Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 112

Not all Russian deputies were happy with yesterday’s vote. The recently named chairman of the Duma’s Defense Committee, Roman Popkovich of the Russia Is Our Home faction, said that the vote had “dealt a serious blow to prospects for development of the country’s nuclear forces.” Vladimir Lukin, moderate chairman of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, spoke in similar terms. He called the vote “senseless,” in part because the hearings originally scheduled for June 16 were to have focused on the development of Russia’s strategic forces and not just on START II. (Russian agencies, June 10) Lawmakers have until now cited a dearth of information from the government on its plans for the strategic forces as one reason for their unwillingness to move toward ratification. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, meanwhile, said yesterday that the government would continue to work for approval of the treaty. He observed that ratification has become especially urgent in light of the developing nuclear arms race in South Asia. (Itar-Tass, June 10)

Not unexpectedly, reaction in Washington to yesterday’s vote for postponement was also critical. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed deep regret over the Duma’s action. She hoped, she said, that Russian lawmakers might still reverse the decision. She also reiterated Washington’s unwillingness to proceed with substantive negotiations on a START III treaty–which would cut Russian and U.S. arsenals still further–until the Duma ratifies START II. (AP, June 10) Albright apparently did not say whether Washington would continue to condition the holding of the next Russian-U.S. summit on ratification of START II. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said recently that it might be worthwhile to decouple the two issues, and there have been some indications that the Clinton administration might comply.