Updated: 7 July 2000 NATO Basic Texts

Part III

Key Policy

Statement issued by the North Atlantic Council on Conventional Arms Control

Brussels, 9 December 1988

1. In their statement ``Conventional Arms Control: The Way Ahead'', the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in March 1988 emphasised that the imbalance in conventional forces remains at the core of Europe's security concerns. We shall be presenting specific proposals at the negotiating table to redress this imbalance.

2. We look forward to the early commencement of the two negotiations we have proposed: one on conventional stability between the 23 members of the two military Alliances in Europe and one on confidence and security-building measures among all 35 signatories of the Helsinki Final Act.

3. In these negotiations we will be guided by:

  • the conviction that the existing military confrontation is the result, not the cause, of the painful division of Europe;
  • the principle of the indivisible security of all our nations. We shall reject calls for partial security arrangements or proposals aimed at separate agreements;
  • the hope that the new thinking in the Soviet Union will open the way for mutual agreement on realistic, militarily significant and verifiable arrangements which enhance security at lower levels.

Towards Stability

4. The major threat to stability in Europe comes from those weapons systems which are capable of mounting large-scale offensive operations and of seizing and holding territory. These are above all main battle tanks, artillery and armoured troop carriers. It is in these very systems that the East has such a massive preponderance. Indeed, the Soviet Union itself possesses more tanks and artillery than all the other members of the Warsaw Pact and the Alliance combined. And they are concentrated in a manner which raises grave concerns about the strategy which they are intended to support as well as their role in maintaining the division of Europe.

5. The reductions announced by the Soviet Union are a positive contribution to correcting this situation. They indicate the seriousness with which the conventional imbalances which we have long highlighted as a key problem of European security are now also addressed by the Soviet government. We also welcome the declared readiness of the Soviet Union to adjust their force posture. The important thing is now to build on these hopeful developments at the negotiating table in order to correct the large asymmetries that will still remain and to secure a balance at lower levels of forces. For this, it will be necessary to deal with the location, nationality and the state of readiness of forces, as well as their numbers. Our proposals will address these issues in the following specific ways:

We shall propose an overall limit on the total holdings of armaments in Europe. This limit should be substantially lower than existing levels, in the case of tanks close to a half. This would mean an overall limit of about 40,000 tanks. In our concept of stability, no country should be able to dominate the continent by force of arms. We shall therefore also propose that no country should be entitled to possess more than a fixed proportion, such as 30 percent, of the total holdings in Europe of the 23 participants in each equipment category. In the case of tanks, this would result in an entitlement of no more than about 12,000 tanks for any one country.

Limiting numbers and nationality of forces would not by itself affect the stationing of forces on other countries' territory. Stationed forces, particularly those in active combat units, are especially relevant to surprise attack. We shall propose limits on such forces. Our proposal will apply to the whole of Europe. In order to avoid undue concentration of these weapon categories in certain areas of Europe, we shall propose appropriate sub-limits.

6. To buttress the resulting reductions in force levels in the whole of Europe, we shall propose stabilising measures. These could include measures of transparency, notifications and constraint applied to the deployment, movement and levels of readiness of conventional armed forces, which include conven- tional armaments and equipment.

7. Finally, we shall require a rigorous and reliable regime for monitoring and verification. This would include the periodic exchange of detailed data about forces and deployments, and the right to conduct on-site inspections.

Towards transparency

8. Greater transparency is an essential requirement for real stability. Therefore, within the framework of the CSCE process, the negotiations on confidence and security-building measures form an essential complement to those on conventional stability. We are encouraged thus far by the successful implementation of the Stockholm Document and we consider that the momentum must be maintained.

9. In order to create transparency of military organisation, we plan to introduce a proposal for a wide-ranging, comprehensive annual exchange of information concerning military organisa- tion, manpower and equipment as well as major weapon deployment programmes. To evaluate this information we will propose modalities for the establishment of a random evaluation system.

10. In addition, in order to build on the success of the Stockholm Document and to create greater transparency of military activities, we will propose measures in areas such as:

  • more detailed information with regard to the notification of military exercises,
  • improvements in the arrangements for observing military activities,
  • greater openness and predictability about military activities,
  • a strengthening of the regime for ensuring compliance and verification.

11. Finally, we shall propose additional measures designed to improve contacts and communications between participating states in the military field; to enhance access for military staffs and media representatives; and to increase mutual understanding of military capabilities, behaviour and force postures. We will also propose modalities for an organised exchange of views on military doctrine tied to actual force structures, capabilities and dispositions in Europe.

A vision for Europe

12. We will pursue these distinct negotiations within the frame- work of the CSCE process, because we believe that a secure peace cannot be achieved without steady progress on all aspects of the confrontation which has divided Europe for more than four decades. Moreover, redressing the disparity in conventional forces in Europe would remove an obstacle to the achievement of the better political relationship between all states of Europe to which we aspire. Conventional arms control must therefore be seen as part of a dynamic process which addresses the military, political, and human aspects of this division.

13. The implementation of our present proposals and of those we are making for further CSBMs will involve a quantum improvement in European security. We will wish to agree and implement them as soon as possible. In the light of their implementation we would then be willing to contemplate further steps to enhance stability and security in Europe, for example:

  • further reductions or limitations of conventional arma- ments and equipment;
  • the restructuring of armed forces to enhance defensive capabilities and further reduce offensive capabilities.

Our vision remains that of a continent where military forces only exist to prevent war and to ensure self defence, not for the purpose of initiating aggression or for political or military intimidation.

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