Technology & Trade
Policy Paper

Verifying Conventional Force Reductions

in Program

At the NATO Summit meeting in May 1989, President George Bush asked the Western Allies to join in proposing the most far-reaching conventional arms reductions ever offered in any negotiation. Moreover, he urged that agreement be reached within six months to a year and that reductions be accomplished by 1992 or 1993. This challenge will not be easily met since the issues still to be decided are fraught with political and technical complexities.

Agreeing on what forces are to be reduced and by how much will prove to be a daunting undertaking. But the task of negotiating a verification regime which is acceptable to all 23 participating states is even more complicated. There is more at stake than monitoring residual forces . Fundamental national geostrategic interests, both political and military, are entwined in the bargain. In designing a verification package for the conventional armed forces in Europe (CFE) talks, each state will both represent and confront differing political objectives and initiatives. In this context, there is not Europe; rather, there are 21 European states plus the two North American countries, each representing specific cultural and historical experiences.

In these negotiations, the Soviet Union must now contend with the newly found autonomy of its Warsaw Pact allies. The United States must also recognize that its allies will insist on playing an increasing role in managing European security issues emerging from the arms control process . As a result, verification of a CFE agreement will be a multilateral undertaking in which each of the sixteen NATO countries will play a vital role.

Since individual allies must consider both the political and security implications of unprecedented conventional force reductions, each will insist on defining the limits of intrusiveness acceptable in the various monitoring schemes to be negotiated. Moreover, each will want to be an active and full participant in the monitoring and verification process. For its part, the US cannot impose its verification standards upon the European allies who will bear the brunt of whatever intrusive measures are agreed.

The resulting multilateralization of conventional arms control verification will break new ground for much of the verification community in the United States . National Technical Means (NTM) of intelligence-gathering, which undergird the American approach to verifying nuclear and bilateral agreements, cannot be the sole determinant in an Alliance-wide verification strategy. In some Western political circles there is suspicion that the United States has used its satellite monitoring capabilities for political purposes . For this and other reasons, security analysts and politicians alike are looking to the acquisition of a European-based capability for monitoring multilateral arms control agreements.  As a result, cooperative measures such as on-site inspections and aircraft overflights will play a much more important role in verifying a CFE agreement than will the utilization of technical means . Nevertheless, cooperative measures will complement NTM, for the latter will, as Jonathan Dean states, remain the most important single resource for verifying a CFE agreement. As part of this process, a mechanism will have to be found to share appropriate data from each alliance member’s NTM with its allies.

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