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April 1 – April 7, 2024
Security issues

Belarus Suspends CFE Treaty: Preparing for War?

The situation got worse
Belarus Suspends CFE Treaty: Preparing for War?
Фото: БелТА

The Lukashenka regime has initiated the suspension of Belarus’s participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). On one hand, this will prevent the transfer of information to Western countries about the numerical strength and assets of the Belarusian army. On the other hand, it will hide from Western inspectors and verifiers the activities related to the armed forces’ preparation for entering a war.

On April 5, Lukashenka agreed to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives on suspending the CFE Treaty.

After Russia completed its withdrawal from the CFE Treaty in November 2023, Belarus initially suspended the treaty’s application regarding Poland and the Czech Republic. It seems that Minsk still hoped to use formal mechanisms to collect information on the troop numbers of Western countries and to pass this data to Russia. However, immediately after this, some other Western participants, including the USA, withdrew from or suspended the treaty. Now, the discussion is about Belarus’s full suspension of the treaty.

Turkey immediately followed Minsk’s example: on April 5, President Erdogan signed an act suspending Ankara’s obligations under the CFE. The document took effect on April 8.

In Belarus, it is claimed that the suspension of the treaty by NATO member states and their allies effectively means the cessation of its operation. However, Lukashenka’s bill does not mean Belarus’s withdrawal from the treaty or the cessation of internal procedures related to its implementation within the Armed Forces. According to Minsk, it allegedly fully complies with the agreement’s obligations, including strictly adhering to established limits on the presence of weapons, military equipment, and personnel.

The CFE Treaty was originally signed by 22 countries in 1990 and came into effect two years later. It was based on a system of quantitative limitations on five major categories of conventional armaments and equipment: tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, attack helicopters, and combat aircraft. The treaty established their maximum numbers for the participating states, signed by NATO countries on one side and the Warsaw Pact states on the other.

In 1999, an adaptation agreement for the CFE was signed, accounting for NATO’s expansion, the Warsaw Pact’s loss of power, and the USSR’s dissolution. However, the amendments never came into effect: only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia ratified the treaty.

The Belarusian military department notes that Minsk decided to suspend the CFE due to the West ceasing to accept Belarusian inspections and ignoring some of the treaty’s provisions since 2022. Under these conditions, the Lukashenka regime sees no sense in providing Western countries with information about the number of weapons, military equipment, and personnel of the Belarusian Armed Forces.

For Belarus, the CFE quotas were no more than 100,000 personnel, no more than 1,800 tanks, 2,600 armored combat vehicles, 1,615 artillery units, 294 combat aircraft, and 80 attack helicopters. The Ministry of Defense declares that it does not plan to “significantly” increase the amount of military equipment.

However, this is related not to the regime’s goodwill but to the fact that Belarus is far from reaching the threshold values. The armed forces’ strength is nearly 65,000, including more than 46,000 servicemen. Additionally, the army has at its disposal 1,200 tanks (mostly various modifications of the T-72), over 2,000 armored vehicles (including 400 APCs and about 1,300 IFVs), about 40 combat aircraft, and 80 helicopters (of which about 30 are attack helicopters), as well as around 1,000 artillery units (482 self-propelled guns, 228 towed artillery units, 238 rocket launchers).

Thus, the regime continues to demonstrate “sincere” surprise and inadequacy in response to the military-political situation in Europe after 2022 and the West’s refusal to behave “transparently.” It is clear that in February 2022, Belarus intentionally misled Western countries about the nature, parameters, and objectives of the Russian Armed Forces’ military presence on its territory. Not to mention the fact of providing Russian troops with Belarusian territory for committing military aggression against Ukraine, all under the guise of conducting joint exercises “Union Resolve – 2022”.

Therefore, if the CFE was used for deception then, its suspension now, apparently, aims to hide something. For example, Belarus’s preparation for entering a war by preventing international inspectors and verifiers from accessing military sites.

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