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New Era Calls for Updated Conventional Forces Treaty

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 28, 1997 – U.S. and European officials are adapting the treaty governing military forces in Europe to better fit the region's new security environment.

In the end, fewer tanks, tracked vehicles and combat aircraft will be deployed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains.

Adapting the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty is an important development in the ongoing effort to build a post-Cold War security architecture for Europe, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said July 23 after announcing significant progress had been made by negotiators in Vienna.

The original treaty, signed by 30 nations including the United States and Russia, balanced the number of NATO and Warsaw Pact tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and helicopters in Europe. As a result, Warsaw Pact nations eliminated more than 50,000 pieces of combat equipment to bring their inventory in line with NATO.

Officials are now reworking the agreement to reflect the new era of democracy. Negotiators prepared a framework agreement to adapt certain basic treaty elements. National ceilings will replace the treaty's former structure of balancing NATO equipment and an equal amount for the Warsaw Pact.

"Each country will be given its own individual ceiling for how much equipment it can have in the area of application in Europe," said Robert Bell, National Security Council director, at a White House briefing.

Once the new ceilings are set among the 30 nations, Bell said, the amount of combat equipment in Europe will be significantly lower than was allowed under the original treaty. The agreement will not necessarily further reduce U.S. military forces in Europe, he said. "We have the right to have a lot more equipment in Europe today than we have deployed there."

Along with national ceilings, some countries or territories will be limited in the amount of equipment that can be on their soil, Bell said. This will prevent an outside nation from building up forces in other countries.

Negotiators are also working on provisions to control how much equipment could be brought temporarily into certain regions. Under the original treaty, NATO wanted to be able to reinforce Norway in a crisis, for example, so it built in a provision to allow extra equipment to be brought in.

The adapted treaty will also continue a flank provision, ratified by the U.S. Senate in May, which ensured reducing the amount of equipment in Europe would not lead to "a build-up of then-Soviet striking power on Europe's northern and southern flanks," Bell said.

He said negotiators hope to finish the details of the adapted treaty within a year, adding: "The devil is always in the details in many cases, and there are going to be some hard negotiations to follow."

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