Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty)

Demilitarisation of a vehicle

Demilitarisation of a vehicle, © dpa-Zentralbild

17.02.2021 - Article

For a decade after it was signed in 1990, the CFE Treaty served as the cornerstone treaty on conventional disarmament and arms control in Europe. Although its importance has diminished in the years since, it remains a building block of Europe’s cooperative security architecture.

The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) was concluded in 1990 by the members of NATO at the time and the Warsaw Pact – which soon afterwards would be dissolved – and entered into force in 1992. The treaty intended to create a secure and stable balance of conventional armed forces at lower levels, as well as to eliminate the ability for launching a military surprise attack in Europe.

Already by the mid-nineties, some 60,000 heavy weapons systems had been destroyed in the States Parties pursuant to the treaty. These included battle tanks, artillery systems and combat aircraft. The CFE Treaty played a major part in ending the arms race in Europe and reducing military tensions following the end of the Cold War. Even today, the CFE system of notifications and on-site inspections enhances transparency and predictability, as well as mutual trust and cooperation.

In 1999, the States Parties agreed on an Adapted CFE Treaty with the intention of bringing the treaty in line with changes to the security policy environment in Europe. However, the majority of CFE States Parties considered its ratification to be impossible for as long as Russia failed to meet its voluntary commitment to completely withdraw its troops from Moldova and Georgia.

Russia unilaterally suspended implementation of the CFE Treaty in December 2007, in response to which NATO member countries and Moldova and Georgia ceased to implement the treaty as it relates to Russia at the end of 2011. In 2015, Ukraine followed suit. Russia furthermore suspended its participation in the Joint Consultative Group of the CFE Treaty in March 2015. All other States Parties are continuing to implement the treaty.

The German Government continues to regard conventional arms control in Europe as a crucial and indispensable part of any cooperative European security architecture. That is why the German Government is working actively to help bring about full implementation of the respective regimes, alongside comprehensive modernisation, expansion and a re-design of conventional arms control in Europe.

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