Expectations that the Russian Duma was prepared to move toward ratification of the START II treaty were frustrated yet again yesterday as lawmakers postponed until next week discussions on the document which were scheduled for yesterday. The chairman of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Vladimir Lukin, told reporters that the Duma Council had been forced to postpone the debate because the lower house’s various factions–with the lone exception of Yabloko–had failed to present criticisms or comments on a draft ratification bill passed to lawmakers last week (see the Monitor, December 4) Lukin made clear his belief that yesterday’s developments stemmed from continuing opposition to the treaty among the Duma’s “left-wing majority.”
Remarks by communist leaders Gennady Zyuganov and Viktor Ilyukhin appeared to substantiate Lukin’s accusation. Ilyukhin, who is chairman of the Duma’s Security Committee, told reporters yesterday that START II ratification cannot be discussed by the full Duma until the government submits to lawmakers an analysis of the likely costs of the treaty. Seleznev spoke in the same vein. He said that talk of ratification was premature because the government had still not sent to lawmakers its ideas on concrete measures to ensure Russia’s security over the next ten to fifteen years. Until that is done, he said, there can be no question of ratifying START II (AP, Russian agencies, December 8).
The prospects for Russian approval of START II had appeared to improve in recent weeks following a renewed push for ratification by the Russian government. The leading roles played by Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov–each respected by Duma hardliners as reliable defenders of Russian national interests–had appeared to make this latest government effort to win ratification more credible than previous attempts.
To jumpstart the long moribund ratification process Duma leaders had also drafted a new treaty ratification bill which, unlike the one presented by the Kremlin, contained a series of “conditions” addressing Duma concerns about START II. The new bill is to be sent to President Boris Yeltsin for approval after–and if–the Duma holds the debate scheduled yesterday. If Yeltsin approves the document, it will then be sent back to the full Duma for final discussion.
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAID TO BE UNDER CLOUD.