While another senior Defense Ministry official yesterday urged that Russia ratify the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty, the growing tensions between Russia and the United States over the Iraq crisis make the chances for ratification any time soon extremely remote.
First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov — the highest ranking civilian in the ministry — said that the reform of the armed forces could not succeed without the treaty. He thus joins Defense Minister Igor Sergeev in urging the State Duma to ratify the 1993 agreement quickly. Last month, President Boris Yeltsin also called for speedy ratification. No hearings on the treaty have been scheduled in the current sessions of the legislature. Even moderate politicians who favor ratification have warned that the bellicose American stance toward Saddam Hussein was jeopardizing chances for favorable action on the treaty. Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov yesterday minced no words in supporting this position. He charged that America was acting like "a slightly intoxicated cowboy flying into a rage" and warned that due to the Iraq crisis "not a single self-respecting politician would vote in favor" of the treaty. (Russian media, February 4)
Russian Space Chief Denies Iranian Connection.