Russian Embassy Press Release
Russia suspends the observance of the CFE Treaty
The Russian Federation suspended the observance of the obligations of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (the CFE Treaty) as of December 12, 2007. This is a forced move aimed to restore the European regime of control over conventional armaments. This decision was necessitated by the exceptional circumstances relating to the content of the CFE Treaty and the security of Russia. We have repeatedly and in detail passed our concerns on this issue to the CFE Treaty States Parties.
Russia has been committed to the control regime over conventional forces in Europe for many years. We carried out the CFE Treaty obligations even under very difficult conditions, at the times of the counterterrorist operation in the Northern Caucuses in the mid 1990-s. Our partners should not forget that it was Russia and other countries of the CIS to take decisions which preserved the CFE Treaty and made it come into force after the USSR ceased to exist.
Regarded as the cornerstone of the European security the 1990 CFE Treaty lost much of its viability in the mid 1990-s as a result of the serious changes in the military and political situation in Europe. This factor led to the adaptation of the Treaty. With the efforts of all States Parties the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty (the Adapted CFE Treaty) was signed in 1999. However it has not come into force yet.
The truth is that the NATO partners introduced de facto moratorium on the Adapted CFE Treaty in 2001. Despite Russian fulfilling its CFE-related “Istanbul commitments", the Western partners link their ratification of the Agreement on Adaptation with Russia's implementation of far-fetched conditions which have nothing to do with the CFE Treaty. As far as the original Treaty is concerned it admittedly did not fit new realities. Thus at least since 2001 we have lived in the legal uncertainty, which inevitably let to the erosion of the Treaty.
Russia has warned that this situation cannot last long. At the same time we showed patience and restraint, proposed joint actions to find the way out. Yet none wanted to hear. Without developing the CFE Treaty regime had been loosing the link with the reality. The military and political situation in Europe continued to change. The NATO States undertook steps (the enlargement of the Alliance) which led directly to the depreciation of the Adapted CFE Treaty. At the same time the flank limitations continued to discriminate against Russia, preventing our efforts against terror. The continued compliance of the "old" Treaty under such conditions threatened the Russian national interests in the sphere of the military security. All of it did not leave us any choice but to suspend the application of the CFE Treaty.
In practical terms the suspension means that the provision of information, conduct and acceptance of inspections under the CFE Treaty regime are brought to a halt. During the suspension period Russia is not bound by the CFE Treaty limitations, including the flank limitations, on the number of conventional armaments. At the same time we do not plan their massive build up or concentration at the borders with our neighbors. In future the number of arms deployed and stationed would depend on the military and political situation and readiness of our partners to show restraint.
Although the CFE Treaty does not stipulate a suspension procedure, a State Party has the right to act so on the basis of the Article providing for the withdrawal from the Treaty. This right also stems from the general principle of Law and International Law, which is expressed in the maxim "he who has greater leeway is also entitled to the smaller leeway contained in it". The International Court of Justice used to repeatedly refer to this principle.
This approach with references to the above mentioned principle was confirmed during discussions on Law of International Treaties in the International Law Commission. We do not know if any member of the Commission ever challenged the right of a state to suspend observance of a treaty if this state has the right to withdraw from a treaty.
According to the Article 42.2 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (the Vienna Convention) the suspension of a Treaty may take place as a result of the application of the provisions of the Treaty or the Vienna Convention.
Based on this and in accordance with the Article XIX of the CFE Treaty each State Party, having the right to withdraw from this Treaty in exercising its national sovereignty, has the right to suspend the application of the CFE Treaty in relationship with the other States Parties.
Worth noting that the suspension of the Treaty in contrast to the withdrawal from it makes possible to recommence the application of the CFE Treaty obligations provided the specified problems are solved. By suspending the CFE Treaty Russia gives all States Parties a chance to restore the viability of the Treaty. Efforts to challenge the legality of our motion are qualified no less than unwillingness to make use of this chance.
The fact is that since April 2007 Russia has not stopped efforts aimed to reestablish the viability of the Europeans armaments control regime. We had several rounds of consultations within the Russia-NATO Council. The Extraordinary Conference of States Parties to the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe was held in Vienna on June 11-15. The conference was followed by a number of joint consultative meetings. The three unofficial meetings between the CFE Treaty States Parties, the Baltic States and Slovenia took place after. We also continued active work bilaterally and mainly through the Russian-American channel.
We have an impression that our partners expected concrete decisions from the Russian side (up to waiving the moratorium). At the same time they demonstrated readiness to discuss some of our concerns however without any pledges and guarantees and only after the Adapted CFE Treaty comes into force. This, of course, is not enough to save the regime of the Treaty.
It is necessary to underline that Russia suspended only the observance of the 1990 CFE Treaty obligations. As regards to the Adapted CFE Treaty we ratified the Agreement. We hope that all our partners will do the same without putting forward artificial conditions. In this case the Agreement will come into force. Since this process will take time we suggest temporary application of this document starting from appointed time.
To restore the viability of the CFE Treaty regime a number of steps should be taken.
1. The permitted conventional arms levels for the NATO countries should be lowered with a view to compensating for the additional potential acquired by the alliance as a result of its enlargement (this was done contrary to the letter and spirit of the CFE Treaty).
2. Secondly, that agreement should be reached on the parameters for “substantial combat forces” (under the 1997 Founding Act between Russian and NATO they must not be stationed on a permanent basis within foreign territories) and that the appropriate restraint be shown until this point.
3. Political decision should be taken to lift the flank limitations for Russia. These restrictions prevent our efforts against terrorism.
4. The new NATO members, namely the Baltic States and Slovenia, should be incorporated into the CFE Treaty. These countries entered NATO and significantly increased their armaments. Their non-participation in the Treaty became unjustified.
5. The modernization of the Adapted CFE Treaty should begin. This necessity is recognized by the Western experts.
We mean that agreement in priciple on all specified problems must be a part of a package decision, which would start the restoration process of the CFE Treaty viability.
We look forward to constructive reaction on our proposals and first of all from the NATO countries. The consultations which we started already confirm that comprehensive and professional talks on the basis of mutual respect of interests in security are needed.
The Russian Federation is ready to continue a result-oriented dialogue on the CFE Treaty after its suspension. We believe that such a dialogue will yield fruits provided other countries show political realism and will to search for mutually accepted decisions.
December 24, 2007