Mutual Balance Force Reduction in Europe

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Mutual Balance Force Reduction in Europe

July 8, 1977 13 min read Download Report
Charles Baroch
F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy

(Archived document, may contain errors)

22 July 8, 1977 MUTUAL BALANCED FORCE REDUCTION IN EUROPE THE FORGOTTEN LINKAGE I, HIST OR I CAI SURVFY Despite persistent Soviet cl aims about their leading role in disarmament initiatives, the historical record clearly shows that, in Europe at least, the NATO alliance has been pressing for arms control and disarmament measures for at'least six years prior to the official talks with t h e Warsaw Pact, which finally started in 1973 The Harmel Report on NATO's general strategy, approved in December 1967, first mentioned that the Allies were studying disarmament and arms control, "including the possibility of balanced force reductions." In J une 1968 the NATO ministers meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, addressed itself even more urgently to that problem. The ministers directed their perma nent representatives to further pursue the work on force re- ductions in Europe and at the same time called on the Warsaw Pact states to join in that effort.

The Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in August 1968 created an unfavorable climate for any East-West negotiations.

Moreover, it resulted in permanent stationing of five extra Soviet divisions the re, variously estimated at between 80 100,000 men. The justification of the intervention by the so called "socialist commonwealth" the right to collectively defend the conquests of socialism--indicated inherent difficulties in the search for a force reduc t ion in Central Europe I NOTE: Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress. -2 Nevertheless, the NATO Council meeting in Ro m e, May 1970 again took up the problem of force reduction in Europe and invited interested parties to hold exploratory talks A NATO meeting in Brussels and the mission of Manlio Brosio to Moscow in 1971 also pursued force reductions any response, however, did not discourage the NATO governments.

On November 15, 1972, after Dr. Kissinger's September visit to Moscow--where his discussions allegedly linked the CSCE con ference to force reduction negotiations they- invited -the governments of the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungsry, Czechoslovakia and East Germany to begin exploratory talks in Geneva on eventual MBFR negotiations The lack of The Warsaw Pact countries took their time in formally replying to the NATO proposals. In a Soviet note handed to twelve NATO re presentatives on January 18, 1973, their counter-proposal sug gested, however, that the exploratory talks should be opened to all interested countries and held in Vienna, not in Geneva. The NATO governments, in their eagerness to preserve the parallel lin k age of the force reduction negotiations with the CSCE talks already in progress, acquiesced to the change of site and set the date for exploratory talks for January 31 FXPl ORATOR Y TAI K S The topic for discussion which dragged on for weeks was settle me n t of the first procedural step: agreement on which countries would participate. Initially, the Western powers proposed con centrating on reducing forces in Central Europe and limiting the number of participants to seven NATO countries U.S Great Britain, W est Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Canada: and five Warsaw Pact countries: USSR, GDR, Poland Hungary, Czechoslovakia. Other countries were to be admitted as interested observers.

The Soviet note pressed for the inclusion at the minimum, of Bulgaria and Rumania. At the maximum it asserted that the com position of the preparatory meeting should not preclude the right of other countries to become parties to the agreement or agree ments of force reductions, thus leaving the door open for oth e r countries to join the talks later. NATO rejected this suggestion I The next Soviet countermove was to propose that Hungary's status should be reduced from a full-fledged participant to observer 1 See William Safire, "Super Yalta New York Times, July 28 1975; p.

2. Also, Hedrick Smith, "Soviet Seen Stalling on Troop Cuts to Break Link to Security Talks New York Times, May 6, 1973 3 status, thus excluding some 40,000 Soviet troops stationed there from negotiated reductions. Otherwise, the Soviet delegatio n argued, all Allied forces stationed in Italy should be included into the overall Western forces subject. twre.duction.

The issue of Hungary's status, which stalled the preparatory talks, was finally left open, in a sort-of compromise, in which Hungary was assigned the status of a special participant but the West has reserved the right to raise the issue again.

The Soviet delegation also strongly objected to the use of the word "balanced" in the title of the Vienna talks. Bal anced reduction is actually a key element in the NATO formula To create the East-West equilibrium in ground forces as well as weaponry, the Warsaw Pact would have to reduce the size of 1 its armies in an assymetrical way, since, first of all, its ground forces and armor in the Centr al European area are con siderably larger than NATO. Moreover, as regards reinforce ment capability, since the USSR is much closer to the area, it has a significant geographical advantage over the W.S whose territory is 3,200 miles away.

The Soviet Union h as rejected the evidence of imbalance and insisted on "equal security". It suggested a new title for the conference: "Mutual Reductions of Forces and Armaments and Associated Measures in Central Europe MURFAAMCE). This wide discrepancy in initial position s did not augur well for the opening of the substantive talks, which began on October 30 1973, and have been continuing since, in what until now appears to be a solidly stalemated conference. s- JIID THE SUBSTANTIVF TAI K After'the first round, which opene d in October and lasted until December 14, 1973, there have been three rounds annually of about ten weeks duration, or about 700 total meeting days 2 New York Times editorial, June 2, 1974, p. 32 2 resident, deputy U.S. representative, three senior advisor s representing the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency the Sec retary of the delegation, seven staff officers, eight secre taries and three communicators. The nonpermanent members usually consist of s ix staff officers and three secretaries.

Thus, the United States must provide salaries, accommodations and travel for thirty-three..:people The United States delegation consists of the permanent '7 -4 The official title of the conference is negotiations on The Mutual Reduction of Forces and Armaments and Associated Measures in Central Europe." The NATO delegations still re fer to it informally as MBFR or "mutual, balanced force re duction, but already during the exploratory'talks, due to the vehement Sovie t objections, the Western delegates were compel led to a ree to eliminate the word "balanced" from the talk's title.(lg succeeded in retaining the concept.

The West consoles itself with the belief that it The geographical area concerned comprises, on NATO' s side Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the Federal Republic of Germany; and on the Warsaw Pact side, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, and Czechoslovakia T h As can be seen from this list of par-t~c-ipan~s ri-~~e~ r i Hungary is not considered part of Centr-a1 Europe, aggin -at the insistence of the USSR, despite four Soviet divisions stationed there. The status of Hungary remained open, with Western nego tiators reserving the right to raise the question again Nevertheless, as of now , Hungary is listed officially in the category of special participants, i.e., countries which do not have forces in Central Europe and would not sign agreements, to gether with Bulgaria and Rumania from the Warsaw Pact. The NATO special participants are: D enmark, Greece, Italy, Norway, and Turkey.

Thus, the MBFR conference opened with -two significant NATO concessions, even though the Western alliance considers them only technical and possibly temporary JV, NRT 0 AND WARSAW PACT PR OPOSALS The importance of these concessions (no firm Warsaw Pact com mitment .to "balanced" reduction and exclusion of Hungary from the Central Europe reduction area) will become even more ob vious in discussing the scope of the reductions. According to Western sources, significa n t disparities exist between the NATO and Warsaw Pact ground and air forces in the Central Europe re duction area. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the U.S. has about 190,000 troops there and the Soviet Union, 430,0 0 0 (plus four Soviet divisions in Hungary, two of them tank divisions). Other NATO forces in 1 See C. L. Sulzberger NO Longer Any B For Balanced New York'Times, July 11, 1973, p. 39 5 the region total 529,000 men, while the Soviet Union's allies Czechoslov akia, East Germany, and Pol-and, have 441,0

00. The State Department RBFR fact shee-t o-ffers slightl-y: Ciiffererit figures of 777,000 NATO troops versus 925,000 Warsaw Pact ground force manpower. The disparity, however, remains the same, about 150,000 me n. The Warsaw Pact preponderance in armaments is much greater with its 15,500 tanks and 2,770 tactical aircraft stationed in the regions against NATO's 6,000 tanks and 1,220 tactical aircraft.

As for the NATO effort to equalize the disparity by balanced or "assymetrical reduction, the Soviet reaction at the con ference was quite predictable. As early as 1972, a year be fore the beginning of the Vienna talks, the Soviet official attitude toward f orce reductions in Europe was frankly dis cussed in Soviet sources. For instance, World Economics and International Relations carried two articles by Yuriy Kostko in its June and September 1972, issues. Obviously inspired by the official policy line, the a uthor flatly stated that the Soviet Union rejected various NATO and other Western models requring assymetrical redirection of armed forces because of alleged Warsaw Pact superiority in men and armor. His strongly worded clarification of the Soviet positio n on troop reductions in Europe in substance revealed the Warsaw Pact proposal made after the official opening of the Vienna talks and upheld, with minor changes, throughout the eleven rounds 1973-1977 This proposal is based on the principle of strict pari ty reduction of foreign and national armed forces within the agreed area and under an agreed deadline. All participating states would pledge to include ground, air forces, and nuclear weapons in all states of reduction.

Stage 1. The U.S., Belgium, Britain, Canada, Luxembourg and the Netherlands reduce their troops by 20,000 men along with their equipment. Simultaneously, the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia reduce their own troops by 20,000 Stage 2 forces by five percent.

Each partici pating state will reduce its 1 tinued Soviet efforts to bolster its conventional forces in the region. See Drew Middleton Soviet Sharpens Forces in Europe New York Times, April 18, 1976 These figures may be obsolete in 1977 because of con 6 Stage 3 percen tage basis will follow l A further ten percent reduction on an equal This would amount to approximately seventeen percent reduc tions of NATO as well as Warsaw Pact forces in three annual stages.

On November 22, 1973, the NATO countries submitted their own proposal, which is based on a set of assumptions and concepts at variance, if not diametrically opposed, to those of the Warsaw Pac Assuming considerable disparity in ground forces and arrnor,t2) the NATO proposes reductions in two phases.

Phase I; The Soviets would withdraw a tank army of 68,000 soldiers and 1,700 tanks from the area. The United States would withdraw 29,'OOO soldiers.

Thus, First Phase reductions would affect only the U.S. and Soviet forces stationed in the reduction area. At the same t ime, both sides would agree on the concept of "common ceil ing" in ground force manpower, to be reached at the end of Phase 11. The common ceiling is a maximum total NATO has suggested it be set at 700,000 soldiers which could not be exceeded by either si de.

Phase 11 would be reduced to meet the common ceiling The ground forces of direct participants These two original proposals by NATO and the Warsaw Pact have remained virtually unchanged during the eleven negotiation rounds, despite minor "concessions" o n both sides. Thus, the Soviet Union offered to accept higher percentage cuts in its forces stationed in Central Europe as a part of Phase meet NATO's suggestion. The U.S. later proposed to withdraw 1,000 tactical nuclear weapons from Western Europe in return for the retirement from Central Europe of a Soviet tank army normally 1,700 tanks and 65,000 men.

This diplomatic "horsetrading" did very little to bridge the gap between the two proposals finally provided NATO with figures on its troop strength which to Western experts appeared too low to represent the factual basis for any troop reduction In June 1976, the Warsaw Pact 1 See V. Viktorov At the Vienna Talks", International Life (in Russian No. 7, 1974, pp. 27-28 2 Intelligence estimates are liste d on page 5. -7 Thus, after more than four years of bargaining in Vienna both sides are as far apart as when they started, and it requires a considerable degree of optimism to share Presi dent Carter's hopes on the MBFR as ex.pressed7h %Zs re cent address t o the NATO conference in London I hope that our countries can also reach agreement with the Soviet Union in limiting and reducing con ventional forces. The United States strongly sup ports the efforts of the alliance to gain an accord on mutual and balanc e d reduction of forces in Central Europe. That agreement should be based on parity in force levels through overall ceilings for the forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pa The Soviet Union, by contrast, seeks to preserve the present conventional imbalance and to i mpose national force ceilings I hope that these obstacles can be overcome must be a means for achieving mutual security, not for gaining one-sided military advantage MBFR V, SOVIFT F 4BFR AIM S The question arises as to what are the ulterior motives of th e Warsaw Pact and especially Soviet behavior at the Vienna talks.

In other words, what are they trying to achieve by their pro posals, which are obviously aimed at perpetuating their military superiority In the opinion of many Western experts, the War saw Pact military build-up far surpasses any reasonable defense needs power, ostensibly organized for attack, could be "the basis for political blackmail against weaker members of NATO I (2 The specific thrust of the Warsaw Pact negotators, stubbornly pursued since the opening of the talks, has been well summarized by a NATO spokesman at the end of round X (December 16, 1976 Many Europeans therefore fear that Soviet military 1 New York Times, May 11, 1977, p. A14 2 See Drew Middleton, "Soviet Sharpens. Force i n Europe New York Times, April 18, 1976, and "Anxieties About NATO, New York Times, December 10, 19

76. See also NATO and the New Soviet Threat, Report of Senators Nunn and Bartlett to the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, January 24, 1977. -8 The East is still calling for equal percentage re ductions of all forces and armaments by all direct participants. The East's proposals, if implemented would contractualize in treaty form the Eastern superiority in soldiers and tanks and other major armaments . The Eastern approach would also impose national ceilings on the post-reduction levels of the forces of every direct participant, thus interfering with NATO's integrated defense system and prejudicin, the future organization of Western European defense. 9 1 1 A closer look at the Warsaw.Ppct stance will r reveal-that the Soviet Union is using the' MBFR talks a's<_2c_z _vehic.l27_e="" for="" _24_ro="" moting="" its="" long-standing="" european="" _policy3b_="" _namely2c_="" to="" create="" a="" socialist="" europe="" under="" soviet="" control="" achieve="" this="" aim="" four="" m="" ain="" targets="" have="" been="" selected="selected" primary="" obstacles="" that="" policy="" the="" united="" states="" _presence2c_="" _nato2c_="" economic="" _community2c_="" and="" federal="" republic="" of="">

The substantial weakening or even elimination of U.S. nuclear arms system in Western Eur ope, which is part of the Soviet re duction model, is aimed not so much at impairing the West Euro pean defense system as it is at the uncoupling of the special relationship between the United States and Western Europe. The reduced risk of confrontation w ith the United States would give Soviet diplomacy much greater leverage for political pressure against individual West European states, backed by overwhelming Soviet conventional military superiority on the continent.

The Soviet proposal strongly emphasize s that mutual force re duction may not be a bloc-to-bloc affair. Hence, its insistence on "national ceilings" for armed forces levels of each direct participant. The Soviet government is apparently also trying to insert clauses in the -MBFR agreement Ghic h c'ould serve-as starting-points for Soviet claims to have a role in NATO poli tical and military decisions, thus exploiting "the inter imperialist" contradictions This approach also serves the Soviet policy of preventing a clo ser union of West European s tates through an accelerated inte gration process, which would give Western Europe its due weight in inter-state relations. Another implication of the "national ceilings" formula seems to be that the West European countries which may decide to cooperate i n -security matters and merge corresponding facilities would .v.ioiate ,the MBFR 'agreement 1 p. 3 Release of the' U. S Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, -9 One of the primary Soviet objectives for the MBFR nego tiations is a decisive reduction of the ar med.forces of the FRG l defense forces and which, in case of a.conflict, could be given access to U.S. tactical nuclear weapons.

In distinction to the forces of the two superpowers, the mili tary units of the other European participants included in the red uction process would have to be demobilized, which would particularly affect the West German army, the largest component of NATO which represents the backbone. of West European ground At the end of round XI (April 15, 1977 while still profess ing official diplomatic optimism, Ambassador Resor, head of the U.S. delegation, gave this sombre summary We are disappointed that there has not been more progress in the past round to believe that a basis for progress exists, if the East moves to a more realistic app roach which does take account of the real and important differences among the direct participants in these negotiations.

The Western approach does this However, we continue In the meantime, round XI1 has started in Vienna on May 9.

While there have been no official Western statements, TASS, the Soviet'government press agency, issued a press release on June 3 summarizing the speech by the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic delegation chief, Ambassador G. Meisner.

He stressed the importance of principles of mutual and equal obligations and the necessity of reducing all types of armed forces ground as well as air forces and units armed with nuclear weapons or capable of acquiring them.

The ambassador also emphasized that the direct partic ipants in the negotiations should strictly adhere to the same system and reduce their armed forces by entire units and subunits, together with their weapons and military equipment 1 See Michael Getler, "Cuts in Bonn Army Called Soviet Goal", Washington Po s t, January 22, 1976, p. A21 10 In addition, the Ambassador criticized Western proposals and the general attitude of NATO countries. In the light of the above principles, according to TASS he especially objected to the Western model of as symetrical reduct ions according to which the social ist states would have to reduce their armed forces three times as much as the West.

He also reiterated the timely proposal of the delegations of socialist countries suggesting that direct participants will undertake the obligation of not increasing their armed forces during the negotiations.

Since Ambassador Meisner is a spokesman for the-Wars-aw Pact participants, his statement indicates that the .MBF.R negoti-a tions are still as solidly deadlocked as ever In view of th ese Soviet objectives and the unbridgeable gap between the positions taken by the two negotiating camps in Vienna, the question arises whether there is any purpose in continuing these protracted talks. There exists, moreover a danger that domestic pressur e s in West Europe or in the U.S. will result in unilateral concessions on NATO's part portunity for which the Soviet Union is patiently waiting an op Charles; the request of The Heritage Foundation See Pravda, June 4, 1977, p. 5.


Charles Baroch

F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy