Last week negotiators from the U.S., Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine finally agreed in Geneva on the technical specifications of regional ballistic missile defense systems that would not be limited by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The talks took place in the Standing Consultative Commission set up by the treaty. The diplomats also finished work on the text of the memorandum of understanding naming Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine the successor states to the Soviet Union as far as the treaty is concerned. The agreements now must be approved by the governments involved and then ratified by each country. (USIA, August 21)
Many in Russia — and in the U.S. as well — have charged that several of the American programs to develop Theater Missile Defense (TMD) systems would violate the ABM treaty. Concern about this issue has been one of the reasons the Russian Duma has been reluctant to ratify the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty. As welcome as it might be, completion of the so-called "demarcation agreements" after three years wrangling is hardly likely to satisfy the legislators in either Moscow or Washington. The agreements will be carefully scrutinized in the U.S. Senate, where there is considerable support for U.S. abrogation of the ABM treaty and the development of a nation-wide ABM system. Such attitudes continue to fuel Russian suspicions, making it highly unlikely that the Russian Duma will consider the new agreements until they are ratified by the Senate.
Russian, Finnish Prime Ministers Hold Talks in Karelia.