As the Helsinki summit between Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton approaches, there have been some moderately encouraging signs of progress in the stalled strategic nuclear arms reduction process. Yesterday the commander-in chief of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF), Gen. Igor Sergeev, came out in favor of Russia ratifying the START-2 treaty. He stressed that the U.S. must agree to continue to abide by the terms of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty as a condition, and said he was also in favor of extending the treaty’s time limits for reduction from 2003 to 2007.
In Washington, American officials indicated that President Clinton would propose to President Yeltsin that they agree on guidelines for a START-3 treaty bringing each country’s strategic nuclear stockpile down to 2,000 to 2,500 warheads — 1,000 fewer than allowed under START-2. Russian critics of START-2, which bans land missiles with more than one warhead, have complained that it favors the U.S. since it would be too expensive for Russia to replace its many multi-warhead missiles. This problem would become more manageable if both countries had to make deeper cuts. The only new strategic land-based missile the Russians are developing is the single-warhead Topol-M, an improved SS-25. Sergeev admitted that about one-half of Russia’s missiles have reached the end of their service life, and that this number will continue to grow. In effect, he was telling Duma deputies that obsolescence and the budget crunch will soon compel the same sorts of reductions to his force whether or not they ratified the treaty. (Interfax, The New York Times, March 9)
Confusion Precedes IMF Visit.