The Duma conducted its first committee hearing on the START II treaty since the treaty’s January 26 ratification by the U.S. Senate, but details of the closed meeting were sketchy and conflicting. Vladimir Lukin, head of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that party leaders in the parliament had almost unanimously supported ratification during discussions last week and that the full Duma could debate ratification tomorrow. (8) Despite some reservations that he himself holds regarding U.S. plans to develop anti-missile defense systems, Lukin expressed confidence that ratification would be forthcoming.
But a Russian television report suggested that the experts from the Russian General Staff, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the parliament who had participated in the closed hearing had found little common ground. The participants were said to have been stymied by insufficient information on Russia’s security needs and, reportedly, by difficulty in interpreting changes that have occurred in Russia’s security environment over the past two years. On the latter point, Russian military leaders were said to have pointed to NATO enlargement, the potential stationing of nuclear weapons in former Warsaw Pact countries, and the lagging capabilities of Russian conventional forces compared to those deployed by the United States. The report also suggested that, with the exception of Boris Yeltsin, no presidential candidate would want to take responsibility for the fate of the treaty prior to June’s election. (9)
Only Gorbachev and Gaidar are Less Popular Than Yeltsin.