Germany began destroying stockpiles of tanks and other heavy weapons Monday, becoming the first country to implement the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.
Thousands of tanks, artillery pieces, armored vehicles and attack aircraft must be destroyed under the 1990 accord. Its ratification was delayed by the breakup last year of the Soviet Union, which had signed as the leader of the now-defunct Warsaw Pact.
Destroying these weapons is "a symbol for the victory of reason and morality over confrontation and the arms race," German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said Monday.
He and Defense Minister Volker Ruehe posed together with an acetylene torch at a metal-recycling factory charged with destroying 1,481 armored vehicles at a facility southwest of Berlin.
Germany must scrap weapons from both sides of the Cold War divide, since it has inherited both the East German and West German arsenals.
Destruction of the weapons will cost an estimated $120 million.
At the metal-recycling plant, a technician began cutting up a Soviet-made BTR-40 armored car, one of roughly 10,000 heavy weapons that Germany has to eliminate within 40 months.