Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 216

Russian lawmakers yesterday indicated their readiness–at last–to move forward on ratification of the START II strategic arms treaty. But, much as that news will be welcomed in Washington, a series of conditions which the Duma apparently intends to attach to the treaty could yet throw up some obstacles to its implementation. A warning on precisely that point was issued yesterday by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, who is in Russia as part of a delegation touring sites funded by the United States for the decommissioning of Russian nuclear weapons.

The START II treaty was signed in January 1993 by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and then U.S. President George Bush. The accord was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996. But hardline communists and nationalists in Russia’s lower house of parliament have refused to move on the treaty, and even a few weeks ago it seemed that efforts by Washington and the Kremlin to win ratification had come to naught. The situation has changed in recent days, however. Key Russian lawmakers, working with the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries–long-time backers of START II ratification–have now drafted their own version of a ratification bill.

According to Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich, examination of that new draft bill by his committee began yesterday. If it is approved, as expected, in the next few days, it will then be passed on for final discussion and approval by the Duma’s international affairs, geopolitics, security and defense committees. The document will then apparently be passed to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. If he approves it, the draft bill will come back to the full Duma for consideration. According to International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin, government approval of the draft bill would mean that discussion in the Duma could begin as early as next month. Lukin, who along with Popkovich played a key role in drafting the new bill, said yesterday that he was fairly optimistic final ratification would be forthcoming (Russian agencies, November 19).