Belarus the latest European country to suspend the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe

Belarus the latest European country to suspend the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe
Russia was the first to go, pulling out of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces ,in Europe which immediately led to Nato suspending the security pact. Now Belarus and Turkey have also suspended the deal as yet another Cold War security deal is ended. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews April 10, 2024

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has ordered the suspension of Belarus’ participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) on April 5, as Belarus continues to militarise and keep its ties with Russia tight.

Withdrawal from the treaty obscures monitoring of the strength and activities of its military from Western scrutiny. The security pact restricts the use and movement of conventional forces in weapons and is designed to manage military tensions in Europe. Signed in 1990, its purpose was to stop Cold War rivals from building up forces that could be used in a swift assault.

This decision comes after Belarus had already limited the treaty's application concerning Poland and the Czech Republic, in hopes of still leveraging it to gather intelligence on Western military numbers for Russia. However, this strategy became untenable as other Western nations, including the US, started to pull back from the treaty.

Russia formally pulled out of the treaty in November last year, saying the expansion of US-led Nato had made the pact untenable. Russia has already moved soldiers and weapons to the Republic, including nuclear missiles that threaten the whole of Europe.

Nato immediately suspended its operations for the CFE in response, to which most of its members were signatories.

"Allies condemn Russia's decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), and its war of aggression against Ukraine which is contrary to the Treaty's objectives," Nato said in a statement at the time.

Russia’s decision to leave the CFE came less than a week after President Vladimir Putin revoked his country’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which outlaws all nuclear weapon tests, and test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads from one of its submarines. Russia has also suspended the START missile treaty signed in January 2021.

Both the United States and Russia pulled out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, with each country citing violations from the other as grounds for their withdrawal as one Cold War-era security deal after another falls away.

Minsk's decision to suspend the CFE Treaty has been justified by claims that Nato member states and their allies' actions have rendered the treaty inoperative. Yet, Lukashenka's bill stops short of a complete withdrawal, maintaining internal compliance procedures within the Belarusian Armed Forces. The Belarusian government insists it adheres to the treaty's obligations, including restrictions on weapon and personnel numbers.

The CFE Treaty, established in 1990 and effective from 1992, set quantitative limits on major conventional armaments across Europe, aimed at preventing the escalation of military tensions. Despite an updated agreement in 1999 to reflect geopolitical shifts, such as Nato expansion and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR, these amendments were never enacted, with only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine,and Russia ratifying the adapted treaty.

Belarus's Ministry of Defence cites the West's refusal to accept inspections and its non-compliance with certain treaty provisions since 2022 as reasons for the suspension. The ministry also stated that despite the suspension, there are no plans to significantly increase military capacities, asserting that current levels remain well below the treaty's maximum allowances.

Turkey has also suspended its obligations under the CFE Treaty on April 5, that came into effect three days later, the same day as Lukashenko’s announcement. Turkey has the biggest standing army in Europe and has been a prickly partner of the EU, trying to keep to the middle ground in the conflict between Russia and the West.

Ankara said the treaty no longer makes sense, as no one is actually complying with its terms in the present situation. However, Turkish media noted that Turkey’s decision to suspend the implementation of its obligations may be reversible.