Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 192

Arms control issues remained in the headlines over the weekend as Russia again criticized last week’s rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by the U.S. Senate while Moscow and Washington continued to spar over ballistic missile defense and the 1972 ABM treaty. During an October 16 telephone conversation, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov reportedly told his U.S. counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that the failure by the United States to ratify the CTBT treaty would undermine broader strategic arms control efforts. Ivanov and Albright also discussed an array of other arms control and international issues (Reuters, Itar-Tass, October 16; see also the Monitor, October 15).

U.S. newspapers, meanwhile, reported yesterday that the Clinton administration has come up with several new inducements aimed at winning Russian agreement to modifications in the ABM treaty. According to the New York Times and Washington Post, Washington is now offering to help Moscow complete construction of a partially finished radar facility near the Siberian city of Irkutsk. The radar, located at Mishelevka, some sixty miles northwest of Irkutsk, is oriented eastward and would cover northern Asia, including North Korea and parts of the North Pole. The project would reportedly involve “tens of millions” of dollars in U.S. aid. Moreover, Washington is reportedly also considering offering U.S. political support to help Russia regain use of a radar station at Lyaki, Azerbaijan. This more contentious proposal–one on which Washington has apparently not yet decided–would reportedly involve some sort of joint management of the facility.

The Clinton administration has also reportedly offered Russia other forms of cooperation, including joint computer simulations of antimissile systems, expanded intelligence sharing on threats from rogue states, collaboration in developing two missile observation satellites, a joint presence at one U.S. and one Russian radar site, and joint exercises in battlefield missile defense (Washington Post, New York Times, October 17).

In making these proposals, the Clinton administration is hoping to break a deadlock in which Moscow has stonewalled U.S. efforts to amend the ABM treaty in a fashion which would allow the United States to proceed with development of a limited national missile defense system. Although Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed this past spring to consider U.S. proposals in this area, a series of negotiating sessions between the two sides has failed to yield any progress. The most recent of these sessions took place last week in Helsinki, during which U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott held talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Mamedov. To date, Russian negotiators have insisted loudly and publicly that the ABM treaty remains the cornerstone of international disarmament efforts, and that Moscow will oppose any U.S. moves to amend the treaty. However, Clinton administration officials suggest that, in the actual negotiations, the Russian side has been less categorical and more willing to work in a business-like fashion with Washington (Washington Post, October 17).