Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 116

The Russian Duma is reportedly prepared to adopt a resolution condemning any use of force by NATO to resolve the conflict in Kosovo without a mandate from the UN Security Council. According to Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov, all factions in the Duma support that position, which is also held by the Russian government. In addition, both Ryzhkov and the chairman of the Duma’s Geopolitics Committee, Liberal Democratic Party member Aleksei Mitrofanov, warned that NATO’s readiness to use military force in Yugoslavia is likely to endanger further the chances for ratification of the START II treaty by Russian lawmakers. Yesterday’s developments came on the same day that military experts were scheduled to brief Russian lawmakers on the START II treaty at the General Staff headquarters. (Russian agencies, NTV, June 16)

Yesterday’s warning by Ryzhkov and Mitrofanov adds Kosovo to the already considerable list of real or potential actions by the West that Russian lawmakers have said are an impediment to START II ratification. That list includes NATO’s enlargement, earlier Western policy in Bosnia and earlier U.S. threats to launch air strikes against Iraq, the threat of U.S. sanctions over a French-Russian-Malaysian deal to develop an Iranian gas field, and the Clinton administration’s decision to link the next Russian-U.S. summit to START II ratification.

At home, Russian lawmakers have, at various times and in various ways, held ratification hostage to the Kremlin’s military reform efforts. The deputies have likewise complained about three other issues. First, the Kremlin’s failure to develop plans for the country’s conventional and strategic forces. Second, its failure to supply lawmakers with sufficient information about START II. Third, and most recently, it has complained about the determination of Russian generals to browbeat lawmakers into ratifying START II. Many in the Duma are also believed to be using START II to retaliate against Russian President Boris Yeltsin for his decision in March to dismiss the government and his subsequent showdown with the parliament over the nomination of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko.