Conventional Arms Control - A Way Forward or Wishful Thinking?


  • Johan Engvall
  • Gudrun Persson
  • Robert Dalsjö
  • Mike Winnerstig
  • Carolina Vendil Pallin

Publish date: 2018-05-02

Report number: FOI-R--4586--SE

Pages: 84

Written in: English


  • Arms control
  • confidence building measures
  • CFE Treaty
  • Open Skies Treaty
  • Vienna Document
  • Nato
  • Russia
  • European security


Undertaken at a time when European security is under stress, this study analyses the preconditions for a new conventional arms control regime. To this end, the military-political interests of Russia, the US and selected European countries are examined with regard to three principal questions: What are the major security policy goals for Russia, the US and European states? Which are the prevailing military-political considerations in these countries' pursuit of those goals? And how do the interests and policies of the respective states dovetail with a renewed focus on conventional arms control (CAC) and confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs)? The main conclusions can be summarised as follows: - Russia perceives the comprehensive and cooperative security order as rigged in favour of Euro-Atlantic organisations. It is actively seeking to establish an alternative order that would grant Moscow a sphere of privileged interests in its 'near abroad'. In practice, this implies a Russian veto on further NATO enlargement. - The US wants to uphold existing rules and agreements, and identifies Russia's aggressive behaviour as the root cause of the European security problem. Arms control is, thus, only meaningful as long as it is embedded in a rules-based security order. - There is an underlying tension between the diplomatic interest of dialogue and negotiation on the one hand and the hard military security interests of states on the other hand. - One Western line of thought perceives the unresolved territorial conflicts in Russia's neighbourhood as the source of the current European security crisis. - Another Western line believes that tensions between Russia and the West can be reduced if discussions on CAC and CSBMs are disentangled from the unresolved conflicts. - The Baltic Sea region has emerged as a geopolitical focal point in the stand-off between Russia and the West. The region has become the subject of conflicting interests wishing to see either a military build-up or a special arms control regime as the way to address current security concerns. - Russia has two military-strategic priorities in the Baltic Sea region: to constrain NATO deployment of additional military forces to the region, and to preclude the non-NATO members in the region joining NATO. - For the major Western powers, the Baltic Sea region is crucial for the credibility of NATO. - The Baltic countries and Poland, as well as non-NATO member Finland, share a common interest in ensuring that the security arrangements for the Baltic Sea region remain firmly attached to the overall European security order. - At present, the prospects for negotiations on a new CAC regime are slim. No changes are to be expected as long as the two major players - Russia and the US - remain on the fringes of the dialogue. The incentives in contemporary Europe are not the same as they were when existing agreements were negotiated and adopted.