The first deputy speaker of the Russian Duma, Vladimir Ryzhkov, warned yesterday that the Russian parliament will not ratify the START II nuclear arms treaty if the United States launches air strikes at Iraq. "One should watch the carrier aviation in the Persian Gulf. If it takes off and delivers a strike, the prospects to ratify the START II treaty will vanish in the clouds," Ryzhkov told reporters. (Itar-Tass, February 19) The Russian lawmaker’s remarks reflect the enormous support that Moscow’s policy of support for Baghdad–and defiance of Washington–enjoys across the Russian political spectrum.
Iraq aside, however, Ryzhkov suggested that ratification of START II is also unlikely for two additional reasons: NATO’s enlargement plans and the unwillingness of Washington to negotiate a follow-up START III treaty until START II is ratified. The Clinton administration indicated last month that it would prefer to put off the next Russian-U.S. summit, tentatively scheduled for the spring, until Russia has ratified the START II treaty. With regard to NATO, Ryzhkov complained specifically of the partnership agreement signed last month by the United States and the three Baltic countries. (The agreement recognizes the aspirations of the Baltic countries to join NATO and other Western institutions. See Monitor, January 19) Ryzhkov also referred to recent promises by the United States to aid Bulgaria–a traditional ally of Moscow — in its own efforts to win NATO membership.
Ryzhkov’s remarks come despite several recent calls by Russian President Boris Yeltsin for ratification of START II, including one in his state-of-the-nation speech earlier this week. (See Monitor, January 16, February 18) Ryzhkov’s warning appeared also to elicit a response from the commander of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces. In a blunt statement to reporters, Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev said that "There is no mutual link between the ratification of the START II treaty by Russia and the possible launching of a strike against Iraq by the USA." (Itar-Tass, February 19; see also item that follows)
Commander Reports on the State of the Strategic Rocket Forces.