A briefing session conducted by military experts at the Russian General Staff headquarters on June 16 reportedly persuaded a number of the lawmakers present that ratification of the START II treaty is in Russia’s best interest. At least one participant, though, remained uncertain after the session whether the Duma would finally act on the information that it had received. According to Duma Defense Committee chairman Roman Popkovich–of the Russia is Our Home faction–virtually the entire leadership of the Defense Ministry took part in the briefing session, as did a large number of deputies. The meeting was apparently effective. Popkovich said that it eased many concerns of those deputies who felt that START II would result in the “unilateral disarmament of Russia” and a quick loss of strategic parity with the United States. Popkovich also said, however, that many lawmakers were still not entirely convinced. Ratification of the treaty, he said, would remain a complicated and highly politicized process. (Segodnya, June 18; Russian agencies, June 19)
Popkovich is one of the few Russian Duma leaders–another being Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the International Affairs Committee–who has joined the Russian Defense and Foreign Ministries in speaking out in favor of START II ratification. Opposition to the treaty has been spearheaded by communist and nationalist legislators. It remains widespread among the deputies. On June 19, those favoring ratification won another adherent, however. Former Russian border forces chief General Andrei Nikolaev, who was elected to the Duma earlier this year after departing from the military, told reporters that he is a “determined advocate of the treaty’s ratification.” Nikolaev, who has been courted by a number of political groupings and who recently announced he would form his own political movement (see the Monitor, June 19), predicted that the Duma would ratify START II sometime this fall. (Itar-Tass, June 19)
RUSSIAN SOLDIERS IN KILLED IN ARMS DEPOT FIRE.