Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 12

In statements made in both Moscow and Washington, delegation leader Colonel General Yury Baluevsky also appeared to set out the broader goals the Russian team is seeking to achieve. They apparently rest on what Moscow has formulated as a “principle of equal security,” one in which Russia and the United States should seek predictability and understanding in their nuclear policies while conditioning nuclear arms cuts on both an examination of defensive systems and on legal obligations to fulfill strategic arms reductions agreements. The problem for Moscow here, of course, is that the Bush administration feels itself under no obligations to make such linkages. Thus, the U.S. side has decoupled considerations regarding offensive nuclear weapons from defense systems (that is, from missile defense), and cast doubt on the desirability of encasing strategic arms reductions in a formal treaty. More generally, it is also not clear that Washington is overly interested at this point in seeking “equal security” for Russia and the United States if that would obligate Washington to maintain a rough parity between its own and Russia’s strategic forces.

Indeed, some in Moscow are now hinting that the Bush administration has used Russian-U.S. arms control talks as a smoke-screen of sorts in order to obscure its real policy, which involves attaining strategic superiority over Russia. Thus, unnamed “highly-placed military experts and analysts” were quoted by the Kremlin-connected Strana.ru website this week as saying that Washington’s military plans are “directed at achieving Washington’s own strategic goal–the creation of a unipolar world.” Some Russian analysts have simultaneously admitted–with some despondence–that Russia’s own declining military strength and shrinking nuclear arsenal have shorn it of the means to counter Washington’s plans. There is also said to be a growing realization in Moscow that any agreements Russia and the United States might hammer out by this spring, whether on strategic arms cuts or on the disposition of those warheads being decommissioned, will fall far short of what Russian negotiators had originally hoped. How the Russian military will react to that reality, and whether the Kremlin can keep it in line, remains to be seen (Interfax, January 14; Strana.ru, January 14, 16-17; RFE/RL, January 14; Reuters, January 15-16; AP, January 15).

Russia’s lower house of parliament, meanwhile, voted overwhelmingly yesterday to approve a resolution that condemned the United States for its decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. The resolution was a non-binding one, and thus is likely to have little or no direct impact on Russian policy. The 326-3 vote does nonetheless demonstrate the volatility of these strategic issues in Russia, and suggests that perceived failures in arms control negotiations could yet become an issue of some importance on Russia’s domestic political scene (AP, Reuters, January 16). And while that may not be an overriding concern for Washington, it could cause some unhappiness in Europe, where governments have continued to place a premium on continued friendly relations with Russia. A new round of talks between Russia and the United States, meanwhile, is scheduled to start soon–at the end of this month–when Baluevsky returns to Washington as part of a higher-level delegation that, on this occasion, will be headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov.