Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 100

Despite a hint last week that Russian ratification of the START II treaty might be back on track, Russian Foreign Ministry Yevgeny Primakov suggested in a Washington Post interview published over the weekend that such thinking might be overly optimistic. “The prospects of ratification are worse than they were three months ago,” Primakov was reported to have said. He also appeared to confirm that Russian lawmakers remain bitter over their recent confrontation with President Boris Yeltsin regarding the appointment of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. That bitterness has been exacerbated by recent labor strife in Russia. Under such circumstances, Primakov suggested, the Clinton administration’s decision to link the holding of the next Russian-U.S. summit to ratification might be counterproductive. “In fact,” he said, “this connection is creating some obstacles in the Duma now.” (The Washington Post, May 24)

Primakov’s remarks follow an announcement on May 19 that the Russian Duma will postpone hearings on the START II treaty from early June until September. That announcement was followed two days later, however, by a pledge from the speakers of Russia’s two houses of parliament that they will do their best to speed up the ratification process. (See the Monitor, May 20, 22)

The Clinton administration has made the holding of the next Russian-U.S. summit dependent on START II ratification in the hope of achieving that same effect. Officials in Moscow and Washington also hoped that the next summit might therefore be used to launch talks on a follow-up START III treaty that would reduce nuclear arsenals in the two countries still further. In light of India’s recent conduct of underground nuclear tests and the prospect of a nuclear arms race in Asia, the imperative to move toward a START III agreement appears stronger than ever.