Russian lawmakers had, at various times, suggested any number of reasons for their opposition to START II ratification. Those reasons ranged from NATO’s planned enlargement and concerns over possible noncompliance by the United States with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty to Russian objections to threatened Western strikes on Iraq and Yugoslavia. Lawmakers also linked treaty ratification to their professed concerns over the state of Russia’s hard-pressed strategic nuclear forces.
In fact, however, the Duma’s opposition has always appeared to be based as much on political as on substantive considerations. In a constitutional system which affords lawmakers little real authority, START II ratification represented one of the few levers of influence which the Duma could employ against the Kremlin. The Duma refused to move on START II despite the entreaties of Defense Ministry officials–and the arguments of defense analysts in Russia and the West–that the treaty represented the one way in which some small degree of parity might be maintained between Russia’s rapidly deteriorating nuclear forces and those of the United States.
What apparently tipped the balance, however, was a recent study sent to lawmakers by Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov. According to one report, the document laid out in especially stark terms the enormity of the problems facing Russia’s strategic forces. Maslyukov’s study reportedly warned, among other things, that seven years from now Russia may be able to field only 800-900 nuclear warheads–well below even the 3,000-3,500 level stipulated in START II. That reality, and the clout carried by the long-time communist Maslyukov, was said to have convinced many deputies to change their position on the treaty (Washington Post, November 19). Lawmakers have also reportedly been pressured by the government to approve the treaty for another reason. Ratification, the government has intimated, could help pave the way for additional financial aid from the West.
CONFLICT COULD LOOM OVER CONDITIONS ATTACHED TO TREATY BILL.