Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 58

Yeltsin and Clinton did their part to invigorate the arms control process, but the implementation of their initiatives is now up to their sometimes less than cooperative legislatures. Ratification of the 1993 START II Treaty by the Russian Duma remains the largest stumbling block to further strategic nuclear arms reductions, and much that the two presidents did was clearly aimed at easing that body’s concerns. They agreed to extend by five years — to the end of 2007 — the treaty’s deadline for destroying missiles and either eliminating or converting missile silos, thus giving Russia more time to perform these expensive procedures. By the previous deadline — January 1, 2003 — the Russians will have to remove all nuclear warheads from the missiles slated for elimination. To address the Duma’s concerns that in order to match American capabilities Russia would be forced to build large numbers of costly new missiles to replace those banned by START II, Yeltsin and Clinton agreed to begin negotiations immediately on a START III treaty once START II enters into force. The objective would be to bring each side’s strategic arsenals down to 2,000 to 2,500 warheads — the level that Yeltsin had originally proposed to then-president George Bush in January 1992 as the START II limits. This new treaty would also call for the destruction of the eliminated warheads themselves and require each side to provide much more information about their nuclear inventories than is now the case. As these new negotiations progressed, the two countries would also address — as "separate issues" — nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) and tactical nuclear weapons.

Fear that the U.S. intends to abandon the 1973 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty has been another reason why many in the Duma have not supported START II, and Yeltsin and Clinton tried to ease concerns in this area also. They agreed on parameters for non-strategic anti-ballistic missile systems, and in particular the so-called "high-velocity Theater Missile Defense (TMD)" systems that have long been a bone of contention between the two countries. Yeltsin, in effect, accepted the U.S. administration’s interpretation of the ABM Treaty as far as TMD systems are concerned.

Many in the U.S. Congress, however, disagree with the administration in this area and are likely to object, for example, to Clinton’s pledge to rule out a space-based option for TMD systems. Yeltsin faces similar problems at home, although the Russian president confidently assured the press that the Duma would ratify START II, including the language that will explain the agreed guidelines for START III. This document will then be submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification. Yeltsin and Clinton also pledged that they would take "the steps necessary to expedite ratification" of the Chemical Weapons Convention in their legislatures. In both bodies, domestic political considerations could impede the march toward the laudable goals set forth by the two presidents. (Russian and International press, March 21-23)

More Changes in Russian Government Expected.