State Department’s Response on CFE Treaty Too Little Too Late

Michaela Dodge /

The U.S. State Department recently announced that the United States will cease carrying out certain obligations under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty with regard to Russia. The CFE Treaty, which entered into force in 1992, sets ceilings on key armaments essential for conducting surprise attacks and initiating large-scale offensive operations among North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and former Warsaw Pact members. This is a late and absolutely inadequate response—after all, Russia ceased implementation of the treaty with respect to all other parties in 2007.

So what does the United States actually plan to do? “The United States will continue to implement the Treaty and carry out all obligations with all States Parties other than Russia, including not exceeding the numerical limits on conventional armaments and equipment established by the Treaty,” states the fact sheet. In addition, “the United States will voluntarily inform Russia of any significant change in our force posture in Europe.”

Russia has ignored the treaty for four years already. The State Department’s statement practically says that the United States will not significantly change anything following Russia’s actions.

The muted response is likely yet another piece of President Obama’s failing “reset” policy with Russia. To uphold the “reset,” the Administration agreed to cut U.S. strategic nuclear forces under New START, abandoned missile defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic, engaged Russia in missile defense talks, pursued a policy of geopolitical neglect in the former Soviet Union, and toned down criticism of political freedom violations in Russia. In return, Russia sent the United States a long list of demands followed by threats if these demands are not guaranteed. President and soon-to-be Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev just recently threatened that Russia will target the American missile defense system in Europe with its own missiles if Moscow cannot reach an agreement with Washington and NATO on how the system will be built and operated.

The United States and Russia should adopt fundamentally defensive strategic postures based on the “protect and defend” strategy. This defensive posture would employ offensive and defensive forces, both conventional and nuclear, to defeat any strategic attack on the U.S. and its allies.