The Russian Duma confirmed yesterdaythat it plans to hold closed parliamentary hearings on the START II treatyon June 9. According to Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov, the hearingsare to take place at the Russian General Staff and will cover the full gamutof questions related to START II and a possible follow-up START III treaty.Participants will include Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Foreign MinisterYevgeny Primakov. On June 5, Ryzhkov said, the two ministers are to holdworking meetings with representatives from several Duma factions. (Russianagencies, June 2) Russia’s military leadership backs ratification of theSTART II treaty and Sergeev and Primakov have become the pointmen in theKremlin’s efforts to get the treaty ratified.
The June 9 hearings should probably not be interpreted, however, as a signalthat the Duma is at last ready to move forward on START II. According toDuma Defense Committee member Aleksei Arbatov, hearings on the issue arelikely to last a “long time.” Arbatov said that lawmakers would be seekinginformation on, among other things, the Kremlin’s long-term plans fordevelopment of the country’s strategic forces and their financing. (Russianagencies, June 2)
Russian lawmakers have raised a number of objections to quick ratificationof START II. One of them has been what they say is the government’s failureto provide a blueprint of Russia’s military development in the years tocome. Without that knowledge, lawmakers say, they are unable to judge theconsequences of the treaty for Russia. For some Russian Duma members, thisparticular objection is related to their criticism of the Kremlin’s militaryreform program. They charge that military spending cuts and defenserestructuring are destroying the country’s conventional forces and thusenhancing the importance of Russia’s strategic forces. That, they say, makesconsideration of the START II treaty especially important for Russia’s security.
Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev, meanwhile, warned U.S. President Bill Clintonyesterday against trying to browbeat Russian lawmakers into ratifying STARTII. (Russian agencies, June 2) Seleznev was referring to indications fromWashington that Clinton will not travel to Moscow for a long-awaited summitwith President Boris Yeltsin until START II is ratified. The Kremlinappeared earlier to acquiesce to this logic, but Russian Foreign MinisterYevgeny Primakov recently suggested that it might be wise for the Clintonadministration to decouple the scheduling of the summit from ratification ofthe treaty.
JAPANESE-RUSSIAN DEFENSE TALKS.