Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 195

On the eve of yet another round of Russian-U.S. arms control negotiations, Moscow yesterday appeared to reject out of hand a deal which Washington reportedly offered to win Russia’s agreement to changes in the 1972 ABM treaty. Reports of the new U.S. offer–which surfaced on October 17–said that the Clinton administration had proposed both to help Russia complete a radar facility in Siberia and to share more radar data with Moscow if the Russian government agrees to changes Washington has proposed in the ABM accord (New York Times, Washington Post, October 17; see the Monitor, October 18). The Clinton administration reportedly made the offer in an effort to break the impasse which has developed in the ABM treaty negotiations.

The gambit seems to have failed. Addressing questions related to the reported offer, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said yesterday that Moscow has no interest either in “bargaining” or in “negotiating amendments” related to the accord. He said, furthermore, that Moscow’s position relative to the ABM treaty remains unchanged: “Russia is conducting consultations on the basis of a fundamental premise that further cuts in strategic offensive weapons under START III are possible only if the ABM treaty is not touched” (AP, Russian agencies, October 20).

Remarks by a senior officer on the Russian General Staff were, if anything, even more categorical. Colonel General Valery Manilov said that Moscow will negotiate no amendments to the ABM treaty. Moreover, he repeated Russian charges that the U.S. effort to revise the treaty constitutes a “threat” to the entire system of international arms control as well as to regional and global stability. He also pointed out that Russia’s opposition to changes in the ABM accord are enshrined in the Defense Ministry’s recently unveiled draft military doctrine (AP, Russian agencies, October 20). That document conditions Russia’s willingness to pursue additional cuts in strategic arms on full U.S. observance of the ABM treaty (Krasnaya zvezda, October 9). Manilov, who has emerged in recent weeks as one of the military establishment’s most authoritative voices on a host of defense-related issues, is reported to have been one of the authors of the new draft military doctrine.

Yesterday’s rebuff by Moscow of the new U.S. initiative comes only a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry, at least, appeared to reveal its ignorance of the reported U.S. offer. A ministry spokesman had suggested on October 19 that Western newspaper and news agency accounts of the U.S. proposal were “groundless.” The ministry’s statement was puzzling insofar as Grigory Berdennikov, a Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister, has served as one of the leading Russian participants in the negotiations with the United States (AP, Itar-Tass, October 19). The seeming confusion in Moscow suggests that the latest U.S. offer may have been passed initially to Russian military negotiators and that diplomats were only later made aware of its existence. If so, it would not be the first time in recent months that Russia’s Foreign Ministry has been left out of the loop by military leaders on important issues of national security.