Statement at the conference of the states parties to the treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe

CFE Treaty Conference of the States Parties, Vienna, 29 June 2023

Mr. Chairperson, Dear colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,

We thank Poland and the Netherlands for convening this Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty).

Mr. Chairperson,

This is in many respects a sad moment in history. The established conventional arms control architecture in Europe is experiencing further erosion. Agreements that served us well for decades are being neglected and further undermined by the irresponsible behaviour of some States Parties.

While the security situation in Europe has deteriorated in recent years, the need for a functioning arms control regime has increased.

We are meeting today because Russia has decided to withdraw formally from the CFE Treaty.

Russia has for many years not complied with its CFE Treaty obligations, in particular by ceasing its implementation of the Treaty in 2007 without a legal basis.

The deteriorating security environment in Europe today had not been the case if Russia had not launched, with the support of Belarus, the largest land war in Europe since the Second World War – an unprovoked war of aggression against another State Party to the CFE Treaty, Ukraine. It is difficult to understand that the Russian Federation does not recognize that these actions run counter to the fundamental purpose of the CFE Treaty.

This decision to withdraw from the CFE Treaty demonstrates the Russian Government’s disregard for arms control, contrary to what its representatives have stated at the OSCE Forum for Security Co‑operation, and it is the latest in a series of actions to undermine European security.

The arguments by Russia that attempt to justify its withdrawal with reference to the accession of additional States to NATO are not credible and contradict its commitments under the Helsinki Final Act.

Mr. Chairperson,

Even on a day like this, we should recognize that the CFE Treaty has served us well historically. First, because it was a great success in reducing the holdings of conventional weapons and military equipment in a period of trust and co‑operation. Second, the Treaty created transparency through an effective verification regime. Third, the Treaty resulted in greater stability and mutual confidence through force ceilings, inspections and exchanges of information among the States Parties.

The CFE Treaty thus provided us with greater security for all – both for individual States Parties and for Europe as a whole. As such, it has been a cornerstone of European security.

Norway reiterates its regret that the CFE Treaty has not been allowed to fully function as intended. The Russian Federation bears sole responsibility for the fact that the adapted CFE Treaty of 1999 could not enter into force. The decision by Russia to, as it put it, “suspend” its legal obligations under the Treaty in 2007 greatly diminished the Treaty’s value. In response, Norway and allies decided to halt their implementation of the CFE Treaty in relation to Russia shortly after the 2011 Review Conference.

Mr. Chairperson,

Let me assure you that Norway remains committed to its obligations under the Treaty. At the same time, we acknowledge that the Treaty, signed more than 30 years ago, and considering Russia’s withdrawal, is no longer a fully adequate response to the circumstances of today.

With Russia’s withdrawal there is no longer a balance of commitments in the northern flank zone, which includes Norway. The full implications of this situation have yet to be considered.

Hence, together with the NATO Allies, we will engage in consultations on the next steps, which will be based on shared assessments as to how best to ensure Europe’s security through a solid deterrence and defence posture, as well as on appropriate arms control measures.

Norway places great value on effective arms control based on reciprocity and verification, as well as other transparency and confidence-building measures. We remain committed to existing legal frameworks and will engage actively in all good-faith initiatives to rebuild and strengthen European arms control when a situation of trust allows for that.

Thank you for your attention.

Please attach this statement to the journal of the Conference.