Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 224

In a move likely to be applauded in Washington, Russian lawmakers yesterday moved a step closer to considering ratification of the START II treaty. A series of conditions which the lawmakers have attached to the treaty could, however, raise tensions anew with the United States. Moreover, even in the event of ratification, those amendments could ultimately threaten the treaty’s implementation. Yesterday’s developments came as a delegation of U.S. congressmen met with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev for discussions on both the treaty and the decommissioning of Russia’s nuclear weapons.

The good news yesterday was that a treaty ratification bill, drafted in recent weeks by Russian lawmakers, has been sent to the various Duma factions for consideration. According to Seleznev, the relevant Duma committees could, early next week, be discussing changes proposed by the factions, after which the document will be sent along to President Boris Yeltsin. Assuming that Yeltsin approves the document, the draft bill will shortly thereafter be sent back to the full Duma for consideration. The chairman of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Vladimir Lukin, told journalists yesterday that Yeltsin was likely to find the Duma draft bill acceptable (AP, Russian agencies, December 3).

Russian lawmakers have long dragged their feet on the 1993 START II treaty, which was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996. Under the government’s intense prodding of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov–particularly by First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov–the Duma has finally begun to move on the treaty. Because of their many reservations about the document, however, Russian lawmakers chose to bypass a treaty ratification bill which had been submitted by the Kremlin and to draft instead their own version of the bill for consideration. Work on the bill was carried out primarily by the Duma’s Defense and International Affairs Committees, with input from the Security and Geopolitics Committees.