NATO’s Role in Military Activities Control and Confidence Building Measures in Europe
Yuriy RUBTSOV | 01.12.2015 | FEATURED STORY

NATO’s Role in Military Activities Control and Confidence Building Measures in Europe

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called for modernizing the European «rule-book» in his article published in several European newspapers (Le Figaro, El Pais, La Repubblica, Le Soir, Die Welt, Tages-Anzeiger, and Tribune de Genève) on Thursday, 26 November 2015.

The author focused on the Vienna Document (the November 2011 version), an agreement between the participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was intended to implement confidence and security building measures in Europe. 

Today, the Vienna Document is the most comprehensive agreement regulating the military aspects of confidence and security. It applies to all OSCE member states. The agreement dates back to the 1986 Stockholm conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and Disarmament in Europe which took place at the time when Europe was divided into NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

The further negotiations on confidence- and security-building measures culminated in the signing of the Vienna Document in 1990 after the end of the Cold War. It was updated during the 1986 Stockholm conference and Vienna conferences of 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1999. The version of the Vienna Document currently in effect was adopted at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Vilnius on 6 December 2011.

The participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have adopted a series of Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs), including the prior notification and observation of certain military activities, exchange of an annual calendar for such activities. The parties have agreed to invite observers in case military activities above certain levels took place. 

Many years have passed. The USSR and the Warsaw Treaty became things of the past. Russia’s Western partners chose a «closed» architecture of European security based on NATO expansion to the detriment of all-European process. No matter, the balance of forces was tipped in the favor of the West, Russia, the successor of the Soviet Union, strictly abided by the agreement. Furthermore, Russia made a significant contribution to further modernization of the Vienna Document of 1990 version that was revamped four times afterwards.

Unlike the previous versions, the 2011 document included the provisions to upgrade it every five years according to the decisions adopted by the OSCE forums.

It would be logical to surmise that Mr. Stoltenberg wrote the article to emphasize the need to introduce amendments in view that the five-year period is going to expire next year. However, this is not the case. The article pursues quite different goals that have nothing to do with the confidence building measures in Europe. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said the Secretary General put the blame on Russia accusing it of violating the existing agreements or seeking loopholes to deviate from compliance with the provisions but offered no evidence to support the accusations. 

Russia is rebuked for introducing a moratorium on the 1990 version of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) in 2007. It tore up the Treaty this March. Looks like the NATO Secretary General does not realize that the agreement was not concluded in vacuum. It was signed to meet certain conditions and address certain problems at the time when the Cold War and the stand-off between the two alliances was over – something the West recalls so often.

Now Russia is offered to get back to the limitations of late 1980s. A quarter of century has passed. The military balance has been drastically changed. The Russia's military is only one fifth the size of the Soviet Armed Forces, it is no match for the Soviet Union’s military might while NATO’s military potential has grown exponentially with Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, the former Warsaw Treaty members joining NATO. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Slovenia were the last ones to join the Alliance. The latter were not parties to the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement at the time it was signed. NATO is free to increase its presence on the territories of these countries without any restrictions.

Actually, from the very first days of its existence the Russian Federation called on its partners to take into consideration the new realities. In 1999 the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty was signed at the Forum of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The main difference with the earlier treaty was that the troop ceilings on a bloc-to-bloc basis (NATO vs. the Warsaw Pact) were to be replaced with a system of national and territorial ceilings. Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine are the only states to ratify the agreement after its signature. Is Stoltenberg not aware of this fact? He does not rebuke those who have no intention to comply with the treaty. But he does blame Russia, the country that has been waiting so long for goodwill gestures on the part of its partners. The threat from the West has been growing. There is no use to continue pretending Russia is not concerned over the threat posed by inefficiency of confidence building measures in Europe.

The Russia’s patience has its limits. NATO openly violated the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement by deploying forces in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, boosting armor units in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. The US plans to deploy new (B61-12 nuclear precision guided munitions) tactical weapons in Europe.

The Secretary General knows it well. The article is written to boost public support for the policy of the Alliance to «deter» Russia and further tip the balance of forces in the region into NATO’s favor, especially in the vicinity of Russian borders. These efforts have intensified to put into question (as the Russian Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted) the validity of another document – The Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation. The document outlines the commitment not to deploy substantial combat forces in the territories of countries in question on a permanent basis (without making precise what is exactly meant by the term «substantial forces» – translator’s note).

With all that, Russia is blamed for massive concentration of forces in the vicinity of Ukraine’s border. NATO knows well these accusations of provocative nature are baseless. The Russia’s military activities are verified in accordance with the Vienna Document and the Open Skies Treaty, which establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its signatories.

The facts adduced by the Russian Foreign Ministry in its statement are impossible to reject: the United States and its allies have committed serious violations of the 2011 Vienna Document – an effective instrument of control over OSCE member’s military activities. The review process is to start in a month. The prospects for success are dim, but it’s not Moscow’s fault.

Looks like the time is ripe for a holistic review of the European and international arms control and security regime. It includes the Russia-NATO Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and the START III (the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation on drastic reduction of the deployed strategic nuclear weapons arsenals of both countries), as well as other documents. The time is propitious to remember the European Security Treaty proposed by Russia in late 2009 to be rejected by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

Europe needs a profound review of the existing security arrangements. To be effective the proposed changes should address real issues instead of being worked out using NATO template.