The chairman of the Russian Duma yesterday told visiting U.S. deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott that the START II nuclear reduction treaty would have been ratified by the Duma during its previous session had NATO abandoned its enlargement plans. Gennady Seleznev said the lower house would vote on ratification after its members were assured the treaty does not threaten Russia’s security.
One of Talbott’s goals in Moscow is to begin to implement the package of START II related documents signed in New York last month by U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov. These included a protocol giving Russia an additional five years to destroy the missiles eliminated by the treaty. Another of the documents tries to work around the "catch-22" situation that has arisen concerning the follow-on START III treaty. Many in the Duma feel that START II gives the U.S. a strategic advantage over Russia and are eager to implement a follow-on treaty that will reduce or do away with this advantage. However, the U.S. will not begin formal negotiations on START III until the Duma ratifies START II, and the Duma is reluctant to ratify until there has been substantial progress on START III. The two sides are trying to circumvent this impasse by launching "expert" talks on START III rather than formal negotiations. (Russian media, October 8)
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