Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 43

Over the past week the Kremlin has launched yet another push to win ratification by Russian lawmakers of the START II strategic arms reduction treaty. This latest effort appeared to begin on February 22, when Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov was quoted in a newspaper interview as saying that Russian authorities “unanimously favor ratification of the START II Treaty as a document reflecting Russian interests.” Ivanov suggested that the composition of the new Russian Duma, elected last December, provided grounds for optimism that the treaty might be ratified in the near future (Russian agencies, February 22). Ivanov expanded on those comments several days later, when he told reporters that he hoped the Duma would ratify the START II accord this spring. He said that the Kremlin would do “everything to persuade the new Duma that the START II treaty corresponds to Russia’s essential interests” (Itar-Tass, February 25).

Ivanov, a career intelligence officer, is believed to be close to Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin. As secretary of the influential Russian Security Council, he appears to be playing an increasingly significant role in Russian foreign and security policymaking. In mid-February Ivanov traveled to the United States for two days of high-level talks with U.S. officials which included a February 18 meeting with President Bill Clinton. He told reporters at that time as well that the Kremlin would push Russian lawmakers to approve the START II accord.

Putin himself repeated that call on February 26 during consultations with parliamentary leaders. The acting Russian president reportedly discussed the treaty at length during a three-hour meeting with lawmakers, and urged them to debate the START II accord at this spring’s session. Yabloko and the Union of Right-Wing Forces have reportedly stated their intention to back START II ratification, but it remains unclear whether the Communists will line up behind the treaty (AP, Itar-Tass, February 26).

Communist leaders have thus far shown little enthusiasm for ratification. Parliamentary leaders across the political spectrum, moreover, have suggested that they will tie START II approval to continued U.S. observance of the 1972 ABM treaty. U.S. President Bill Clinton has said that he will decide this summer whether to go forward with construction of a limited antimissile system. Russian lawmakers may hesitate to approve START II before that decision is made, despite the Kremlin’s contention that ratification would strengthen Moscow’s hand in negotiations with Washington over the ABM treaty. Russian government leaders have also argued that START II ratification would improve Moscow’s standing as a leader of international arms control efforts. And, they say, it would simultaneously highlight Washington’s failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and its efforts to rewrite the ABM Treaty–two actions which have generated considerable criticism in foreign capitals.