PARIS -- Leaders of the Warsaw Pact and NATO put their signatures on a landmark treaty here yesterday, slashing conventional weapons and sealing the end of Europe's post-war division into superpower blocs that once threatened to annihilate each other.
The treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, signed five years to the day after President Ronald Reagan met Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev at their initial summit, will lead to the destruction of a quarter- million pieces of military hardware in bringing the states of the Warsaw Pact and North Atlantic Treaty Organization down to equal levels of weapons.
"What a long way the world has come," Mr. Gorbachev said at the signing ceremony at the ornate Presidential Palace shortly before the 34-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe opened.
President Bush said the document was "the farthest-reaching arms agreement in history, and it signals the new world order that is emerging."
Following the treaty's signing, leaders from the two opposing pacts signed a declaration that they would never resort to aggression to settle disputes.
The agreement to reduce conventional forces, which includes a clause saying that Soviet tanks can cross foreign territory only if invited by the host country, confirms the vast changes that transformed Eastern Europe from Soviet satellites to independent, sovereign nations. It virtually removes the threat of a surprise attack from the East that had so preoccupied NATO planners for 40 years.
Vaclav Havel, the dissident Czech writer turned president, called the Warsaw Pact "an outdated remnant of the past," and said its six members should meet before the end of the year to decide on its dissolution. The only matter left for them to discuss, Mr. Havel said, was the disarmament of member states.
Endowing the CSCE with a kind of institutional framework -- it will have a secretariat in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and a Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna, Austira -- will allow the Soviet Union to gracefully dissolve the Warsaw Pact, whose treaty contains a stipulation that it could be dissolved upon the development of a collective European security system.
"Our country has changed and will never be the same as it was before. The world has opened to us, and we have opened to the world," Mr. Gorbachev told leaders from the CSCE -- which includes all of Europe except Albania, as well as the United States and Canada. "Instead of military force, our world order will based on equitable dialogue."
But the new order being hailed yesterday gives equitable dialogue only among members of the CSCE. The Baltic states, whose foreign ministers the French invited as "distinguished guests," were refused admission to the Avenue Kleber Conference Center at the last minute under Soviet objections, sources said.
"We did not have any illusions," Lennart Meri, the Estonian foreign minister, said dispiritedly at a news conference last night. "We knew that the way back to Europe will be the long way."
The drawdown of Soviet weapons and the opening of the CSCE talks mark both the end of the Cold War and the depth of political and economic turmoil that hastened the Soviet Union's withdrawal from Eastern Europe and its removal as a military threat to Western Europe. Mr. Gorbachev, in referring to the internal troubles now absorbing his country and much of Eastern Europe, asked for deeper ties to the more stable countries of the West.
"It would seem desirable immediately after the Paris meeting to proceed to building some structures and institutions that would be truly capable of shaping an economic, environmental and technological foundation for a new Europe," Mr. Gorbachev said.
"This would offer the only truly democratic chance of exerting a positive influence on internal developments in a number of countries and protect them from dangerous outbreaks of nationalism and separatism."
He said the Soviet Union would be ready to begin negotiations to reduce tactical nuclear weapons in the next month or two and to begin negotiating down naval armaments.
The treaty limits the states of NATO and the Warsaw Pact to 20,000 tanks, 30,000 armored vehicles, 20,000 artillery pieces, 6,800 combat aircraft and 2,000 attack helicopters for each side.
Because the East bloc had traditionally been more heavily armed than NATO, the Western alliance is expected to make only one-tenth of the total weapons cuts called for in yesterday's conventional-forces agreement.
The agreement divides the region from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains into four defense zones, allowing the lightest concentration of armaments in Central Europe -- once seen as the likely flash point of an East-West confrontation. The accord allows more dense concentrations of weapons the greater the distance from Central Europe.
To some extent, Mr. Bush seemed to suggest, the accord's most significant feature may be reducing Soviet arsenals in an orderly way as the country threatens to collapse into chaos.
"A continent frozen in hostility for so long has become a continent of revolutionary change," Mr. Bush said. "To assure that this change occurs in a secure framework, we have completed a conventional arms control treaty that transforms the military map of this continent."