might lead to conflicting interests and objectives, ultimately vitiating a collective response. With the United States protected, might not a vulnerable Europe be subject to blackmail by a rogue state? (Of course, the argument can be reversed: might the United States not be more likely to respond if it is safe behind its missile shield?) For such reasons, the Bush administration's rhetorical shift away from a national missile defense has been well received, as has the stated intention to work with the Europeans toward constructing an allied missile defense.

The French and British have special worries related to their own nuclear forces. Although the deployment of a limited Russian missile defense beyond the present Galosh interceptors in the Moscow region, might not significantly degrade their current capabilities, the abrogation of the ABM Treaty and any resulting additional Russian missile defenses could pose a new situation, leading Paris and London to conclude that they must seek an upgrade of their missile forces. An additional dilemma for the British arises out of a likely American request for an upgrade or replacement of the critical early-warning radar facilities at Fylingdales and the joint satellite communications links at Menwith Hill. The Blair government has sought to avoid a public debate on these upgrades because they could violate the ABM Treaty, and ultimately these radar facilities could become the targets of a state seeking to overwhelm a U.S. missile defense. It is acknowledged in London, however, that whatever reservations the British may harbor about missile defense, it would be extremely awkward for London not to cooperate given the historically close collaboration with the United States in both intelligence and nuclear matters.

Similarly, in Denmark there are concerns about upgrading the Thule radar facilities in Greenland. The prime minister of Greenland's Homerule government has spoken of the absolute necessity of maintaining the ABM Treaty if permission is to be given to upgrade the radar for missile defense.

Policy Toward Russia

With the arrival of the Bush administration, there has been a growing divergence between Europe and the United States on how to deal with Vladimir Putin's Russia. This divergence has already impacted the missile defense question and could affect the way issues related to the ABM Treaty are resolved. The initial inclination of the new team has been to downgrade the status of Russia as a world power in American foreign policy and to reverse the policy of engagement in the Russian economy and society that characterized the Clinton years. Money for cooperative nuclear threat reduction activities in Russia is being reduced, and there is talk of enlarging NATO to include some former Soviet states. Moscow's suggestion of an early summit meeting was rebuffed, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld criticized Russia as "an active proliferator" for providing dangerous technologies to rogue states such as Iran.

The European nations, on the other hand, have sought to build a more cooperative relationship with Moscow. They feel the need to engage Russia on issues ranging from the Balkans to trade to the ABM Treaty. For his part, President Putin has shifted Moscow's attention toward Europe and has sought to strengthen political and economic ties between Europe and Russia. He has engaged in a more active round of bilateral meetings with European leaders than did Boris Yeltsin and was invited to join a European summit meeting in Stockholm. Javier Solana, now secretary-general of the Council of the European Union and former secretary-general of NATO, recently observed that the European Union is rapidly shaping a profound strategic partnership with Russia. The Europeans have indicated to Moscow that they will not allow Russia to drive a wedge between them and the United States. But, with the exception of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, today's governments in Western Europe are led by parties of the center-left that have yet to feel totally comfortable with the new, more "realist" Republican administration. They particularly do not support what they see as evidence of a new American unilateralism, ranging from the rejection of the CTBT to possible troop withdrawals in the Balkans to the U.S. attitude toward the Kyoto Protocol. They want to see the retention of an engaged Western security relationship with Russia.

Accordingly, the Europeans will pay very close attention to how the Bush administration deals with Russia concerning the ABM Treaty. As indicated above, serious negotiations that led either to an amended treaty or to a new treaty that permitted a limited level of missile defense would be well received, probably with a sigh of relief. President Bush's full review of the U.S. nuclear posture now underway is seen as a much needed step. An agreement with Moscow that developed a new mix of a lower level of offensive strategic and limited defensive forces could be the best possible outcome—provided, of course, that the overarching principle of nuclear deterrence was maintained.

Significantly, therefore, some European analysts view Russia as a potential part of the solution to the missile defense conundrum rather than as a contributor to the problem. Russia's recent public recognition that there is indeed a threat from missile proliferation and weapons of mass destruction is seen as a positive step forward. (Interestingly, Russia's own list of rogue-equivalents includes North Korea, Iraq, and Iran.) They welcome President Putin's initiatives in opening dialogue with North Korea and Iran, cognizant of the need to balance the possible benefits that might ensue against the risks and reality of Russian military assistance to these two countries.

In Europe's eyes, potentially the most important Russian initiative was begun when then-Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev presented NATO Secretary-General George Robertson on February 20 with a plan for the joint development of a theater missile defense (TMD). Criticized as being long on generalities and short on specifics, such as technical parameters and cost estimates, Moscow's proposal nevertheless could become the first step toward the development of a cooperative effort between Europe and Russia in defending against rogue states. Reportedly based on the mobile S-300 and the soon-to-be-completed S-400 (similar to the U.S. Patriot), which are intended as air defense systems, such a defense would be more effective against enemy aircraft than missiles. But because it would use interceptors designed only to counter non-strategic ballistic missiles, the system proposed by the Russians would fall within the limits allowed by the ABM Treaty and the 1997 demarcation agreements.

Thus far, the plan has brought little response from the West, and Russia is due to provide further exposition at a meeting of the Russian-NATO Permanent Joint Council in Brussels. Although there are American suspicions that the proposal is little more than a Russian plan to split the European missile defense doubters from the American proponents, there is little to be lost in commencing a dialogue on missile defense with the Russians, and there could be some value. The risks are negligible since Lord Robertson, Chancellor Schroeder, and other European leaders have made it crystal clear that, whatever their doubts about missile defense, they will not allow their countries to be split from the United States.

Opportunity Costs

As the Europeans contemplate missile defense, including their own potential participation in an eventual U.S.-European project, they must also recognize the opportunity costs that would be involved. These opportunity costs are both economic and political. For the United States, a national missile defense could be considered affordable. Initial outlays of $3 billion to $6 billion per year and subsequent growth suggest the cost might reach $100 billion over a decade or more, an arguably manageable amount in an annual defense budget of close to $350 billion. Given the strategic priority that the Bush administration has accorded missile defense, it would find this justifiable.

But Europe has a different set of priorities. A European theater missile defense program that cost as little as 25 percent of the U.S. total would put a very large crimp in national defense budgets. More importantly, as Europe coalesces under the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), it has other foreign and security policy priorities. Under the Helsinki goals adopted in December 1999, the members of the European Union are committed to fielding a rapid reaction force of 60,000 soldiers by 2003. Such a force, in order to have effective power projection, will require support systems that are currently not available, such as intelligence satellites, advanced command and communications systems, and adequate air transport and sealift capacities. Already, Europe supplies four times as many troops in Bosnia and Kosovo as does the United States. The European Union has undertaken primary responsibility for the reconstruction of the Balkans through the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. And the costs of enlarging the EU to include new members from central and eastern Europe over the next 10-20 years will be sizeable.

As it is, both ESDP and the Stability Pact have credibility problems due to lack of adequate funding. The United States, for its part, is urging the Europeans to spend more on defense at a time when their defense budgets are declining. Washington is making its full support for ESDP implicitly contingent on the funding of new military capabilities rather than the duplication of the existing NATO force structure. Moreover, the Europeans are being pressed by the United States through NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative, originated by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, to acquire the high-tech weaponry needed for the modern battlefield. In addition, the Europeans are struggling with the difficulties of maintaining the high standards of the state-sponsored societal benefits to which they have grown accustomed in such matters as health, education, and pensions. For all these reasons, Europe's present foreign and domestic concerns are more focused on the more immediate problems of Europe, including the Balkans, EU enlargement, and their own societies, than they are on the hypothetical threat of ballistic missiles from distant states that may not be so hostile to them.


Toward an Allied Missile Defense

In part to pre-empt and respond to European concerns, Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld have frequently promised that, in addition to protecting the 50 states, the Bush missile defense plan will be designed to defend America's friends and allies, as well as U.S. troops deployed overseas. How this sweeping commitment, which on its face extends to Asian as well as European allies, will actually be carried out is an intriguing and important question. In dropping the word "national" before "missile defense" this March, Rumsfeld declared that he no longer thought in terms of "national" or "theater" systems and that the purpose of creating a unified approach is to avoid "significant differentials in vulnerabilities" between the United States and its allies.

The concept of an "allied missile defense," a phrase first used in the Bush campaign, is not totally novel. NATO has been working on developing a theater missile defense for several years. In time, this effort could be melded with the new plan for the missile defense of the United States, thereby creating an allied missile defense.5

This coming June, NATO's Consultation, Command and Communications Agency will award two contracts of $13.5 million each for feasibility studies to design a future theater missile defense system for the alliance. According to Robert Bell, NATO assistant secretary-general for defense support and a former defense and arms control official on Clinton's National Security Council, this should put the alliance in position to make a well-informed decision in 2004 on the development of a program and could lead to initial deployments by approximately 2010.6

As presently envisioned, NATO's TMD project will be a multilayered extension of its air defense system with the anti-missile element having two components: a lower-range package including the U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 with some European contributions; and a higher-range package including the U.S. Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which is scheduled to be deployed in 2007. Such a plan would replace the ill-fated MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defense System) program, the major multinational NATO air defense endeavor of the past decade, which has faced multiple problems and delays.

This new theater missile defense, it is important to note, will not be designed to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles and will therefore not contravene the ABM Treaty. Rather, it is primarily intended to provide NATO with the ability to protect a corps-size deployment of troops and some limited, close-in territory. It will, nevertheless, give NATO the ability to interdict short-range missiles, such as Scuds, aimed at targets such as cities and ports. There is, therefore, the possibility of an eventual melding of a high-tech missile defense system built for the United States, if and when achieved, with a considerably more limited theater missile defense system built for Europe (or Asia). Whether this constitutes something called an allied missile defense, sufficient to avoid a perception of "decoupling," is an open question.

An allied missile defense that includes a major European TMD component produces a gleam in the eye of European defense industries. Such a project would undoubtedly become the largest transatlantic weapons collaboration of all time. Four sets of major American and European defense contractors have already teamed together. Although the resulting technology transfers would be two-way, the Europeans would certainly benefit the most. This helps account for some of the recent European reticence in criticizing American missile defense plans (e.g., Schroeder's mention of the possible benefits for German industry). French industry has also shown interest, even though the Quai d'Orsay has little good to say about missile defense. And even the Russians have shown an interest in participating in NATO's TMD program, pointing out the opportunities that exist in their own European-wide TMD proposal for technological collaboration.

Of course, there are problems with a potential collaborative effort. European defense planners harbor doubts regarding the extent to which the United States is ultimately prepared for a large amount of high-level technology transfers. And although they concede that there may be a political case for involving Moscow, they doubt that the Russians would be able to bring much scientific knowledge to the table. Another major issue is money. Given the ever-tightening constraints on European defense budgets and the opportunity costs listed earlier, the governments are likely to insist that, if the Americans want allied missile defense, then they should pay for it or at least provide financial assistance. But such an approach is not likely to find favor in a Washington that will be searching for the means to pay for the expensive missile defense of the United States and that has—perhaps wishfully—convinced itself that Europe's interests in its own missile defense are self-evident.


Narrowing the U.S.-European Gap

The gap between Europe and the United States on missile defense remains wide. Unlike most of the great transatlantic security debates of the past, such as the controversies over the multilateral nuclear force in the 1960s, the neutron bomb in the 1970s, intermediate-range nuclear forces in the 1980s, and NATO enlargement in the 1990s—all instances in which the Europeans (like the Americans) were split among themselves—the Europeans in today's missile defense debate are generally unified. The fissures are much deeper on the American side.

With a few exceptions, those Europeans who are engaged with the issue have yet to be persuaded that the United States has made a compelling case for missile defense. As we have seen, their skepticism is based upon fundamental considerations, such as the seriousness of the threat, the opportunity costs in relation to other European foreign and security policy priorities, the future of the ABM Treaty and international arms control, and the impact on relations with Russia and China. To this must be added doubts about the technological feasibility of missile defenses and the financial cost of their participation in an allied missile defense project.

The Europeans are calibrating their positions and their diplomacy fully cognizant of the fact that missile defense is a long-term issue. The required technology is not likely to be ready and deployable for a decade. Who knows what U.S. policy will be in 2010? Will there still be rogue states and, if so, which? What will be the true nature of the threat? Although ballistic missile proliferation cannot be discounted—and the Europeans have increasingly acknowledged the problems it presents—they are fully aware that it is only one dimension of the threat from weapons of mass destruction. Still more than the United States, protected by two large oceans, the Europeans are vulnerable to surreptitious entry of biological, chemical, and nuclear materials through their porous borders. For the Europeans, therefore, missile defense is seen as nothing more than a particular solution to a relatively narrow problem.

In addition, European leaders are deeply reluctant to take steps that could open a debate within their own countries about nuclear weapons. The divisive and ugly history of such controversies in Europe, such as the Ban the Bomb unilateral disarmament campaign in the late 1950s in Britain and the Pershing-2 deployment issue in Germany in the early 1980s, is not forgotten. Public support for the British and French nuclear forces has fallen, as has European support for and interest in defense programs in general. The conviction held by many Americans, that if the nation can be protected, it must be, simply does not resonate equally in Europe. European publics know no more about missile defense than the American public knows about the European rapid reaction force.

The Bush administration has promised the European governments close and complete consultations. But what does this mean? Too often in the past close consultations have been more readily proclaimed than performed. The traditional pattern has been to fight the Washington policy wars to the point of exhaustion, after which the results are explained to the allies with the admonition that it would be too difficult to reopen any major issues.

Allied missile defense will require a new approach to consultations if it is to be realized. A true partnership is called for, involving early and extensive consultations. The allies should participate in the decision-making, not just in subsequent decision-sharing. This means involvement in decisions regarding the missile defense architecture to be selected. A multilayered architecture that relies on boost-phase interceptors, for example, would have direct implications for, and could well be integrated with, a European theater missile defense. Similarly, the Europeans should be closely consulted on any renewed American approach to Russia regarding the ABM Treaty and discussions with China and Asian allies. European objections will be reduced and confidence enhanced to the extent that European governments are listened to at an early stage. For the United States to manage this complex endeavor successfully, it will have to accept a deeper level of openness and cooperation with its allies than ever before. An excellent place to start would be President Bush's visit to NATO in June.



1. Francois Heisbourg, "Brussels's Burden," The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2000, p. 129.

2. Office of Research, Department of State, "Key Allied Publics Say: National Missile What?" July 10, 2000.

3. Comments made at "International Perspectives on National Missile Defense," BASIC Forum held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 18, 2000.

4. Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, Eighth Report, Weapons of Mass Destruction: National Missile Defense and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, House of Commons, August 2, 2000.

5. President Bill Clinton, at the close of a U.S.-EU summit in March 2000 in Lisbon, en route to Moscow for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, did indicate that he was willing to share the planned limited defense shield with U.S. allies and other "civilized nations," but his administration never developed this thought much further.

6. Luke Hill, "TMD: NATO Starts the Count," Jane's Defense Weekly, January 3, 2001.


Andrew J. Pierre is a senior associate at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and adjunct professor in the National Security Studies Program, both at Georgetown University. He formerly served as director-general of the Atlantic Institute for International Affairs in Paris.

Moscow Reportedly Moves Tactical Nuclear Arms to Baltics

January/February 2001

By Philipp C. Bleek

Russia has reportedly moved tactical nuclear weapons to a military base in Kaliningrad, an action that would contravene its apparent pledge to keep the Baltic region nuclear-free and could violate its 1991 commitment not to deploy tactical nuclear weapons. Russian officials have vehemently denied the allegations.

The move was first reported January 3 by The Washington Times, which cited unnamed intelligence sources and classified Defense Intelligence Agency reports, and stated that U.S. officials first became aware of the weapons transfers last June. Following initial press reports, U.S. news organizations reported senior U.S. officials as confirming that the Clinton administration believes Russia has moved tactical nuclear warheads during the past year to the isolated Russian region, which is located between Poland and Lithuania.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would not confirm or deny the reports when asked about them January 4, but State Department spokesman Richard Boucher indicated January 3 that the department would be pursuing the issue with Moscow. The Washington Post cited senior U.S. officials as saying they had been closely following Russia's "handling of non-strategic nuclear weapons at stockpile sites" and were neither surprised nor alarmed by recent developments.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the allegations "rubbish" when questioned by a reporter January 6. And, in interviews with Russian news agencies, Vladimir Yegorov, a former Baltic Fleet commander and the newly elected governor of Kaliningrad, derisively dismissed the allegations as a "dangerous joke" and bluntly denied that the fleet has nuclear weapons.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew nuclear submarines from the Baltic Sea in 1989 and said that Russia was "prepared to come to agreement with all the nuclear powers and the Baltic states on effective guarantees for the nuclear-free status of the Baltic Sea." No formal agreement was ever pursued, but both U.S. and Russian officials, including Baltic Fleet officers, maintain that Russia has committed to keeping nuclear weapons out of the region.

In late 1991, responding to initiatives announced by President George Bush, Gorbachev pledged to withdraw all naval tactical nuclear weapons from service to be either destroyed or placed in "central storage sites" and to destroy all nuclear warheads for artillery and tactical land-based missiles. These pledges were reaffirmed in 1992 by Russian President Boris Yeltsin following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The presence of any stockpiled weapons in Kaliningrad would violate Russia's apparent pledge to keep nuclear weapons out of the Baltics, and the more serious step of deploying tactical nuclear weapons would clearly violate its 1991 commitment. Russian officials have so far failed to clarify whether the Baltic outpost serves as a storage site for tactical nuclear weapons, although U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post that Russia used Kaliningrad as a depot for tactical nuclear weapons that were removed from naval vessels in the early 1990s.

Currently, the United States deploys an estimated 200-400 tactical nuclear gravity bombs on NATO bases in Europe, deployments long protested by Russia, and reportedly stockpiles several hundred Tomahawk nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles and more than a thousand nuclear-armed gravity bombs. All of these weapons systems are classed as "tactical" and have yet to be included in any arms control treaties, although there has been some discussion of limiting tactical nuclear weapons under a prospective START III agreement. The size of Russia's tactical nuclear weapons stockpile is the subject of considerable speculation, but Russia has almost certainly not destroyed all its artillery and land-based tactical missile warheads, due at least in part to financial constraints.

Many analysts argue that any deployed tactical nuclear weapons would likely be intended to serve as a response to NATO enlargement and Western military power in the face of continued Russian conventional force decline. Russia vociferously opposed NATO's 1999 expansion to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Several Baltic states—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—are currently vying to join the alliance in 2002, a move Russian officials have vigorously condemned. Kaliningrad, which is geographically separated from mainland Russia, is considered a key strategic site by Russia's military and would only be further isolated if Lithuania were to join NATO.

Russia conducted a series of war games in June 1999 that simulated a conventional NATO air and sea-based assault on Russia's western and central territory, reportedly beginning with attacks on Kaliningrad. Discussing the "Zapad-99" exercise at a Kremlin press conference the following month, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev stated that "the decision to use nuclear weapons was made" after conventional defenses "proved ineffective [and the] enemy continued to push into Russia." Sergeyev emphasized that the simulated nuclear use, reportedly several nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles, was intended to test "one of the provisions of Russia's military doctrine." (See ACT, January/February 2000. )

Baltic government officials have expressed concern about the reports of nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, and in a January 7 radio interview Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski called for "international inspections in cooperation with Russia."

Moscow Reportedly Moves Tactical Nuclear Arms to Baltics

Second Review Conference on Balkan Arms Held

Meeting in Vienna from October 31 to November 2, the parties to the June 1996 Agreement on Sub-Regional Arms Control held a review conference to assess implementation of the agreement and reaffirm their commitment to its weapon ceilings and inspection regime. The review conference, only the second in the agreement's history, had been originally scheduled for June but was postponed when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) temporarily suspended its participation in the arms control accord. (See ACT, July/August 2000.) The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described the review conference, chaired by the FRY delegation, as "very collegial."

Under the terms of the agreement, the FRY, Croatia, and the two entities comprising Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb-controlled Republika Srpska) consented to caps on their holdings of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters. The governments also agreed to permit inspections of and exchange information on their weapons holdings. Since signing the agreement, the parties have met their arms limits, destroying more than 7,000 weapons in the process.

At the review conference, the parties expressed "their satisfaction" with implementation of the agreement and "their willingness to consider any measures that would increase transparency and cooperation," according to an OSCE press release. The parties have not yet used all the existing provisions for increased transparency in the agreement, however, such as the option of conducting undeclared site inspections.

Future implementation of the agreement could be affected by the change of government in the FRY. Slobodan Milosevic, who orchestrated the wars that resulted in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, relinquished the FRY presidency October 6, after demonstrators stormed government buildings to support the September 24 election of opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica. The United Nations granted the FRY membership November 1, and the OSCE followed suit November 10.

Second Review Conference on Balkan Arms Held

Russia Pledges CFE Compliance; U.S. Stresses Need for Action

December 2000

By Wade Boese

Marking the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty on November 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated a pledge that Russia would adhere to all treaty limits and obligations governing Russian weapons deployments once Moscow ends its military operations in Chechnya. The United States welcomed Putin's statement but pressed Moscow on its compliance. Russia is within its overall weapons limits but is exceeding limits that cap Russian arms levels in its northern and southern regions.

Putin also stated that Russia is preparing to submit a November 1999 agreement revising the CFE Treaty to the State Duma for ratification. NATO members, led by the United States, have indicated they will not ratify the so-called adaptation agreement, which shifts the treaty from bloc and zone limits to national and territorial ceilings, until Russia meets the weapons limits set out in the agreement. Putin, whose statement was published by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass, declared, "There are no reasons to drag out the process of ratification of the adapted CFE accord."

Negotiated as the Cold War wound down, the CFE Treaty limited the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the former Warsaw Pact could deploy and store between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. As part of the accord, the Soviet Union accepted specific ceilings on the tanks, ACVs, and artillery that it could deploy in its northern and southern regions bordering Europe, which were within the treaty's so-called flanks zone. Russia and the other Soviet successor states divided up those limits after the Soviet Union's demise, and, even though all the CFE states-parties renegotiated the limits in 1996 to permit Russia greater holdings than originally allowed, Moscow has consistently exceeded its limits.

Last November, the 30 CFE states-parties, as part of a larger overhaul of the treaty, agreed to allow Russia even more ACVs in the flank-zone area, but Moscow has yet to comply with even this larger limit, in part because of its military activities in Chechnya. Putin, who made a similar statement in March, said Russia will "obligatorily return to [its flank-zone limits] after the end of the anti-terrorist campaign." Putin further declared that the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia and Moldova, as pledged last November, "is being solved."

Echoing comments made by other U.S. officials earlier in the month, in a November 27 speech to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ministerial Council, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called on Russia to "end the stalemate on withdrawal from Moldova," which is to be completed by the end of 2002. Albright said the United States "looks for continued progress" in Russia's withdrawal from Georgia, which started in August, and that it is "imperative" for Moscow to meet its flank limits if "we are to achieve our shared goal of bringing the adapted CFE Treaty into force." (See ACT, September 2000.)

Russia Pledges CFE Compliance; U.S. Stresses Need for Action

Russia Adopts New Security Concept

IN A SWEEPING 21-page document that addresses a range of internal problems and highlights perceived international threats, Russia appeared to lower its threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. The new national security concept, which Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin signed January 10, is intended to "more distinctly outline the definition of a multipolar world and the way Russia will work on safeguarding national interests," according to Sergei Ivanov, secretary of Russia's Security Council. (See excerpts of the concept.)

The document, which replaces the security concept adopted in December 1997, will be complemented by a soon-to-be-finalized military doctrine currently circulating within the Russian government. The new military doctrine will supercede the present one, which was adopted in 1993, and will reportedly elaborate on and clarify Russian defense guidelines, including those concerning the use of nuclear weapons.

Updated Nuclear Posture

While the 1997 national security concept allowed the first use of nuclear arms only "in case of a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation," the new concept states that nuclear weapons may be used to "repulse armed aggression, if all other means of resolving the crisis have been exhausted." This more relaxed condition for the use of nuclear weapons appears to be a response to the decline of Russian conventional forces, which has accelerated in recent years because of Russia's economic troubles.

NATO's effective use of high-precision weapons in Yugoslavia last spring and Russia's recent difficulties in Chechnya have emphasized the weakness of Russia's conventional forces. "Russia, for objective reasons, is forced to lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons, extend the nuclear deterrent to smaller-scale conflicts and openly warn potential opponents about this," Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev, head of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, stated recently in an interview with the Russian newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda.

Last summer, in what appears to have been a dress rehearsal for the new nuclear posture, Russia announced that it had conducted strategic "war games" that simulated a conventional NATO attack on an isolated part of Russian territory. In the exercise, termed "Zapad-99," Russian conventional troops were unable to repel the NATO attack, prompting Russia to use several nuclear weapons.

Russia's threatened use of nuclear weapons to deter conventional attacks is reminiscent of NATO's use of nuclear threats during the Cold War to deter superior Russian conventional forces from invading Western Europe. NATO's most recent strategic concept, approved last April at its 50th anniversary summit in Washington, acknowledged the alliance's vastly improved conventional position and stated that "the circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have to be contemplated...are therefore extremely remote." At the same time, the alliance explicitly rejected a call for a no-first-use policy and placed no specific limits on the use of nuclear weapons.

In 1982, Leonid Brezhnev, then general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, established a nuclear no-first-use policy, but Russia abandoned the posture in 1993. China has a long-standing commitment to not using nuclear weapons first; the United States, Britain and France have all consistently resisted adopting a no-first-use policy.

Russia's Relationship With the West

The new concept is striking in its repeated admission of national weakness and focuses primarily on internal issues-the economy, terrorism, separatist movements and environmental degradation-as the primary dangers to Russian society. It also identifies the United States and its allies as serious threats to Russian security. The document criticizes "attempts to create an international relations structure based on domination by developed Western countries in the international community, under U.S. leadership and designed for unilateral solutions...in circumvention of the fundamental rules of international law."

Such attitudes are symptomatic of a gradual reassessment of Russia's relationship with the West that has been spurred by a series of threatening events in the last few years, beginning with NATO expansion and followed by the U.S.-led airstrikes against Yugoslavia and recent Western criticism of Russia's military campaign in Chechnya. "Whereas in the past in the Russian security concept...it was stated that Russia has no opponents or enemies in the world, now it is clearly stated that one of the primary possible threats to Russian security and foreign policy interests is the policy of the United States," Alexei Arbatov, a member of the Russian Duma, said in a February 2 telephone briefing from Moscow.

Some analysts have attributed the new concept's confrontational posture to Putin's more hard-line stance towards the West. But the concept's early drafts were crafted and approved by the Russian Security Council under President Yeltsin (albeit in collaboration with then-Prime Minister Putin), and published in draft form last November. After review by the Russian legislature and bureaucracy, the concept was signed by Putin, reportedly with only a few minor changes. Thus, while the concept's release just prior to a presidential election is probably not coincidental, its timing is largely a function of bureaucratic process.

Russia's increased criticism of the West has not gone unnoticed in the United States, but the Clinton administration is downplaying the importance of the new national security concept. "We...do not believe that it represents a significant major departure from Russia's concept issued in 1997 or that it makes the use of nuclear weapons more likely," State Department spokesman James Rubin said in a January 19 briefing.

Executive Summary of the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty

Wade Boese

News Analysis

Aiming to preserve the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty as the "cornerstone of European security," President Bill Clinton and 29 other national leaders signed an agreement adapting the Cold War-era treaty to the present European security environment on November 19-nine years to the day after signature of the original treaty. Despite a sweeping restructuring, the treaty objective of promoting European security and stability through lower arms levels, limits on the massing of forces and military transparency remains the same.

More than merely eliminating references to the former Soviet Union and the now-defunct Warsaw Pact, the adapted treaty jettisons the Cold War rationale of balancing two hostile military alliances and instead emphasizes individual country rights, limits and obligations. In a package of associated political commitments referred to as the Final Act, several states also pledged additional weapons reductions and to forgo increases in future weapons levels.

The original treaty remains in effect until the adapted agreement is ratified by all 30 states-parties, at which point the adapted treaty will enter into force.

From Bloc to National Limits

Under the original treaty, NATO and the Warsaw Pact were each allotted limits of 20,000 tanks, 30,000 armored combat vehicles (ACVs), 20,000 artillery pieces, 6,800 combat aircraft and 2,000 attack helicopters-materiel collectively referred to as treaty-limited equipment (TLE). With the 1991 break-up of the Warsaw Pact and the 1997 offer of NATO membership to the former Eastern bloc members of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, these bloc-limits lost all relevance. The original treaty's outdated nature is underscored by the fact that it requires the new NATO members to coordinate weapons-level changes with Russia and other former Warsaw Pact members in order to stay within the Eastern bloc limit.

The adapted treaty discards these obsolete, alliance-wide limits and replaces them with national ceilings for the same five weapons categories. For the adapted treaty, countries proposed their own limits, with the understanding that they would take a "restrained approach" and work toward the overriding objective of "achieving a significant lowering in the total amount of TLE in Europe."

Together, the 19 members of NATO lowered their cumulative national limits from 89,026 TLE to 79,967. Current NATO weapons holdings only add up to 64,091 TLE, so no actual reductions will be required. While amounting to a paper cut, this reduction does decrease the weapons build-up potential of alliance members, thereby reassuring Russia. Individually, only two NATO states, Aegean rivals Greece and Turkey, increased their weapons limits, though only in the category of attack helicopters. The United States reduced its limits by more than 40 percent, from 13,088 TLE to 7,582. But, like the alliance in general, U.S. actual holdings of 3,465 TLE (as of January 1, 1999) are far below its new limits. For its part, Russia reduced its TLE limits by transferring the entitlement for 385 weapons to Kazakhstan, which did not previously have any weapons entitlements under CFE.

Out With Zones, In With Territorial Ceilings

To guard against weapons accumulations for launching surprise, large-scale offensives, the original treaty restricts the deployment of tanks, ACVs and artillery through a concentric-zone-structure, whereby the smallest zone, located in the center of Europe, has the lowest limits, and successive zones emanating outward have increasingly large limits. Though the possibility of such an attack is much more remote today, the rationale of preventing the build-up of military forces in a specific geographic area remains sound.

In keeping with the shift from a bloc structure to a national one, the adapted treaty eliminates the zones and sets territorial ceilings for each state. These territorial ceilings cap the total amount of ground TLE, both national and foreign-stationed, that a country can have within its borders-a much more restrictive system than the concentric zones, which permitted much larger force levels greater freedom in significantly bigger areas. Explicit advance consent of the host state is required for the stationing of any foreign TLE on another's territory to guard against unwanted deployments.

Twenty countries, including Russia and NATO's three newest members, set their territorial ceilings equal to their national ceilings. In effect, this requires a country's own TLE holdings on its territory to be lower than its national ceilings if the country wants foreign forces stationed within its borders. For Russia, long-opposed to NATO expansion, this constitutes an important check on NATO ground weaponry deployed in the newest alliance members and assures Moscow that NATO expansion will not cause a cumulative rise in weapons stationed in those countries.

At the same time, however, NATO sought to ensure that it could conduct military exercises, as well as deploy forces in times of crisis, on the new NATO members' territory. As a result, the adapted treaty allows countries to host temporary deployments that exceed their territorial limits by up to 153 tanks, 241 ACVs and 140 artillery pieces.

In exceptional circumstances, some states-those outside the original treaty's flank zone-may exceed their limits by as many as 459 tanks, 723 ACVs and 420 artillery pieces. Though Russia strongly opposed these exceptional temporary deployments, which are equivalent to two NATO divisions, alliance members viewed them as necessary to guard against "second-class membership" for new NATO members and to preserve alliance flexibility.

NATO rejected Russian efforts to impose territorial limits on combat aircraft and attack helicopters because it viewed such limitations as unverifiable given the mobility of those weapons.

The Evolution of the Flank Zone

While making no reference to a flank zone, the adapted treaty retains the flank zone's function of limiting weapons accumulations in northern and southern Europe. The former flank countries all agreed to set their territorial ceilings equal to their national ceilings, and all are limited to hosting only basic temporary deployments.

Specific limits, though relaxed, are also retained on the ground TLE Russia deploys in its northern and southern flanks, as well as on the ground TLE Ukraine deploys in its Odessa oblast. Since inception of the original treaty, Moscow has pressed for the abolition of the flank zone, claiming it is discriminatory because Russia and Ukraine are the only two states with limits on where they can deploy their own weapons on their own territory. Trying to address Russian complaints, the states-parties agreed in May 1996 to allow Russia's original flank limits of 1,300 tanks, 1,380 ACVs and 1,680 artillery apply to a smaller area, while the original zone itself would have higher limits of 1,800 tanks, 3,700 ACVs and 2,400 artillery. In the adapted treaty, parties further placated Russia by eliminating the original zone and its limits entirely, and increasing Russia's ACV allowance in the reduced flank zone from 1,380 to 2,140.

Improved Transparency

The adapted treaty also bolsters two key, but often overlooked, elements of the original CFE Treaty: extensive requirements for both inspections and information exchange.

Under the original treaty, each state-party is obligated to accept a number of inspections equal to 15 percent of its number of "objects of verification," essentially defined as sites and units with TLE. The adapted treaty increases that quota to 20 percent. The number of inspections countries are required to permit has been declining because the destruction of more than 70,000 pieces of TLE during the treaty's operation has led to a reduction in objects of verification.

Whereas the existing treaty only requires annual reports on the designated peacetime location of tanks, ACVs and artillery, the adapted treaty adds annual reporting requirements on the actual location of this TLE. Each state is also now required to submit quarterly reports detailing the numbers and actual territorial deployments of its ground TLE.

To the satisfaction of Russia, which had sought greater restrictions and transparency on NATO's air power following the alliance's air war over Yugoslavia, quarterly reports are also required on combat aircraft and attack helicopters. However, states-parties only need to supply information on total numbers for the entire treaty area and detail the countries to which the equipment is assigned for deployment, not those where it is actually located.

As a further confidence-building measure, whenever weapons levels on a state's territory change by 30 tanks, 30 ACVs, or 10 artillery pieces or more, all other states-parties must be informed within five working days. Any increase of 18 or more combat aircraft or attack helicopters in a country's holdings within the treaty's area of application must be reported within five working days.

The Final Act

The political commitments issued in the associated Final Act generally reinforce the adapted treaty's aim of keeping armament levels low in regions of historical conflict, and many specifically attempt to alleviate Russia's unease with NATO expansion.

Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine each pledged not to increase their territorial ceilings under the "current and foreseeable security circumstances."

New NATO members Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic went a step further, pledging additional future reductions in territorial ceilings (which they had already set equal to their national ceilings) totaling more than 1,500 ground TLE. Unlike the U.S. drop in limits, these reductions will require actual destruction of equipment. The Slovak Republic, a prospective NATO member, also offered a future territorial ceiling reduction of 195 ground TLE.

Moscow reciprocated by pledging that it would show "due restraint" in tank, ACV and artillery deployments in the region encompassing the Kaliningrad oblast, which is situated between Poland and the Baltic states, and in the Pskov oblast, which borders the Baltic states. Echoing a NATO commitment made in the May 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act concerning NATO deployments in new alliance members, Russia pledged that in the "present politico-military situation it has no reasons, plans or intentions to station substantial additional combat forces, whether air or ground forces, in that region [the Kaliningrad and Pskov oblasts] on a permanent basis."

In its southern flank, Russia pledged to reduce its TLE holdings in Georgia to a level equaling a basic temporary deployment by the end of next year-a proposal to which Georgia consented. Currently, Russia has 141 tanks, 481 ACVs and 166 artillery pieces deployed at four bases on Georgian territory.

To strip away the legality of any Russian forces stationed on its territory, Moldova used the Final Act to renounce its right to host any temporary deployment. In the Act, all states-parties also "welcomed" Russia's commitment, made in the declaration following the Istanbul summit (at which the adapted agreement was signed), to withdraw or destroy all of its TLE currently stationed in Moldova by the end of 2001.

Finally, the Act states that all treaty members have "undertaken to move forward expeditiously to facilitate completion of national ratification procedures, so that the Agreement on Adaptation can enter into force as soon as possible." At the same time, the Act emphasizes the "central importance of, full and continued implementation" of the existing treaty until the adapted treaty enters into force.

The parties pledged to review the status of all the pledges made and decisions taken at the treaty's next review conference scheduled for May 2001.

Endgame: CFE Adaptation And the OSCE Summit

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Table 1: NATO Entitlements, Holdings and Proposed National Ceilings (NCs)

  NATO Entitlement (1990) <1> NATO+3

Entitlement <2>


Proposed NCs


Holdings <3>

Tanks 20,000 22,664 19,096 16,540
Artillery 20,000 21,503 19,529 16,403
ACVs 30,000 35,039 31,787 25,185
Helicopters 2,000 2,288 2,269 1,367
Combat Aircraft 6,800 7,532 7,273 4,587
Total 78,800 89,026 80,472 64,091


1. Refers to the amount of TLE the original treaty authorized the alliance.

2. Refers to the alliance with the additon of Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.

3. Holdings reported as of January 1, 1999.

Source: C. Dorn Crawford, "Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE): A Review and Update of Key Treaty Elements," Washington, DC: ACDA, January 1999.

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Table 2: U.S. Original Entitlements, Proposed National Ceilings (NCs), Reduction and Current Holdings

  Original Entitlement Proposed NC Entitlement Reduction Current Holdings
Tanks 4,006 1,812 2,194 846
Artillery 2,742 1,553 1,189 558
ACVs 5,152 3,037 2,115 1,704
Total 11,900 6,402 5,498 3,108
Source: C. Dorn Crawford, "Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE): A Review and Update of Key Treaty Elements," Washington, DC: ACDA, January 1999.
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Endgame: CFE Adaptation And the OSCE Summit

On November 18, representatives of the 30 states that are party to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty will meet at the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) summit in Istanbul to decide the future of the most ambitious conventional arms control accord in history. Originally intended to reduce tensions between the two Cold War superpower blocs by establishing a secure balance of armed forces in Europe and eliminating each side's ability to launch a surprise attack, the treaty proved its usefulness in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet collapse and continues to prove its utility in the rapidly shifting European security landscape. It is essential that this opportunity to formally "adapt" the CFE Treaty to current political-military conditions not be missed.

When the 22 members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact first signed the CFE Treaty in Paris on November 19, 1990, none of them could have predicted that in slightly more than a year not only the Warsaw Pact but also the Soviet Union would dissolve. When that did happen, many observers assumed that the agreement would be tossed aside, relegated to a footnote of Cold War history. Fortunately, despite this skepticism, leaders in both the East and the West quickly realized that the treaty offered a means to enhance European security during this period of transition and beyond in a manner consistent with its original goals.

Implementation of the treaty was completed in late 1995, and discussions about "adapting" its structure to the new security environment began shortly thereafter at the first treaty review conference, held in May 1996. The potential signing of the adapted treaty at the upcoming OCSE summit represents the culmination of nearly three years of negotiations.

With the rising threat of nuclear proliferation and the focus of Western military analysts having largely shifted to Asia, the fate of conventional weapons in Europe is no longer as pressing to many as it once was. But while the threat of a large-scale Soviet invasion through Germany may be a thing of the past, an adapted CFE treaty will be able to further improve Europe's security in two crucial ways. First, a successful conclusion of the CFE adaptation negotiations could help dispel some of Moscow's security concerns that have resulted from NATO enlargement and the subsequent intervention in Kosovo. Second, the strain that Russia's internal political and economic discord has placed on its military is leading to a greater reliance on nuclear weapons because of conventional inferiority. An adapted CFE treaty could help counter that dangerous trend.

Presidents Yeltsin and Clinton underscored the importance of the CFE at their September 1998 summit in Moscow and established a goal of completing adaptation by the OSCE summit in November of this year. While world leaders establish objectives of this type fairly frequently (and with only modest success), this is a critical juncture for these negotiations. The domestic political situations in both Russia and the United States and the rising difficulty in concluding arms control agreements suggest that gathering support for the CFE will become increasingly difficult in the near future. The OSCE summit may very well represent the best—and perhaps last—opportunity for this treaty.

The CFE Treaty and Adaptation

The CFE Treaty, as it was originally written, requires alliance or "group" limitations on tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), combat aircraft and attack helicopters—known collectively as treaty-limited equipment (TLE)—in an area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains. Each bloc was allowed 20,000 tanks; 20,000 artillery pieces; 30,000 ACVs; 2,000 attack helicopters; and 6,800 combat aircraft.

Bloc limitations for NATO and the former Warsaw Pact were further circumscribed by a series of five geographic nested zones for land-based TLE. Limitations on helicopters and attack aircraft only applied to the entire area due to their ability to reposition rapidly. This zonal approach was a logical derivative of the mandate's intent to reduce the possibility of surprise attack by precluding excessive force concentrations near the heart of Europe. National limits for each treaty signatory were subsequently determined in negotiations among the members of the two organizations before the demise of the Warsaw Pact. When the U.S.S.R. disintegrated, the Soviet successor states (within the area of application) met at Tashkent in May 1992 and determined their respective limits from the total allocated to the Soviet Union.

Though the treaty was signed in November 1990, implementation was delayed by the end of the Warsaw Pact, the demise of the Soviet Union and problems associated with Soviet TLE. Implementation actually commenced in November 1992 when the final two states—Belarus and Kazakhstan—deposited their instruments of ratification. By the end of the implementation period in November 1995, over 58,000 pieces of TLE had been destroyed and approximately 2,700 inspections had been conducted to insure compliance.<1> The Russian Federation had the greatest burden for destruction—roughly 20 percent of this total.

Full and final compliance with the CFE Treaty was, however, endangered in late 1995 due to Russian insistence that it could not comply with limits on its forces in the so-called "flank zone"—an area that for Russia includes both the Leningrad Military District in the north and North Caucasus Military District in the south. As the November 17 deadline for full implementation approached, it became clear that Russia would comply with its overall national limit, but not the flank requirement. In the waning moments the 30 parties agreed to a framework document to resolve this problem quickly based on specific agreed principles, thereby avoiding the diplomatically embarrassing possibility of having to declare the Russian Federation in "non-compliance."

A compromise was finally achieved at the treaty's first review conference, held in Vienna in May 1996, that permitted Russia higher force levels in the flank zone, established a May 1999 deadline for Moscow to meet these adjusted levels and in effect reduced the overall size of the flank zone.<2> (This compromise was subsequently ratified by the U.S. Senate in May 1997.)

During that same review conference, Russia first presented its ideas for modifying the treaty to reflect post-Cold War realities, and the West responded that it was willing to consider further adjustments to the treaty. A formal decision to commence adaptation discussions in the Vienna-based Joint Consultative Group (the treaty's implementing body) was adopted at the Lisbon summit of the OSCE in December 1996, and the states-parties agreed to a document covering the scope and parameters of the negotiations.

Actual discussions began in the first months of 1997 as both NATO and Russia presented formal proposals for adapting the treaty, and on July 23 the 30 states involved in the discussions announced an agreement on certain "basic elements" required for successful adaptation of the treaty.<3> Most significantly, all states-parties agreed that the original bloc-to-bloc and zonal structure of the agreement was outmoded and should be replaced by national and territorial limits for all categories of treaty-limited equipment. They further concluded:

• national ceilings for each country should not exceed their existing allocations;

• rules governing equipment in storage must be changed;

• stabilizing measures to preclude force concentrations were required;

• each state should adopt a territorial ceiling that equaled the total of national and stationed forces;

• rules governing "temporary deployments" must be clarified; and

• an accession clause should be added to the treaty.

Most NATO countries also indicated their willingness to take at least a 5 percent reduction in their current entitlements.

There can be no doubt that this was a significant development. Still it was clearly "a lowest common denominator" agreement based on each side's initial proposal and was timed to coincide with the Madrid summit announcing the new NATO members in order to demonstrate that the Alliance acknowledged Russian security concerns. The so-called "Basic Elements Document" still left many important issues unresolved—and suggested that a final adjusted treaty would require difficult negotiations.

The March 30 Agreement

The next major development in the adaptation talks came on March 30, 1999, when the 30 CFE states agreed to a political document that set the stage for a final revised treaty.<4> The agreement was particularly noteworthy because at the time Moscow had severed or suspended its other political ties with NATO (such as the NATO-Russia Council) over the alliance's air campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

The agreement confirmed a new structure based on the system of national and territorial ceilings. Under the original CFE Treaty, each country was allocated TLE entitlements based on the limits of the bloc to which it belonged. The March 30 agreement dictated that each country's TLE would be limited according to its own national ceiling. Furthermore, each country would have a territorial ceiling that limited the number of ground TLE (both national and foreign-stationed) that could be deployed within its borders.

NATO's original limits on the five categories of TLE totaled 89,026 pieces. In the March 30 agreement the 19 members of NATO—the original 16 plus Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic—proposed lowering their aggregate national limits to roughly 80,000. Thus, even the enlarged NATO accepted sizable reductions in its TLE entitlements. However, because actual holdings are still below authorized limits by a significant margin, these reductions will not necessitate the destruction of any military hardware. (See Table 1.) For its part, the United States accepted a reduction of over 45 percent in the amount of ground TLE it was authorized to have in the Atlantic-to-the-Urals area at any given time. (See Table 2.)

NATO stated early in the enlargement process (and formally affirmed in the NATO-Russian Founding Act) that it saw no need to station significant forces permanently on the territory of its new members. While this was both a clear recognition of the security situation and an attempt to further ease Russian concerns, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland remained concerned. They worried that should they be threatened in the future, the alliance would not be able to come to their aid without violating the treaty. Consequently, as part of the March 30 decision, NATO negotiated certain operational flexibilities, such as the right to deploy equipment temporarily on the territory of an ally during a crisis.

According to the March 30 agreement, each state can exceed its respective territorial limit for UN- or OSCE-mandated peace support operations, exercises or temporary deployments. All states may host a "Basic Temporary Deployment" (to a maximum of 153 tanks, 241 ACVs and 140 artillery pieces) above its respective territorial ceiling. Those states outside the so-called flank region (the flank includes Iceland, Norway, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and portions of the Russian Federation as well as Ukraine) may host a larger "Exceptional Temporary Deployment" to a maximum of 459 tanks, 723 ACVs and 420 artillery pieces.

The accord also made changes to the flank regime in order to reconcile this portion of the original treaty to a revised structure. It noted that the flank regime remained legally binding on all parties and allowed Russia modest increases in the number of ACVs allowed in the Leningrad and North Caucasus Military Districts. This portion of the understanding also included Moscow's acceptance of bilateral discussions on the reduction of its forces from Georgia and complete withdrawal from Moldova consistent with both the principle of host-nation consent and the decision reached at the 1998 Oslo ministerial discussions.

The March 30 decision also concluded key verification enhancements. Each state accepted a moderate increase in its annual inspection requirements, but the accord also noted the need for additional information/verification provisions consistent with the system of national and territorial ceilings as well as temporary deployments. Finally, all states appended significant national statements to the decision that were political in nature and committed them to pursuing continued reductions in national force levels in the area of application. As part of its political statement, Russia pledged restraint on its forces in the northwestern portion of the country adjacent to the Baltic Republics and Poland.

The Current Importance of CFE

With the rapid dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and then of the Soviet Union itself, the CFE Treaty was given little time to prove its value in the circumstances for which it had been intended, but its stabilizing influence was nonetheless clear during the tumultuous events of the early 1990s. Though the purpose of the agreement was to reduce the possibility of short-warning conventional attacks and large-scale offensives through force reductions, CFE inspections may actually have contributed more to easing tensions during this period than reductions did. The treaty proved particularly valuable in assuaging concerns about German reunification and providing transparency on the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Eastern Europe. Furthermore, under the terms of the agreement, short-notice inspections were conducted of U.S. forces in Germany as they were preparing for deployment to the former Yugoslavia in 1995.

Thus, the CFE Treaty has already proven its importance outside the scope of activity for which it was originally intended, and in the coming years, it can undoubtedly further enhance European security, particularly by smoothing U.S.-Russian relations and easing Russian concerns about NATO's role in Europe. There can be little doubt that Russia's relations with the West have suffered in recent months because of NATO enlargement, continued disagreements over Iraq and the conflict in Kosovo. A successful conclusion of the CFE adaptation negotiations could assist in dispelling many of Moscow's security concerns without compromising NATO security and could foster a climate of increased cooperation between Russia and NATO.

During the enlargement process, the United States and its NATO partners clearly showed that so-called "Russia-handling" was critical, and various efforts were made to assuage Moscow's concerns. Western policymakers attempted to describe enlargement as non-threatening, but there was no doubt that most (if not all) Russian leaders still disagreed up to the last minute, when the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland officially entered the alliance March 12, 1999.<5> Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladmir Rakhmanin noted on the eve of enlargement that Moscow had accepted an expanded NATO as "part of current European reality" despite Moscow's opposition. He added that in this situation the CFE Treaty remained the "foundation of European security" and that preserving and strengthening the agreement was central to meeting Russian fears.<6> From the Russian perspective, an adjusted CFE Treaty provides legal assurances about the size and deployment of NATO forces—particularly in the new member countries—that continue to be critical to Moscow's assessment of regional security. Consequently, while modifications to the treaty are warranted based on the dramatic changes that have occurred in Europe since its signing, the enlargement process gave this effort an additional resonance.

The treaty also played a role during NATO's intervention in Kosovo when Russia requested "challenge inspections" of NATO airbases in Italy and Hungary consistent with the CFE's provisions. This included the NATO base at Aviano, Italy, which was one of the primary facilities in mounting the air campaign against Belgrade. While this was certainly difficult given the circumstances of an ongoing air offensive, NATO accepted these requests as consistent with the legal obligations of the treaty, and military officials complied appropriately. The transparency provided about the NATO operations in particular from the inspections in Aviano, Italy, and Tazar, Hungary, underscored the value of the CFE Treaty in particular as a means to reassure neighboring states during a crisis and reduce tensions.

In Kosovo, the CFE Treaty also demonstrated its importance to the Russians through its contrast to another conventional arms control accord that has not been as successful. As a legal document, the CFE guarantees transparency in a way that political documents have failed to do. In 1994 the 54 states that comprise the OSCE agreed to a series of "confidence- and security-building measures." These are politically binding requirements to report force totals after they have reached certain prescribed levels, accept observations of military exercises and activities, respond to the inquiries of participating states concerning ongoing military movements and so forth. These agreements are compiled as part of the "Vienna Document."

In early May, Russia formally requested to send observers to Macedonia and subsequently Albania to view the activities of NATO forces in those two countries in accordance with Chapter 8 of the Vienna Document.<7> But in the Macedonian case, NATO (largely at the insistence of the United States and SACEUR) declared that any location within 70 kilometers of the FRY border could not be examined due to excessive risk. Russia formally demarched the NATO countries for this in the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation as a violation of these agreements and argued that access had been limited to the extent that observations had not even occurred. These problems may make the conclusion of an adapted CFE Treaty more difficult—but also more important—as Moscow believes that it must extract more legal guarantees under the CFE since the political requirements provided by the Vienna Document were unsatisfactory.

Perhaps even more importantly, an adapted CFE Treaty could help stabilize Russia's strategic posture. Russia is suffering from internal discord brought about by enormous economic and political problems, and Russian policymakers now face a series of key decisions on the level of conventional forces that is appropriate and affordable. The Russian Federation has officially 1.2 million soldiers in its armed forces. Many experts believe that only 900,000 are even nominally available at any moment. Although the Duma voted to increase the defense budget to 3.1 percent of GDP, there is no certainty that the money will be available due in large measure to Russia's uncertain economic situation. In 1998 only 75 percent of the promised budget was actually supplied. Some senior Duma members believe that the armed forces will have to be reduced by a further 400,000 by the year 2000 to come within the available budget and that a total reduction to 600,000 will be necessary by early in the next decade.

As a result, Russian leaders have openly begun to argue that their conventional inferiority requires an increased reliance on nuclear weapons and the development of additional low-yield tactical nuclear systems.<8> Adaptation may offer a way to dampen these fears and forestall this potentially dangerous and destabilizing shift in strategy.

It is ironic that one of NATO's clear objectives in the negotiations in 1989 and 1990 was to reduce the massive level of Soviet conventional forces from Central Europe—a superiority that forced the alliance for many years to rely on nuclear weapons. Now, after so many years in which the West worried about Soviet military strength, the roles have been reversed, and it is clear that a weakened Russia still equipped with a massive strategic nuclear arsenal is perhaps of even greater concern.

Russia's concerns about U.S. strategic intentions have only been worsened by the U.S. attempts to renegotiate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Senate's recent rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The ability of a revised CFE treaty to provide Russia reassurance that the required reductions in its conventional forces can occur without endangering its security could reduce this shift toward greater reliance on nuclear weapons and encourage progress in other areas, such as START II and III.

Unfortunately, despite the substantial benefits that would come from an adapted CFE, the domestic political dynamics in the United States and Russia suggest that the upcoming OSCE summit is a window of opportunity that may be only temporary. Failure to achieve an adapted agreement by the summit's November 19 close may well mean that the process begins to resemble the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) talks, which languished in Vienna for nearly 16 years with no success. Duma elections in December followed by both Russian and American presidential elections next year will shift the focus away from this effort and make it increasingly difficult for Clinton or Yeltsin to galvanize the support required in their respective governments and conclude an agreement.

The problem in Russia is particularly acute. The continuing economic crisis, the weakened state of President Yeltsin both physically and politically, and the departure of two prime ministers since the beginning of the year all suggest that the power of the current regime is rapidly waning. This continuing turmoil could make the opportunity ripe for those seeking power to blame Russia's ills on external forces. It remains to be seen whether nationalist leaders in the Russian Federation will continue to trumpet these views as a means to foment support during the impending Duma and presidential elections, but if handled properly, an adjusted agreement could certainly dampen those forces and offer greater security not only for Russia but for all signatories.


A Western arms control expert once remarked that he felt like he was watching 300 years of European hostilities unfold during the course of CFE negotiations. Critics of this process are frequently captivated by the technical details of definitions, counting rules, stabilizing measures, inspection regimes and so forth and often overlook the connection between these points and larger security issues. Still, while the devil may lie in the details, this accord is rooted in the collective attempt of 30 sovereign states to improve their security. Consequently, all of the historical antagonisms have an impact, including centuries-old concerns about the state of German armed forces, Greek-Turkish antagonism, Polish worries about Russia, Moscow's continued fear of instability in the North Caucasus region and many others. Resolving these anxieties contributes to the enduring value of the agreement as Europe attempts to create a new architecture based on a concept of cooperative security, but they are also the greatest obstacle to success. The negotiations are now a truly multilateral effort involving 30 sovereign states as opposed to the bloc-to-bloc Cold War process begun in 1989.

Obviously, NATO enlargement and the conflict in Kosovo have both complicated the adaptation negotiations while making its success more important. Fortunately, the adaptation talks were not a victim of the Kosovo conflict despite the clear tensions it engendered in NATO-Russian relations. The fact that the Russian Federation did not suspend its participation in these talks (as it did several other forums) is extremely important. This is particularly true if one considers that the negotiations focused on the conventional force balance in Central Europe during the first actual conflict involving all NATO members and the largest air campaign in Europe since World War II. Unfortunately, while this underscores (to some degree at least) the value that Moscow ascribes to this process, it does not preordain the negotiations' successful conclusion at the OSCE summit. Kosovo may not have completely derailed these negotiations, but it certainly complicated the process, and little of substance occurred between the March 30 decision and the summer recess in mid-July.

The Russian delegation indicated its clear desire to complete the negotiations by the Istanbul summit upon its return to Vienna in August. They did, however, suggest that they wanted additional concessions prior to signing the final treaty.<9> Moscow demanded greater transparency over the deployment of NATO combat aircraft. This clearly reflects Russian concerns following the Kosovo conflict, but it may be very difficult for the alliance to accept. NATO military leaders are extremely sensitive to issues of operational security following the Kosovo conflict, and they are also concerned that this proposal might broaden constraints on land-based systems associated with temporary deployments that include aircraft.

The negotiations could become further complicated by the fact that Russia failed to meet the revised flank totals agreed to at the 1996 review conference by the May 31, 1999 deadline.<10> While Moscow has remained within its overall national limits for all categories of TLE, it exceeds the allocation for ACVs in the North Caucasus area by over 1,000 units. NATO members took note of this in early June, and it was verified by subsequent data exchanges. The alliance members chose not to make a major issue of Russian "non-compliance" while pointing out that the existing flank limits remain legally binding until such time as an adapted treaty is signed and ratified.

The issue of Russian force levels in the flank has risen again during the ongoing hostilities in Chechnya. A Russian foreign ministry spokesman announced on October 12 that Moscow had deployed forces in the region in excess of its flank limits to meet the emerging crisis.<11> While this is worrisome, Moscow's prompt announcement of these deployments demonstrates its commitment to the agreement. Furthermore, Russian spokesmen have underscored the importance of the treaty and the belief that these deployments should not adversely affect the ongoing adaptation process and expectation of a completed agreement by the OSCE summit.

Still this problem could have a direct bearing on whether or not several North Caucasus states believe an adapted treaty is beneficial to their security and, therefore, receives their support. Russian troop deployments in Georgia and Moldova contributes to the excessive flank TLE holdings. They are also counter to Moscow's acknowledgment in the March 30 decision to reduce its forces in Georgia and remove its troops completely from Moldova. In addition, Azerbaijan has frequently accused the Russian Federation of increasing tension in the region by providing arms to Armenia.<12> Baku also has charged that Moscow has contributed to the problem of unaccounted-for treaty-limited equipment present in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azeris have repeatedly insisted that progress on these issues must occur before they sign an adapted treaty. These states may believe that an adapted treaty will provide them legal guarantees on Russian withdrawals from the region as well as increased transparency over future force deployments.


The CFE Treaty clearly demonstrated its value as a policy instrument during the turbulent period at the end of the Cold War. The levels of force reductions and the system of transparency that accompanied them are nothing short of historic. In fact the greatest value of the agreement may be that the entire CFE system encourages confidence through transparency and provides a forum for the major European states to debate, agree on and maintain a set of rules about conventional military power on the continent.<13>

The effort to adapt the treaty will not create a panacea, but will rather refine this tool in a fashion that makes it more effective for the next century. This process is not based on any sense of Western altruism, since NATO will remain in a position of overwhelming strength from a military perspective. The conflict in Kosovo clearly demonstrated this fact. Rather, adaptation is based on the view that the foundations of European security have been inextricably altered.

Arms control negotiations are an effort to find a set of rules about the size and operations of military forces that all parties find acceptable and contribute to greater security. They are bound by a "harmony of interest" that insures compliance as well as the verification requirements that are part of any agreement. Compromise is an essential element that all parties must make to find a final settlement. Clearly this process has reached its end game, and an agreement is possible if all participants can find concessions, particularly in the remaining areas that deal with the balance between transparency and operational security.

The effort to craft an adapted CFE treaty has entered a critical juncture. Negotiators have worked out the majority of disagreements and avoided a possible catastrophe during the Kosovo conflict. But these conditions will not endure indefinitely. The upcoming OSCE summit may be the last opportunity to finalize an adapted treaty that not only reflects the new European security environment but also contributes to it. It remains the best chance for the West to give meaning to President Clinton's statement following the March 30 agreement: "Together, we are building a Europe in which armies prepare to stand beside their neighbors, not against them, and security depends on cooperation, not competition."


1. "Final Document of the First Conference to Review Operations of the CFE Treaty and the Concluding Act of the Negotiations on Personnel Strength," Vienna, Austria, May 15-31, 1996, p. 2.

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2. Dr. Lynn Davis, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Policy, Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on European Affairs, April 29, 1997.

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3. Arshad Mohammed, "Breakthrough Reached on New CFE Treaty," Reuters, July 24, 1997.

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4. U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet, "Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) and the Decision of the Joint Consultative Group on Treaty Adaptation," Washington, D.C., April 6, 1999. See also Wade Boese, "CFE Parties Outline Adapted Treaty; Limits to Allow NATO Growth," Arms Control Today, March 1999, p. 28.

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5. Michael Mandelbaum, The Dawn of Peace in Europe, (New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1996), pp. 61-63. See also Frederick Hammersen, "The Disquieting Voice of Russian Resentment," Parameters, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2, Summer 1998, pp. 39-55.

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6. Peter Graff, "Russia Reports Progress on Europe Forces Treaty," Reuters, March 10, 1999.

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7. Ambassador Lynn M. Hansen, "Conventional Arms Control–Has It a Future?" Paper delivered at DTRA Eighth Annual International Conference on Controlling Arms, Norfolk, Virginia, June 2, 1999.

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8. Dr. Alexander A. Pikayev, "After Yugoslavia: Shifting Russian Priorities on Arms Control and Non-Proliferation," presentation at the Atlantic Council, June 8, 1999.

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9. Hajo Schmidt, "Status der KSD Anpassungsverhandlungen," Hessiche Stiftung fur Auswartige Politik, September 10, 1999, p. 1.

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10. Wade Boese, "Russian Compliance with CFE 'Flank' Limit in Doubt," Arms Control Today, July/August 1999, p. 46.

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11. Bill Gertz, "Russia Tells U.S. It Will Violate Arms Pact," Washington Times, October 7, 1999, p. A1.

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12. "Azerbaijan: Moscow Sent Warplanes to Armenia," New York Times, December 18, 1998, p. A26.

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13. Sherman Garnett, "The CFE Flank Agreement," Washington: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1997, p. 1.

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Colonel Jeffrey D. McCausland is dean of academics at the U.S. Army War College. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and are not to be considered the policy of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense or any other agency of the U.S. government. [Back to top]

NATO's Nuclear Weapons: The Rationale for 'No First Use'

Jack Mendelsohn

The 19 nations of NATO have an opportunity to bring their outdated nuclear weapons first-use policy into alignment with the alliance's stated objectives and commitments. Although NATO has sought to de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, it maintains its 30-year-old policy of "flexible response," which allows the alliance to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, including in reply to an attack with conventional weapons.

During its 50th anniversary summit in Washington in April, the alliance did agree to begin a process to review arms control and disarmament options in light of the "reduced salience" of nuclear weapons. NATO members, through the North Atlantic Council, are now working on proposals that will be considered at a NATO ministerial meeting at the end of this year. While strong U.S. resistance to even a review of NATO nuclear policy bodes ill for a move away from nuclear first use, the stage has at least been set for a new debate. By pledging not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, NATO could reduce the political acceptability and military attractiveness of nuclear weapons, strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime, enhance the credibility of its deterrence policy and help to ease some of the tensions in the NATO-Russian relationship.

The Evolution of Doctrine

The readiness of NATO to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict has been evident from the beginning of the alliance. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, drafted in early 1949 before the Soviet Union had tested a nuclear weapon, commits the allies to come to the defense of all members in the event of an attack. This commitment was understood by both the Americans and the Europeans to be a nuclear guarantee for the alliance, which, in the late 1940s and 1950s, faced what was perceived to be a hostile Soviet Union with an overwhelming advantage in conventional forces. At that critical moment, the alliance was both obligated and prepared to consider the massive use of nuclear weapons to respond to major conventional aggression.

In the early 1950s, political pressure in the United States to reduce its defense budget, and allied reluctance to spend the money to build up their own militaries, further encouraged a policy of threatening to use nuclear weapons against counter-value targets (such as cities and other "soft" targets) on a large scale and early in the event of a conflict in Europe. In December 1954, NATO agreed to integrate tactical nuclear weapons into its own defensive strategy, and by the end of 1960 there were 2,500 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Western Europe. In December 1956, NATO adopted a Military Committee document (MC-14/2) that formalized the alliance's emphasis on nuclear weapons as the key component of its defensive strategy. The credibility of this doctrine of "massive retaliation" was already strained, however, by the time of its formal adoption by NATO.

The launch of Sputnik in August 1957 dramatically demonstrated the growth of Moscow's ability to threaten the U.S. homeland and called into question U.S. willingness to respond to a conventional attack in Europe with the full strength of its nuclear arsenal. The strategic significance of this development was not lost on NATO's European members. For example, in 1958 Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, who four years earlier had stated that NATO nuclear weapons would necessarily be used against conventional attacks, was asking whether, "in the event of minor Russian aggression with conventional forces," it was realistic to expect "the West would use its nuclear deterrent as weapons against the cities of Russia and receive in return Russian retaliation which would put the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. out of business?" He concluded: "For us to act in this way would be to commit national suicide. I do not believe it will happen. When both sides have nuclear sufficiency, the deterrent will merely serve to deter each side from using it as a weapon."<1>

After a great deal of debate in the 1960s, in December 1967 the alliance adopted a new nuclear strategy in MC 14/3 known as "flexible response." NATO formally abandoned the strategy of massive retaliation (which had actually been dropped by the Eisenhower administration before the end of its term) and committed the alliance to respond to any aggression, short of general nuclear attack, at the level of force—conventional or nuclear—at which it was initiated. The alliance retained the option, however, to use nuclear weapons first if its initial response to a conventional attack did not prove adequate to containing the aggressor, and to deliberately escalate to general nuclear war, if necessary.

While adoption of the flexible response policy allowed the alliance to avoid a policy of prompt and mutual suicide (as many of NATO's tactical nuclear weapons would have detonated on alliance territory), NATO still continued to rely on the first use of nuclear weapons to deter or counter a major conventional assault. In support of this policy, NATO's tactical nuclear weapons stockpile in Europe grew to around 7,400 weapons in the early 1970s, including nuclear artillery shells, nuclear-armed missiles, air-delivered gravity bombs, special atomic demolition munitions (landmines), surface-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and anti-submarine depth bombs. (See chart below.)

In 1979, in response to Soviet efforts to modernize its intermediate-range nuclear missile force with the triple-warheaded SS-20, NATO adopted a modernization plan of its own involving the deployment of 572 tactical nuclear warheads on ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) and Pershing II ballistic missiles. After an elaborate interplay of negotiations, threats, walkouts, deployments and a significant regime change in Moscow (Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in March 1985), the United States and the Soviet Union agreed in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty to ban all ground-based nuclear-armed ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

In October 1990, the two Germanys were united under the terms of the "Final Settlement with Respect to Germany," negotiated by the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, in association with the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and France. Unified Germany remained a member of NATO but, according to the final settlement, neither foreign armed forces nor nuclear weapons could be stationed in that portion of united Germany that had previously been East Germany. In effect, the final settlement denuclearized a swath of NATO territory in the very center of Europe, a provision of particular interest to the Soviet Union, which sought to prevent NATO nuclear forces from coming closer to its frontiers.

Nuclear Weapons in the 1990s

As the Soviet Union wound down in the late 1980s, the security environment in Europe changed fundamentally, allowing a long-overdue reconsideration of NATO's nuclear strategy. In July 1990 in the London Declaration, NATO announced a review of the alliance's political and military strategy to reflect "a reduced reliance on nuclear weapons" and lead to the adoption of "a new NATO strategy making nuclear forces truly weapons of last resort."<2>

In early 1991, after the withdrawal and destruction of its INF systems and the voluntary retirement of about 2,400 excess tactical nuclear weapons, NATO's European-based nuclear arsenal stood at approximately 4,000 tactical warheads. Then, in September of that year, in the aftermath of the failed coup in Moscow, President Bush announced a major unilateral withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons worldwide. Gorbachev announced reciprocal Soviet withdrawals the following month. All U.S. ground-based and sea-based tactical weapons were affected, leaving only several hundred (around 400) air-delivered gravity bombs in NATO's European-based nuclear arsenal by the end of the decade. (France and Britain subsequently decided to phase out their own tactical nuclear weapons.)

NATO's November 1991 "Strategic Concept," which resulted from the review announced in London (adopted six weeks before the dissolution of the Soviet Union), did not expressly include the "weapons of last resort" language in the London Declaration, but it did greatly scale back the pre-eminent role of nuclear weapons. The 1991 concept noted that "the fundamental purpose of the nuclear forces of the Allies is political: to preserve peace and prevent coercion and any kind of war." It stated specifically that "the circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have to be contemplated by [NATO] are…remote." The allies "can therefore significantly reduce their sub-strategic nuclear forces."<3>

In early 1994, the alliance—led by the United States and Germany—began to move toward expanding NATO membership to countries in Eastern and Southern Europe. The general debate over alliance expansion raised the issue of nuclear weapons deployment in the potential new member-states. Sharply criticized by Moscow, which considered itself the prime (if not the only) target of the alliance's nuclear forces, the freedom to deploy nuclear weapons in new NATO members was just as staunchly defended by NATO. In September 1995, NATO released its "Enlargement Study," which stated explicitly that the "new members will be expected to support the concept of deterrence and the essential role nuclear weapons play in the Alliance's strategy of war prevention as set forth in the Strategic Concept."<4>

The new member-states—the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland—all sought protection under NATO's nuclear umbrella without pressing for actual nuclear deployments on their territories. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, for example, stated in April 1997 that he could "perceive no security requirement for stationing nuclear weapons on Polish territory." In the end, the NATO allies explicitly stated in the May 1997 so-called Founding Act that "they have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members…." However, they also indicated in the same document that they did not see "any need to change any aspect of NATO's nuclear posture or nuclear policy—and do not foresee any future need to do so." In addition, the allies noted that they had "no intention, no plan, and no reason to establish nuclear weapon storage sites on the territory of those members, whether through the construction of new nuclear storage facilities or the adaptation of old nuclear storage facilities."<5>

The Founding Act's self-satisfied statement on "no need to change any aspect" of its nuclear policy notwithstanding, in the months leading up to NATO's 50th anniversary summit in Washington, the governments of Germany, Canada and the Netherlands took steps to urge NATO to consider a no-first-use policy in connection with the revision of the Strategic Concept being prepared for the anniversary celebration. On October 20, 1998, the German Social Democrat and Green parties signed a coalition agreement pledging that the new government "will advocate a lowering of the alert status for nuclear weapons and renunciation of the first use of nuclear weapons." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer expanded on this point in a Der Spiegel interview published on November 23, 1998, stating that he believed the world had changed sufficiently to allow NATO to consider the adoption of a no-first-use policy. On December 3, the Dutch Parliament passed a resolution (NR 22/26200-V) that called upon NATO to consider the adoption of a no-first-use policy.

The response from Clinton administration officials was quick and sharp. During a December 8 press conference in Brussels, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the United States "do[es] not believe that a review is necessary" and that the alliance has "the right nuclear strategy." But the calls for a change in NATO nuclear policy continued. On December 10, the Canadian Parliament's Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs and International Trade released a report, Canada and the Nuclear Challenge: Reducing the Political Value of Nuclear Weapons for the Twenty-First Century, which included a recommendation that Ottawa urge NATO to review its nuclear weapons policy.

While, ultimately, no such no-first-use policy was adopted or even discussed at the Washington summit NATO's 1999 Strategic Concept and the summit communiqué do reflect a slight change in alliance policy. (See box.) The new Strategic Concept continues to point out that "the fundamental purpose of the nuclear forces of the Allies is political…" (Paragraph 62). The new pronouncement acknowledges, however, that "with the radical changes in the security situation, including reduced conventional forces levels in Europe and increased reaction times, NATO's ability to defuse a crisis through diplomatic and other means or, should it be necessary, to mount a successful conventional defense has significantly improved." As a result, the document continues, the circumstances in which nuclear weapons might have to be used by the alliance are "extremely remote" (Paragraph 64).

More importantly, however, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy both intervened to ensure that a review of NATO's nuclear policy would be initiated by the North Atlantic Council. In its communiqué, the alliance agreed "in light of overall strategic developments and the reduced salience of nuclear weapons...[to]...consider options for confidence- and security-building measures, verification, non-proliferation and arms control and disarmament. The Council in Permanent Session will propose a process to Ministers in December for considering such options."

Canadian Senator Douglas Roche, the former ambassador for disarmament affairs, interprets this statement as a commitment to initiate a review of NATO's nuclear posture. On April 24, Roche released an "Analysis of NATO Action on Nuclear Weapons," in which Axworthy is quoted as saying that NATO acknowledged "that such a review would be appropriate and that there would be directions to the NATO Council to start the mechanics of bringing that about." U.S. State Department officials will say only that all aspects of NATO nuclear policy are under discussion in connection with NATO's new initiative on weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This initiative, which involves information sharing, defense planning, civilian protection, non-proliferation assistance to other nations, and a WMD Center to coordinate NATO efforts was approved at the summit as a means of strengthening alliance support for U.S. non-proliferation policy.<6>

Should NATO Reconsider?

Some argue that the alliance's current posture of "flexible response," with the current understanding that the use of nuclear weapons would be considered only in "extremely remote" circumstances, is the right one and should not be changed. Others believe that this policy is out of date and should be re-examined by the alliance since

it lacks any military or strategic rationale;
undercuts the various crisis management and humanitarian justifications for NATO's out-of-area operations;
contravenes U.S., British and French commitments not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states;
and weakens the non-proliferation regime.

An Absence of a Rationale

NATO's nuclear first-use policy lacks any military rationale. The alliance's threat during the Cold War to use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear aggression, however contradictory and self-deterring such a policy might have been, was considered helpful in reassuring Europe that some military response was available to counter the Warsaw Pact's significant quantitative advantage in conventional forces. Today, however, the alliance enjoys an even greater conventional superiority over any potential enemy or combination of enemies in Europe than the Warsaw Pact ever had over NATO.

The alliance's overwhelming and unchallengeable conventional advantages make it difficult to conceive of circumstances under which NATO would require nuclear weapons to successfully manage any crisis in Europe. The only state that could conceivably mount a serious military threat to NATO sometime in the future is Russia. But this likelihood is "extremely remote" and hardly justifies a general NATO policy of nuclear first use. Moreover, NATO's first-use policy is viewed in Moscow as directed primarily—if not solely—at Russia and, as noted above in connection with the Founding Act, remains a major irritant as NATO expands eastward.

The key alliance strategic rationale for nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO is that they "provide an essential political and military link between the European and the North American members of the Alliance…[and] with strategic nuclear forces." Linkage to U.S. strategic nuclear forces was an integral part of NATO's strategy during the Cold War. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, however, and with the change in NATO's most likely mission from territorial defense to out-of-area crisis management, linkage to U.S. strategic nuclear retaliatory forces is far less critical–perhaps not even relevant—to alliance security and solidarity. In any case, adopting a no-first-use policy would not interfere with NATO's link to U.S. strategic retaliatory forces. A policy of no first use impacts on the circumstances surrounding the decision to use nuclear weapons, not on the choice of nuclear weapons—tactical, strategic or both—that will be used once the decision is taken.

There is no non-nuclear threat to U.S. or alliance security that would warrant a nuclear response. In 1993, three respected members of the U.S. national security establishment, McGeorge Bundy, William J. Crowe and Sidney Drell, wrote: "There is no vital interest of the U.S., except the deterrence of nuclear attack, that cannot be met by prudent conventional readiness. There is no visible case where the U.S. could be forced to choose between defeat and the first use of nuclear weapons."<7> Nothing has occurred since that statement was written to make nuclear weapons more critical to maintaining European security. If anything, the threat of using nuclear weapons has become even more anachronistic.

Out-Of-Area Intervention

As the intervention in Kosovo demonstrated, NATO is now seemingly prepared to undertake out-of-area military missions for a number of reasons: to resolve conflicts, to manage crises, to promote democracy, to defend moral principles or to protect human rights. At the same time, NATO has also made it clear that it seeks to perform these missions without putting its troops in harm's way and with a minimum amount of collateral damage to innocent civilians and the target country. NATO's supreme commander, U.S. General Wesley Clark, for one, has acknowledged that he was compelled to sacrifice basic logic of warfare to maintain the political cohesion of the alliance given the anti-war pressures felt by coalition governments in Germany and Italy.<8>

Apart from the fact that neither the NATO rationales for intervention nor its minimalist criteria for casualties and collateral damage can be supported by the use of nuclear weapons, some NATO allies—and, more importantly, their publics—had serious misgivings over the extent of the destruction wrought in Kosovo by conventional bombing. During various stages of the 11-week war, Italy, Greece and Germany were all on the verge of calling for an end to the attacks. In the case of Germany, Foreign Minister Fischer narrowly averted a vote in his Green Party, which makes up a significant minority of the ruling Red-Green coalition, calling for an end to all German participation in the bombing campaign.

The United States remains committed to expanding NATO's future missions in response to the "complex new risks to...peace and stability, including oppression, ethnic conflict, economic distress, [and] the collapse of political order...."<9> The problems raised by Kosovo, however, may have made it more difficult for the alliance to authorize even conventional out-of-area military operations in the future. If an intervention is authorized, the possibility of a proposal within NATO to initiate the threat to use or the use of nuclear weapons will inevitably cause even the most determined of the allies to object. Since, under these conditions, it is highly improbable that the alliance will ever reach a consensus to employ nuclear weapons in an out-of-area intervention, much less in support of U.S. interests in other areas of the world, NATO's first-use option is neither a credible deterrent nor a necessary policy.

It is not possible to reconcile the morally repugnant use of a nuclear weapon, or any weapon of mass destruction, with the pursuit of limited, humanitarian goals. As a point of law, this was made explicit by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its July 1996 advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons. At that time, 10 of the ICJ's 14 judges determined that the use or threatened use of nuclear weapons is illegal in all but one possible circumstance: a threat to the very existence of the state.

Of the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China), only the two non-NATO powers—China and Russia—have declared nuclear-use policies that do not run counter to the ICJ opinion: Beijing has a no-first-use policy and Moscow says that it reserves the right to use all available forces and means, including nuclear weapons, if as a result of military aggression, there is a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation as a sovereign state.

Moreover, it is politically unwise for NATO to continue to maintain a first-use option if it seriously intends to execute out-of-area conflict resolution, crisis management or humanitarian missions (as opposed to the traditional defense of territory or in response to an aggressor). As long as NATO refuses to rule out the first use of nuclear weapons, it is difficult to avoid the perception that enforcement of democratic values is being backed by a nuclear threat. Indeed, this perception drove Ukraine's Supreme Council (or Rada) in March 1999 to attempt to abolish the country's non-nuclear-weapon-state status in view of NATO's aggressive plans toward non-members. Although the Rada's position was subsequently dismissed as parliamentary rhetoric by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, its action illustrates the depth of the passions stirred by NATO's intervention. To avoid the perception that out-of-area operations might escalate to the nuclear level, NATO would clearly be better served if it operated under a policy that confined the use of nuclear weapons to core deterrence, rather than one that is based on first use.

Negative Security Assurances

All 19 nations of NATO, including its three nuclear-capable members, are bound to the object and purposes of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Under the treaty, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states have committed themselves to respect a broad prohibition on using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. Pledged in the form of negative security assurances (NSAs), the most recent being the one reaffirmed just before the 1995 NPT conference that extended the treaty indefinitely, the nuclear-weapon states promise never to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT, except in response to an attack by such a state in alliance with a nuclear-weapon state.<10>

The 1995 U.S. NSA reads:

The United States affirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.<11>

It is important to note that the NSA makes no exceptions to allow for a nuclear response to a chemical or biological weapons attack.

NATO's first-use doctrine against conventional forces is clearly contrary to the NPT-related NSA commitments of the United States, Britain and France. In addition, the United States, the key NATO nuclear power, maintains the option to use nuclear weapons in response to a chemical or biological weapons attack, and implies that NATO has the same policy. While this policy had been present in U.S. Defense Department documents in the early 1990s, it was articulated in April 1996 by Robert Bell, senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council at the time of the U.S. signature of a protocol to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (ANWFZ) Treaty. Protocol I of the so-called Treaty of Pelindaba pledges the United States not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any treaty party. Bell, however, said U.S. signature "will not limit options available to the United States in response to an attack by an ANWFZ party using weapons of mass destruction." [Emphasis added.] In December 1998, Walter Slocombe, under secretary of defense for policy, stated: "It is simply an issue of making sure that we continue to maintain a high level of uncertainty or high level of concern, if you will, at what the potential aggressor would face if he used [CBW] or indeed took other aggressive acts against the alliance." [Emphasis added.]<12>

For the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, and by implication NATO, the most powerful conventional alliance, to insist that they need the threat of first use of nuclear weapons to deter potential adversaries raises the question why other, much weaker nations, confronted by hostile neighbors, do not need them as well. Moreover, a U.S. and NATO first-use policy against, in effect, conventional, chemical and biological weapons suggests that nuclear weapons have many useful military roles. This reinforces the value and prestige attributed to nuclear weapons and undermines efforts by the United States and other key NATO countries to persuade non-nuclear-weapon states to refrain from developing their own nuclear arsenals.

'Calculated Ambiguity' and Deterrence

Many proponents of a nuclear first-use policy admit that neither the United States nor NATO will ever employ nuclear weapons except in retaliation against a nuclear attack. Nonetheless, these proponents argue that a no-first-use policy should not be adopted because uncertainty—or "calculated ambiguity"—as to the nature of the alliance response serves to deter a potential aggressor from initiating a chemical or biological weapons attack. This approach was clearly laid out on February 5, 1998, when State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said:

If any country were foolish enough to attack the U.S., our allies or our forces with chemical or biological weapons, our response would be swift, devastating and overwhelming. We have worked hard to fashion non-nuclear responses to the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction in order to give military commanders and the president a range of options from which to choose.

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry reaffirmed the approach during a March 1998 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Chemical Weapons Convention:

[W]e are able to mount a devastating response without using nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, we do not rule out in advance any capability available to us. I stress that these policies have to do with a situation in which the U.S., our allies and our forces have been attacked with chemical or biological weapons. [Emphasis added.]

The question of whether the veiled U.S. threat of nuclear retaliation against chemical or biological weapons attacks successfully deterred Saddam Hussein from using chemical or biological weapons against allied forces during the Gulf War may never be answered with absolute certainty. The utility of a policy of "calculated ambiguity," however, has been greatly diminished with the disclosures in memoirs by senior policymakers that whatever policy was implied, the United States never had, under any circumstances, any intention of using nuclear weapons during the war.<13> As a result of this public record, it is quite possible that "calculated ambiguity" is no longer a credible policy (if it ever was), and that there is little deterrent value left in the U.S. or NATO threat of nuclear first use in any non-nuclear military conflict.

Taking the Lead

The principal threats to the security of NATO and its member-states over the next decades will not come from Russia, but rather from regional dictators, rogue states and violent sub-national groups. The alliance's best defense against these threats is not its nuclear arsenal—the use of which has no military or political justification—but rather its overwhelming conventional military superiority, unsurpassed intelligence gathering and processing capabilities and, last but not least, the international non-proliferation regime.

As NATO's primary arsenal nation, the United States should be the one to take the lead in urging a revision of NATO's nuclear posture. The opportunity was missed in 1994 when the United States conducted its Nuclear Posture Review and reportedly concluded that there was no military requirement for tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. But at that time, the Europeans insisted on the continued presence of these weapons as a hedge against the unknown (meaning a Russian resurgence) and to maintain a tangible "link" to the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Now, for a number of political reasons—the administration's overall weakness, a conservative Congress, the upcoming presidential elections, and a "don't-rock-the-boat" foreign policy—Washington is unwilling to disturb the nuclear status quo.

As a result, it has fallen to Canada and the European members of NATO to push for a nuclear policy review. At least some alliance members recognize that, in the absence of any serious military or strategic challenge to the NATO nations, the alliance's current nuclear first-use policy lacks credibility and undercuts overall efforts to enhance European security. If Canada and NATO's European members can bring themselves to propose abandoning the nuclear first-use policy, the United States should be willing to accept this incremental step toward a safer and more secure world.



1. Quoted in The Entangling Alliance, Ronald E. Powaski, Greenwood Press, 1994, p. 39.

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2. "London Declaration on a Transformed North Atlantic Alliance," London, July 5-6, 1990, Paragraph 18.

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3. "NATO Strategic Concept," November 1991, Paragraphs 55 and 57.

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4. "NATO Study on Enlargement," Chapter 5, paragraph 45.

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5. "The Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security Between NATO and the Russian Federation," Paris, May 27, 1997, Section IV.

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6. NATO Fact Sheet on WMD Initiative, April 24, 1999.

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7. See "Reducing the Nuclear Danger," Foreign Affairs, Volume 72, Number 2.

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8. William Drozdiak, "War Effort Restrained by Politics, Clark Says," The Washington Post, July 20, 1999, p. A14.

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9. "The Alliance's Strategic Concept," April 1999, Paragraph 3.

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10. Four countries remain outside the NPT: Cuba and the three de facto nuclear-weapon states—India, Israel and Pakistan.

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11. The first official U.S. declaration of negative security assurance was in 1978 at the UN. These assurances were reaffirmed by the five declared nuclear-weapons states in April 1995 and taken note of in UN Security Council Resolution 984. In addition, as a signator of the Protocols, the U.S. has pledged not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any state party to the treaties of Rarotonga (South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone), Tlateloco (Latin America NWFZ) and Pelindaba (Africa NWFZ).

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12. Interview with Walter Slocombe, under secretary of defense for policy, December 11, 1998.

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13. See, for example, Colin Powell, My American Journey, pp. 472 and 486; George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed, p. 463; and James A Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 359.

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Jack Mendelsohn, vice president and executive director of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security (LAWS) in Washington, DC, is former deputy director of the Arms Control Association.


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