November 20, 1999

NYT - Summit in Turkey Places New Limits on Europe's Arms


ISTANBUL -- World leaders ended a 54-nation summit meeting on European security Friday with the adoption of stiff new limits on the size of conventional armaments in Europe and a new charter proclaiming that local conflicts were the legitimate concern of all European states.

But the main issue at the meeting of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe -- Russia's war in Chechnya -- yielded only a call for a political settlement and a future visit by an official of the organization, despite all the criticism heaped on Moscow by participants.

After a fiery defense of Russia's offensive against its maverick republic by President Boris N. Yeltsin on Thursday, Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov said the timing of the visit by the organization's envoy, Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek of Norway, was still to be negotiated.

Ivanov said he would be allowed to visit only areas controlled by the Russian military, "because we don't want him to become a hostage."

Still, President Clinton declared himself encouraged by Russia's acceptance of the visit and of the new charter: "We've got a lot of turns in the road in Chechnya before it's resolved, but I would say that compared to how things were when we all got here, those are the two things that I'm hopeful about."

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany called the outcome a "respectable compromise," saying there had been moments when the summit meeting seemed about to collapse. He also noted that hard bargaining remained with Moscow over the terms of the visit.

Ivanov also joined Clinton and the leaders of 28 other nations in signing an updated agreement limiting conventional weapons in Europe. But the Russian acknowledged that his country would not meet the new limits until after it had concluded its operations in the Caucasus.

For his part, Clinton said he would not present the accord to the Senate until after the Russians came under the limits and the fighting in Chechnya had ceased.

Nonetheless, the new treaty was seen as a significant adaptation to the new realities of post-Communist Europe, cutting ceilings on tanks, combat vehicles, artillery and combat aircraft by about half from those set in 1990, when the goal was still to restrict the possibility of large-scale war between NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.

"The adapted treaty will place legally binding limits on the armed forced of every individual country that is party to it, from the Atlantic to the Urals," Clinton said after the signing ceremony.

In addition to expanding the original treaty from 20 nations to 30 and reducing the quantities of heavy armament, the new treaty simplified procedures for inspection and verification. Officials noted that the new ceilings would not have applied to the NATO operation in Kosovo, first because it was mandated by the United Nations, and second because Yugoslavia's membership in the Organization for Security and Cooperation had been suspended since 1992.

Yugoslavia came under tough criticism throughout the meeting and in the final declaration, which said, "The leaders and people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia must put the country on the path toward democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The United States and leaders of the European Union also held a demonstrative meeting with Serbian opposition leaders to underscore the hope for the ouster of President Slobodan Milosevic.

The new charter adopted by the meeting reflected the lessons of Kosovo and other internal conflicts that have erupted since the collapse of Communism. It envisioned a new role for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in easing tensions before they explode into war, including the possibility of intervening not just in conflicts between states, but within states.

"We have witnessed atrocities of a kind we had thought were relegated to the past," the charter declared. "In this decade, it has become clear that all such conflicts can represent a threat to the security of all O.S.C.E. participating states."

"Participating states are accountable to their citizens and responsible to each other for their implementation of their O.S.C.E. commitments," it said. "We regard these commitments as our common achievement and therefore consider them to be matters of immediate and legitimate concern to all participating states."

The document envisions rapid-response teams that could be deployed quickly to manage crises.

The final declaration of the meeting, however, was carefully worded to avoid directly challenging Yeltsin's impassioned argument that Russia had every right to battle "bandits and murderers" in its country.

"In connection with the recent chain of events in North Caucasus, we strongly reaffirm that we fully acknowledge the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and condemn terrorism in all its forms," the document said. It added that "a political solution is essential, and that the assistance of the O.S.C.E. would contribute to achieving that goal."

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said the language was the result of "very long negotiations."

"I'm not going to oversell this," she said. "I think that we accomplished a lot. But this is a longer-term problem. I think that we need to keep pushing it along. We have been given more tools to deal with it."

While she and European officials tried to portray Russia's acceptance of a role for the organization as a step forward, the outcome of the meeting was heralded in Moscow as a triumph for Yeltsin. Clinton's remarks, expressing a measure of sympathy for Russia's plight in Chechnya, were presented as an endorsement of the Kremlin's policy.

Foreign Minister Ivanov, in an interview on Russian television, called Clinton's remarks "not so much a surprise as an important international support of the resolute fight of the Russian leadership against terrorism in the North Caucasus."

Russian officials said the assault in Chechnya would continue unchanged. Military officials said that Russian troops had encircled about 80 percent of the capital, Grozny, and that warplanes continued striking targets today, killing 150 rebels. Those reports could not be confirmed.

Speaking about the updated Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, American officials said the existing agreement had already resulted in the destruction of more than 70,000 weapons by participating countries.

The new version is meant to reflect the world's new political boundaries. Under the old treaty, members of military alliances had to coordinate military deployments with their allies. But three members of the old Warsaw Pact -- Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- are now members of NATO.

The new treaty also strengthens the requirement that host countries must give consent for the deployment of foreign forces on their territory. The language was intended to address security concerns of several former members of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Russia agreed in the treaty to exercise restraint in its future military deployments near the Baltic states. Ivanov also reached agreements with Georgia and Moldova to withdraw Russian forces from their territories in coming years.

In refusing to submit the updated treaty for ratification until Russia complies, Clinton sought to avoid another high-stakes confrontation with the Senate, which last month rejected American participation in a treaty banning nuclear tests.

Yet Clinton said it made sense to enter into the agreement now, even with Russia in violation.

"The adapted treaty will enhance peace, security and stability throughout Europe," the president said. "Therefore, it is in America's national interest to sign it now, and to lock in the commitment of other nations to its terms. At the same time, in order to reap the benefits, we must have confidence that there will be real compliance."

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