Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 204

U.S. undersecretary of state Lynn Davis will not be flying to Geneva today as planned to sign a "partial agreement" with her Russian counterpart on how to distinguish missiles capable of shooting down battlefield ballistic missiles from those that can down strategic missiles because the Russians canceled the event at the eleventh hour. On September 24 Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov and U.S. secretary of state Warren Christopher had signed a joint statement on the subject, and called for the agreement to be formalized today. The two had agreed that missiles with speeds of 3 kilometers per second and less would not violate the 1972 ABM treaty. The two sides have been working for years on a "demarcation" agreement between strategic systems and so-called theater systems, and the latest Primakov/Christopher agreement was one covering the "low side" of the problem–hence the "partial." The negotiators then were to renew their efforts to agree on the "high side" specifications, hopefully defining missiles whose speed might approach but still not reach that needed to intercept the fast-moving strategic missiles. The Russians now say that nothing will be signed until both the low and high parameters are agreed, i.e., no partial agreement. (Voice of America, October 30)

Today’s signing would in any event have been more form than substance, as the two sides have really never had any serious disagreements over the slow missiles. It is the high-speed interceptors that have and continue to cause all the trouble. As U.S. secretary of defense William Perry discovered when he recently tried to convince Duma legislators to ratify the START-II nuclear disarmament treaty, (See Monitor, October 18) the Russians are especially sensitive about the ABM treaty and what many perceive as Washington’s determination to abandon it by creating a nation-wide ABM system. Moscow has never been eager to modify the ABM treaty in any way and today’s non-event is another indication that it plans to drag out the demarcation talks as long as possible.

Primakov in Egypt.